Slow food, accelerating biodiversity in the field and on our plate


Edward Mukiibi first worked the fields as punishment. Now he firmly believes that the slow food movement can save the planet. He was recently named President of Slow Food International. Credit: Slow Food International
  • by Busani Bafana (bulawayo)
  • Inter Press Service

Instead of hating punishment, he loved it, especially when he realized that agriculture was the future of good food, health, and wealth.

Mukiibi is a farmer and social entrepreneur from Uganda with a mission to prove that sustainable agriculture is the foundation of all fortune and a solution to overcoming hunger, unemployment and biodiversity loss. He is an advocate for food production based on the use of local resources, knowledge and traditions to promote diverse farming systems.

Mukiibi is a member of Slow Food International, a global movement that advocates local food production and traditional cooking.

In July 2022, Mukiibi (36) was named as the new president of Slow Food International at the 8th International Congress in Pollenzo, Italy.

“I feel good and happy about this appointment and also happy on behalf of Slow Food, a strong international food movement that has become established not only in the founding continent of Europe, but all over the world, which is why it was now possible for the network for finding more capable and enthusiastic leaders like me,” Mukiibi told IPS in an online interview.

Founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, Slow Food International works to cultivate a global network of local communities and activists who defend cultural and biological diversity. They promote food education and the transfer of traditional knowledge and skills.

Convinced of the untapped potential of agriculture and the need to make agriculture attractive to young people, Mukiibi founded the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC). The project works with students and communities to cultivate positive attitudes towards agriculture and locally produced food in young people.

Citing the fact that 70 percent of the population in Africa is under the age of 40, Mukiibi said Africa has a large young generation that can be involved in agriculture. Mukiibi deplored the practice in schools where agriculture was used as punishment, just as prisons put young offenders on large-scale farms to provide labor as part of corporal punishment.

“This stops many young people from enjoying farming and food production,” says Mukiibi. “I am a victim of this kind of practice. When I was in school, I always wanted to change this by working with schools in a participative way and introducing children to agriculture in a more interest-oriented way.”

Mukiibi also supports the development of Slow Food Gardens, a global project that has created thousands of green spaces to conserve African food biodiversity and help communities access nutritious food. Mukiibi has created gardens in more than 1000 schools in Uganda.

“Slow Food gives you a 360-degree view of food systems because it encompasses everything that changes the way we grow, eat, market, process and store food,” says Mukiibi, explaining that slow food is a movement and philosophy about clean, good and honest food.

Interview fragments:

IPS: What is slow food? Is it the opposite of fast food?

Edward Mukiibi: The concept of slow food carries more responsibility than just the literal meaning and the opposite of fast food. It makes more sense when combined with our philosophy of good, clean and fair food for all. The concept holds that we are responsible in everything we do when it comes to food, agriculture and the planet. If you are responsible for your food choices, you must eat food and produce food that is good for the environment and good for the culture and traditions of the people who protect it.

Another aspect of slow food is honesty. We must ensure fairness when it comes to transactions. Openness and transparency when it comes to negotiations and working arrangements between producers and consumers, but also a statement of information and the true identity of the producers of the food we eat. Sometimes people are not honest, especially large food chains, when they sell food produced by small-scale producers, but label it as their own production. We must also ensure justice for smallholder farmers, justice for indigenous peoples and justice for the environment.

Slow Food is also a movement of actors and activists. We are a movement involving everyone who thinks we urgently need to slow down climate change and the destruction that food production is wreaking on this planet. We must delay policies that are contrary to the environmental balance.

IPS: Is clean, good and fair food feasible and do slow fooders meet this goal?

Historically, there have been many ruthless, careless food production activities and cruel ways of production for the environment and for the people who will be eating the food. A good, clean and fair food system exists and is feasible. With all the challenges we see, the conflicts, climate crisis and food insecurity caused by the global food system can be reversed if everyone understands the concept of slow food, whose goal is to solve global challenges using local actions and activities of the local communities.

We have many examples. So many communities in 160 countries are taking positive actions to regenerate the planet… It is not too late to regenerate the planet and rethink how food is produced, how food is handled and how food is consumed.

IPS: Climate change affects our food production. How do you see the Slow Food movement dealing with this?

EM: Slow Food promotes regenerative approaches to food production, including promoting agroecology, building traditional agricultural systems based on agroforestry, and preserving and protecting local food biodiversity and fragile ecosystems.

We don’t just talk about climate change by going to conferences. We take action by the thousands of communities doing hands-on work to promote agroecology, permaculture and traditional farming systems. In Africa, we count 3,500 agro-ecological gardens that have been created and managed in schools.

IPS: You mention Slow food in the protection of biodiversity. How and why?

EM: We have the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity because we are concerned about the rate at which we are losing biodiversity, not only in the field, but also the biodiversity on our plates, leaving our diets and diets dependent on a few tightly controlled products.

We work with chefs to get biodiversity back on the plate. Talking is not enough. We must bring back what we lose on the table and open the discussion from the dinner table about the wealth we lose.

Slow Food has worked to create community value chains in several communities to protect food products that are in danger of extinction. It means sharing knowledge about these products and getting the community together to think of ways to protect and promote these food products.

Report of the IPS UN Office

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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