A New Slow Food Presidium Launched in Uganda to Protect Ancient Millet Varieties
Thanks to the work of Slow Food Uganda and the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, a new Presidium protecting four traditional millet varieties has been established in Uganda.
The community of the village of Kyere, in the northeast of the country, celebrated the launch with an event organized on October 27, hosted by the local Kyere sub-county administration. The Presidium’s traditional millet varieties were exhibited to the large number of participants (over 350) and their main characteristics described. Students from local schools (two of which, Kyere Township and Abukete Primary, take part in the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project) entertained the guests with songs and recitals of poems on the theme of good, clean and fair.
The Presidium’s 30 producers belong to the Teso ethnic group, an indigenous Nilotic people who for over two centuries have lived in the east and north of Uganda. The different traditional varieties of millet represent an essential food source (the staple of the daily diet) and has a great identity-forming importance. The survival of these varieties is however threatened by the introduction of very productive varieties that come from regional or even international research institutes.
“This will be one of Slow Food’s most important Presidia in Uganda,” said Slow Food Vice-President Edie Mukiibi. “It protects one of the cereals that is most important to the subsistence and history of the country. I’m certain that these four traditional varieties, under threat from hybrids, will once again be able to serve the Teso people. I’m particularly grateful to the producers and to the Kyere sub-county authorities who have decided to protect this heritage of ours.”
The four traditional millet varieties, Emoru, Emiroit, Engweny and Ebega, each have specific characteristics. Depending on the type, the small spikes are either separated or united in a single inflorescence, and the grains are dark yellow or brown in color. Tall-stalked Ebega and Engweny are ideal for preparing ataapa (a kind of millet polenta) and akouma (porridge). Drought-resistant Emiroit and Emoru are the best suited to the production of beer, ajono.
The Presidium was started to support the work of the Itesots farmers and safeguard local biodiversity. Charles Oile, one of the representatives of the producers, said: “We have to nominate all of the traditional products of the Teso people to the Ark of Taste, a catalog of the most important foods in the world. Our millet varieties have been selected and recognized as essential by our ancestors, and now no scientific research would dare to underestimate their value.”
For his part, the Serere District representative, Okalebo Samuel Echodu, said: “The work that this group of producers is carrying out to safeguard the ancient millet varieties is as important as any done so far to promote the local area and community.”
by Edward Mukiibi and John Wanyu
The members of the Presidium are also involved in the management and promotion of six Slow Food agroecological food gardens (three community and three school gardens). The establishment of the Presidium is supported by representatives of the Onyaiti BAG producers and Oile Charles and the Fondo Intesa Sanpaolo.