SLOW FOOD GAINS MOMENTUM
School and community gardening as an international development best practice is not a new idea, but it’s one that has come back into vogue lately (read Spotlight On…Growing Future Farmers). From celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s mission to improve the health and nutrition of vulnerable groups in the UK by educating them about food, cooking and gardening, to the groundbreaking work of organizations such as Terra Madre and the Slow Food movement worldwide, millions are recognizing that supporting local food production, biodiversity, alternative and sustainable agricultural practices and a strong culture of food is the key to disease prevention and more sustainable livelihoods. In developing countries, the slow food movement might just be the critical approach that achieves long-lasting food security for some of the world’s most malnourished and impoverished communities.
That’s why Canadian Feed The Children has a renewed emphasis on seeking and supporting projects that foster a renewed relationship between individuals, the land on which they live, and the food they can grow there. As the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNFAO) states, “today’s biggest crisis points are nutrition, the environment, livelihoods and education. In all these areas, school gardens are making a proven contribution to children’s wellbeing, understanding and life prospects.”
School gardens, community gardens and innovative projects such as container gardening are advocated by the UNFAO and others because they offer multiple benefits from a nutritional, food security, cultural, environmental and economic perspective. They:
- Support and sustain cultural identity by bringing communities together around a central element of culture: the growing, preparation and sharing of food
- Increase knowledge of modern agricultural practices that protect biodiversity, replenish soil and use scarce water resources wisely
- Create partnerships among teachers, parents and their children, local businesses, farmers, government agencies and NGOs - all working together to improve the health and economic wellbeing of their community
- Raise awareness and promote the use of local products, traditional recipes, native seeds and plants - all of which typically represent the most effectively grown and best source of nutrients for individuals
- Reduce the stigma that often surrounds farming by encouraging individuals to understand the science behind it, its value to their community, and modern practices that make it a viable and potentially lucrative occupation
As an international development best practice, we’ve long known that we can only increase food security by shifting our focus from providing “food aid” to instilling skills development and sustainable agricultural practices. However, even in the recent past, those practices have been over-reliant on intensive farming methods, monoculture (single-crop farming), and seeds and crops shipped in from afar.
The slow food movement has reminded us of the vital importance of local practices: from what seeds, plants and crops are grown to how food is distributed, prepared and shared as an element of local cultural identity. And, it’s shown that even small-scale projects – like the Ghana school gardens project supported by CFTC – can have large-scale impact. We look forward to reporting even greater successes in more local communities in the months and years to come.