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Written by Slow Food International

In Africa, the local coordinators of the Thousand Gardens project have already engaged 608 communities in developing sustainable food plots. In the rest of the world, Slow Food’s international network has sprung into action to collect the funds and 561 gardens have been adopted so far.

In the lush green highlands of northern Malawi, the Slow Food network has been busy creating 10 sustainable food gardens with schools and communities, assisted by experienced horticulturalist Frederick Msiska. Around the town of Nchenachena, 500 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Msiska is known as “the plant doctor” for his vast knowledge of sustainable agriculture. Together with the Terra Madre learning community in Nchenachena, he’s organizing seminars to teach local farmers how to make bokash (a solid natural fertilizer made from soil, grass, eggshells and paper) and to build rainwater collection tanks for irrigation. Msiska moves tirelessly from one garden to the next, overseeing schoolchildren, teachers and farmers as they cultivate traditional varieties, like those known as ziku, malezi and kamughangi in the local chitumbuka language.

In South Africa, more and more emerging farmers are returning to land that was taken away from black people during apartheid. In a context in which big farms are benefiting from cheap labor, incentives for young people are lacking and access to land is still a burning issue, even a small garden plot can be of great importance. In the wide valleys of the Western and Northern Cape, the Surplus People Project, the organization coordinating the Thousand Gardens in Africa project on a national level, is working with emerging farmers to plant agroecological food gardens that can satisfy the food needs of their families and serve as educational showcases. Farmers in Porterville, a small town north of Cape Town, for example, are cultivating a site to inspire households and schools in the community to plant their own food gardens. “How can we fight poverty? How can we help people be independent of social welfare?” asks Anthony Cloete, the coordinator of the Porterville community garden. “Teach people how to produce seeds and to plant them each new season.”