The Slow Food Youth Academy is a learning platform organized by Slow Food Youth Network which involves an interactive training program for young learners, students and youths of different professions who are in learning more about the food system. The Uganda Academy aims at making young people familiar with the food System by acquiring knowledge so that they can also be able to change the food system of making everyone access Good, Clean and Fair Food. This is done by bringing together young change-makers and build their capacity as well as bringing them closer to take part in changing the field of food production and consumption.
SFYN Uganda is organizing Academy on an annual basis whereby participants are selected from different parts of the country. The participants are selected from the existing youth groups mapped by SFYN Uganda coordinating team as well as those who are willing to defend the philosophy of Slow Food.
Objectives of the Slow Food Academy in Uganda
To empower the leaders of SFYN with leadership skills, research skills and communication skills.
To build capacity of youths in lobby and advocacy.
Educate the SFYN leaders on the Slow Food philosophy and how to defend it.
To impart knowledge to the participants on food entrepreneurship skills.
To have more products at a risk of extinction mapped.
To know more about food politics in general.
To build capacity of young food leaders to promote good, clean, and fair food across the African continent.
To build a strong Terra Madre Network in Uganda.
The first edition of the Uganda Academy was launched in April 2016 with the aim of building capacity of young people in leadership skills enlarging the knowledge of youths about possible ways to create a more sustainable food system with a goal that participants develop their own vision on how they can contribute to a sustainable system. A total of 20 youths which included 15 participants and 5 volunteers were trained for seven months and they covered seven topics which were Biodiversity education, Gardening, Blue-Green Grab, GMOs and seed politics, Meet Quality and Animal Welfare and the Gift of Bees and Honey.
The Academy is organized through activities like campaigns, debates/discussion groups, workshops, group work, field visits, service learning, seminars and keynotes addresses, assessments tests and objective questions by end of each topic.
The youth form the largest proportion of the population in Uganda at 77% and are thus the right target for advocating for changes in sustainable agricultural policies and practices in the country for the current and future generations. Youth advocating for change in sustainable agricultural practices and policies is expected to lead to the consumption and production of nutritious diets among the citizens. This is further expected to lead to changes in mindsets among other youth on agriculture since the majority from rural and urban areas have negative attitudes towards it. Of the total population engaged in agriculture in Uganda, 77% is composed of women while the youth constitute 63% (NDPII, 2015/16-2019/20). This calls for more innovations on how youth can be more engaged in agriculture for sustainable food production. Those who are currently into agriculture should be encouraged and honored so that others will take an interest in it. We can only reduce youth unemployment and rural-urban migration in Uganda through sustainable agriculture. This can help in the improvement of food and nutrition security among citizens due to the involvement of the highest percentage of the population in agriculture for diverse healthy food production.
Youth’s access to knowledge and information is crucial for addressing the main challenges they face in agriculture. In order for rural and urban youth to shape agricultural policies affecting them directly, in terms of access to markets, decision making, finance and food issues, they need to receive appropriate information and education. Meanwhile, non-formal education like the Youth Academy and other agricultural education can offer youth more specificknowledge related to agriculture.
The Slow Food Youth Academy is a learning platform organized by Slow Food Uganda together with Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) Uganda. Through the interactive training programs, the Youth Academy is potentially an effective tool for teaching agricultural skills and providing capacity-building training for youth in developing food advocacy and entrepreneurship skills in a sustainable way among producers.
The youths are introduced to topics that influence policies and practices that strive for an improved and sustainable food system. This is done through bringing together twenty young change makers identified from different groups of youths in societies, food communities and other areas. These include farmers, chefs/vendors, journalists, elected leaders among others. Direct topics linked to the food system are identified by Slow Food Uganda together with the youth network of Slow Food Uganda. Such topics include; Food Laws and Related policies, Traditional food biodiversity, Food process and value addition, Food Service system and food vending and Uganda’s Agricultural Sector. These are handled in different ways like workshops, service learning, field visits, keynote address, debates among others. Each topic is handled for once in a month, that is to say, the participants always meet every last weekend of the month for a stipulated period of time.
SFYN Uganda organizes an Academy annually and each year new participants are identified and engaged directly in it. The selected participants are those who have shown interest in leadership skills of influencing others so as they can be able to take part in activities that focus on improving the food system. While selecting the participants, gender is consciously considered where at least the number of males and females has to be 50% of each.
