I met him on a trip to Africa when I did stop in a village of Uganda to meet some local communities of Terra Madre. During a meeting, a young man took the floor who immediately conquered my attention for his personality and ability for a general popularity.
He is Edie Mukiibi: a thirty-year-old agronomist, shy smile, slow voice yet firm.
Struggles every day to find local solutions to promote the wealth of his country, to oppose GMOs and monocultures. Now he is the Vice-President of Slow Food and the President of Slow Food Uganda Network.
Edie has a new way to address food on this continent. By being an agronomist, he knows the agricultural problems of his land and its wealth, manages to convey the feeling and solutions to stakeholders whether they are children or village leaders. “In Africa it is time to promote our food and our gastronomy. Now is the time to strengthen our traditional food systems and communities and protect biodiversity of our products’’
Due to his ability to aggregate, Edie has built in his country, a network of activists who have developed formidable projects: more than 300 agro-ecological vegetable gardens, 3 Earth markets, 6 Presidia (the Ankole long-horned cattle, the old varieties of millet, coffee and Yam) and involved a network of 17 cooks in the Slow Food Chefs Alliance.
In recent years, in Africa, together with Slow Food we created a major network that grows and working to change this continent, to offer our children a future of peace and justice, to guarantee access for all to good, clean and fair food.
The gardens have an important role because they protect and promote agro-biodiversity, because they allow young people to play an important role and to recover the knowledge of elders, because they preserve the Earth. For a long time the African farmers alternated several crops and, thanks to this diversity, have fed their families. But then, multinationals, have pushed African agriculture towards monocultures, towards intensive crops that require large amounts of chemical fertilizers. In some countries, have also introduced GMOs.
And the campaign against GMOs – along with that against land grabbing – is one of the last engagements involving Edie and the Slow Food Network in Uganda with a major achievement: to have blocked a bill for the introduction of new varieties of genetically modified crops last December. “It is important to continue to implement the ecological agricultural practices as the only legitimate solutions to counter the current food system.
And Edie knows it because during his university studies he understood immediately the urgent need to respond to a devastating agricultural system.
I have worked with the University to promote a new variety of corn, a hybrid that we hoped would guarantee farmers a greater amount of food and a better gain. Government and universities prompted farmers to set aside their fields for the cultivation of this maize abandoning the other crops. The weather in Africa are not stable and can be tolerated only by crops that have adapted to this difficult environment, thanks to natural selection.
In 2007 the drought hit many regions. The farmers have lost their crops and were forced to settle their debts with seed companies anyway. After that incident I changed my vision of agriculture and land management, I realized that it is necessary to return to an agriculture based on local seeds and crop diversification. This is the only possible path to feed Africa.