Archive for the ‘Food Security’ Category

A Thousand Gardens in Africa.

Next month, the first coordinator’s workshop on the continent will be held in Nakuru, Kenya. In the lead up to the event, we asked coordinators Jane Karanja and John Kariuki for an update on progress in their home country.

Can you paint us a picture of agriculture in Kenya?

JANE: Around three quarters of our population are involved in food production – mostly small-scale farmers – but erratic weather patterns, vast regions of arid desert and poor government policies make it a very unstable livelihood. Periods of drought can be crippling, not only for the food supply, but for jobs as well. We need policies for sustainable food cultivation to help the rural population that relies on subsistence farming for their own food as well as income.

JOHN: Our small-scale farmers produce the highest proportion of food in the country, yet unfortunately they live lives of poverty, isolation, hunger and malnutrition.

Tell us about the Thousand Garden in Africa project in Kenya?

JOHN: Our goal is to create 200 gardens in Kenya during 2011-2012 across Kenya, from Mombasa on the eastern coast to Homa Bay in the west. The reason for such an optimistically high number is that the Slow Food network here is already very active. We already have 13 convivia and UNISG graduates who will help us to coordinate the project, 11 school gardens, and hundreds of people involved (teachers, students, families etc).

This project, more than just creating gardens, is about joining a network across Africa to exchange our experiences.

What kind of food will be produced in the gardens?

JANE: We have a strong focus on promoting growing native Kenyan crops in the gardens. The gardens will teach communities to cultivate a wide range of grains, legumes and vegetables such as amaranth and millet, which we traditionally use to make flour for porridge and other nutritious dishes; stinging nettle, which is common in traditional recipes such as mukimo -prepared with mashed potatoes, corn, beans; and pigeon peas, kale, black night shade, cassava and sweet potato to name just a few others.

Have you got any feedback from people involved in the school garden project started in 2005?

JOHN: Parents were reluctant to get their children involved in the food gardens at first, as in Kenya agriculture has always been used as punishment for students who don’t do well at school. Once the parents got involved, they started to see the benefit and change their attitudes.

JANE: After we set up gardens in the Molo district, we found out that kids went home and asked their parents if they could create a garden at home! This was immediate feedback that the project, and the idea of creating gardens that can be replicated, works.

Why do you feel there is a need for this type of project in Kenya?

JANE: Agriculture is so important in Kenya but education is lacking. As in other African countries, we are seeing a loss of traditional products and an increase in imported and junk foods and Western-style chronic diseases. However access to information to help reverse this trend is inadequate and Kenyan schools don’t include agriculture as a subject anymore. This project is important as students learn by doing, giving them the opportunity to gain hands-on skills that they can utilize at home for a healthier approach to the future.

JOHN: I think what one teacher told me sums it up well. He said, we are not doing it so that all the children become farmers; we are doing it because whatever they do, they will have to choose what to eat every day for the rest of their lives. This starts them on the right path to understanding where food comes from and making thoughtful decisions. You can become anything, but you will always have to eat.

What do you hope will be achieved from the project?

JOHN: More than anything, I hope that the young people involved will take a more positive attitude to food production and understand that a respectful career and income doesn’t necessarily mean becoming an engineer, doctor, or pilot, but can also be earned by practicing sustainable agriculture.
We also want to increase the respect given to small-scale farmers and make them understand that they have enough resources at their disposal to produce healthy food for their families. They can use their own farmyard manure, plant extracts for pest control and traditional ways of selecting and preserving their own seeds.

Tell us about the workshop next month. What are you hoping to achieve?

JANE: The workshop will bring together people from English-speaking African countries involved in the project to discuss how to put the methods in the garden handbook – that was developed in March by African agronomists – into practice. On the last day the participants will visit one of the pilot school gardens and take a tour in the Mau forest where they will plant trees and share lunch with the Indigenous Ogiek community.

JOHN: Bringing participants of the Thousand Gardens project together will help us realize the scale and importance of this project, and that despite our different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds we are one united group committed to changing the African food system. By the end of the workshop we will have discussed the methods in the handbook thoroughly and expect to come up with best-practice models for school, community and family gardens so everyone is ready to move forward.

Jane Karanja and John Kariuki are graduates from the University of Gastronomic Sciences and coordinators of the Thousand Gardens in Africa project in Kenya. John is vice-president of Slow Food International.

For more information on the Thousand Gardens project, visit

To make a donation to the project, visit

Agroprocessing and Value Addition!