In the previous academy, twenty youths were trained on aspects of traditional food biodiversity and documentation, food laws and related policies, food process and value addition, food system and food vending and the current and future challenges of Uganda’s agricultural system. After the participants attending these Academy sessions, they started disseminating the knowledge and skills acquired to other fellows in their localities. This is witnessed through the different activities these people are implementing in communities and also the number of youth they have managed to reach out to.
Among the youth who have contributed to changes in behaviors of food consumption through opting for local nutritious foods other than fast foods, embracing diverse local food production as well as influencing others include;
Hussein Ssebadduka, a teacher by profession and a farmer. Hussein is a resident of Ngogwe Sub County, Buikwe District. He is currently the speaker of the food parliament and he has managed to attract youths to join such kind of discussion platform to discuss food and agriculture. After the academy, Hussein has initiated a school vegetable garden in the school he is working for and through this, he manages to talk about healthy diverse local food production and consumption for improved nutrition. He piloted an agricultural club within the school which helps the students to build their capacity into leadership skills. “In past I did not know that even citizens mostly the youth are supposed to take part in formulating policies in the communities, it was when I joined the academy and understood my role as a youth in the community most especially when it comes to food and nutrition security promotion”. He said. He added that it is the reason as to why he works hard to influence other youths as they change the way they think about agriculture.
Gwojulira Joan is a resident of Kikoma Village, Buikwe District. Joan is a farmer who is also currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and finance. She has managed to mobilize youths in her villages to always come together in different dialogues and meetups where they mostly share ideas about food and nutrition. Through this, Joan and some of the colleagues realized that the consumption of diverse local food and vegetables is not prioritized by the youths from their community and this prompted them to start a small vegetable demonstration garden where they teach and motivate others.
Nabasiige Faridah is a resident of Wakisi village, Buikwe district. Faridah, a professional nursery teacher and small scale gardener in this village has after the academy managed to reach out to eight youths in her area, by being exemplary on her small vegetable garden at her home. With this, other youths have been encouraged and joined the movement to work hand in hand with Faridah to seek to promote self- sustenance in proper food consumption and production. “Before I joined the Slow Food Youth Network Academy, I was only embarking on my teaching. But when I was spotted out from the many individual youths in my area, I felt so unique and encouraged to actively and fully participate in creating a change in our food system. I had hated agriculture since we were overworked during childhood in the home gardens. But when I grew up, I saw the importance of having a small garden in the home. This later made me mobilize these eight friends of mine.
Sserubiri Julius a resident of Najja sub-county, Buikwe district is an agricultural student and a politician. He has been a leader at Uganda Christian University found in Mukono district serving as a Guild Minister in the Agricultural department on the side of students. Since the academy, Julius has always been mobilizing youth involvement in Slow Food youth Network activities especially those concerned with trainings, debates and food festival gatherings. These are the ones that mostly matched his career, working with students and people. He successfully influenced the students at the university to start a health club together with the colleagues at the university. The club members have planted small compound vegetable gardens within the university and they always organize small events to discuss the contribution of production and consumption of diverse local foods to the improvement of our diets.
Samuel Sebuufu is an agronomist staying in Ngogwe Sub County in Buikwe district. Samuel says, “Before I joined Slow Food and the youth academy, I was confined to engaging the youth I meet in agriculture which involved the overuse of chemicals, despite the organic farming knowledge obtained from Rucid in Mityana district. It was not until during the academy when we went to the same institution that I woke up and begun to act organically, change the minds of those I had diverted, and now doing well.” Samuel has further trained more youth at YARD in Ngogwe Sub County.
Nantabo Milly lives in Ngogwe Sub County in Buikwe district and she is a chef. “When I was trained through the Slow Food academy, it was as if I had been resurrected from the dead. I am a chef and this helped me to learn a lot from the academy as far as nutrition is concerned.” Today, Milly has formed a group of 5 fellow youths who she trains through the same line of the academy, and I believe a tremendous change is exhibited. Milly has on different occasions landed on lecturing some individual (s) about slow food and its activities that are aimed at promoting the consumption of nutritious foods.
Since the Food Systems Solution Platform project begun, so far twenty youths have been trained in through the Academy. Among these, thirteen have been found practicing what was taught to them. Those that had not yet been practicing farming have now started their own small vegetable gardens while those that had the gardens have made tremendous changes in these gardens. Such as the use of sustainable land management techniques to ensure proper farming for the best food harvests, adopting diverse local food production, use of less or no chemicals in the gardens among others. The youth have also worked hard to change the consumption behaviors of themselves and others.