In order to impart practical skills and capacities in methods of value addition and agro processing Participatory ecological land use management (PELUM) association organized a 3 day training workshop for member organizations and farmers.
Necofa was represented by a programme coordinator, one female farmer from Lare pumpkin presidia and an intern with the organization Heva Brunelle from Canada.
With many farmers at community level, agricultural production has substantially improved. Even where production is low, there is a need to extend the storage of certain foods and thus lengthen the shelf life when the foods are in season in order to prevent wastage due to excess production. The legendary case of vegetables is a good example where they continue selling at throw-away farm gate prices during the wet season and are unavailable during their drier months.
The organizers found it necessary for community group trainers to acquire the skills and knowledge of diverse methods of food preservation, value addition and agro processing that is practical and possible at household level.
The participants were engaged in practical cooking lessons of typical food products like sweet potatoes chapati and vegetables, pumpkin chapati and mandazi, fried arrow roots, yoghurt, making of fruit juices and soya bean meat and milk .
At the end of the workshop, the participants had realized how they can engage their communities to improve their livelihoods, by moving a step further in getting ready for agribusiness and value chain engagements.

Froot Loops vs Real Fruit? | Food For Thought | Slow Food International – Good, Clean and Fair food.

Froot Loops vs Real Fruit? | Food For Thought | Slow Food International – Good, Clean and Fair food..

Future of honey leaf Stevia!

The leaves of this splendid plant are 30 times sweeter than sugar; with zero calories where as pure extract is 300 times sweeter than sugar. This sweet-honey-leaf  herb is likely to become the major source of high potency sweetener for the growing natural food market, in the years to come.

Stevia finds its use as a natural sweetener, replacing the chemical sweeteners and even table sugar; the sweetness in leaf is due to the presence of an intensive-sweetening agent called stevioside and the leaf by itself is about 20 to 30 times sweeter than sugar. The leaf has stevioside of 10-12% on dry weight basis.

Stevia is a new  promising renewable raw material for the food market. The market potential for this natural sweetener is still  untapped.

For more information on seedlings availability and stevia manual contact Jane :0715639223



            Family Farming contributes the highest percentage of the countries production yet little emphasis is put on it.  In most of the developing countries, Agriculture is the backbone of the countries economy and provides employment (directly/indirect) to over 60%.

            Between 24th – 26th October World Rural Forum organized a workshop campaign to celebrate the International Year for the Future Family Farming.  The workshop drew participants from different organization who represented about 19 countries.  The workshop mainly focused on challenges facing the family farming (small scale farmers).  Participants from different countries shared on different challenges and efforts made to minimize the challenges through presentations.  Through the presentation, major challenges were realized to be similar though efforts to fight them did differ from one country to another e.g. in some countries like Malawi and Tanzania farmers are given subsidies on agriculture inputs hence support to the growth of the countries economy. 

            The major challenges identified during the workshop included;-

(i)             Challenges of financing agriculture – since most of the small scale farmer do not have collaterals to give as security, they are unable to acquire loan from the financing institution (bank)

For donors to support family farming they should be affiliated with large scale farmers or institution leading to oppression.

(ii)           Environmental challenge

Unpredictable weather hence crop failure

Farmers are not in position to install irrigation kits due to lack of finance

(iii)          Market liberalization (removal of agricultural subsidies) in most of the countries, citizens use products from outside while we still have the same in the country in plenty.

(iv)          Weak policies

Policies guards the producer/consumer e.g. labeling

In support of the family farming, participants came up with suggestion to tackle the challenges which were to be forwarded to the relevant authorities in different countries.  Some of the resolution suggested by the participants included;-

  • Need to involve stakeholders in policy making and came up with a monitoring mechanism on implementation of the same.
  • Need to shoot up the 10% agricultural commitment to 6% growth.
  • Need to engage government in the briefings
  • Need to strengthen farmer organizations and NGOs to advocate for small scale farmers.
  • Need to empower small scale farmers to become commercial farmers
  • Need to innovation from researcher to be brought down to small scale farmers
  • Need to sensitize and develop I.C.T among farmers to assist in marketing.

Following the many resolutions suggested by the participants, the meeting resolved that the organizers take the mandate to comprehend resolution and come up with a document which should be sent to all participants as well as the related authorities i.e. ambassadors, government institutions and private bodies and later organize for another briefing involving all these sectors.

            Towards the support of International Family Farming (IFF) participants resolved to work from regional perspective (within the country).  In this connection Pelum association in each country was mandated the responsibility to write a memo on behalf of other member organization and forward to relevant authorities.

Government recognition of the family farming will uplift the production  hence national food security.