Uganda: Youth Food Advocates gather to discuss how to improve and transform the Food Systems in their communities

When young food activists with diverse cultural backgrounds gather and get involved in learning experiences, it can become a powerful moment of knowledge exchange.

Learning agricultural practices, cultivation, preparation, and appreciation of what is good, clean, and fair allows democratic and ethical change in the food system. The grassroots level is crucial, as the youth are the ones that can build the future.

Slow Food Uganda and SFYN Uganda organized the 2nd edition of the Good Food Camp from 27th – 29th May 2022 in the Buikwe district of the country under the theme: Youth Reconnection for Food Systems Transformation.
This initiative intends to give a space for young people to reconnect and share how they can be part of activities that transform the production and chain across regions.

Over 150 Youth across East Africa from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania gathered together for three days of Good Food Camp.

The camp brought together youths of different professions. Farmers, fishermen, cooks, journalists, elected leaders, food vendors, students, artists, food processors, transporters, researchers, and partner organizations got together to share their experiences around food and deliberate on issues affecting their regions.
The activities during the camp aimed to educate the participants to comprehend the food system dynamics, dig into different policies and rights, as well as build the capacity of youths in leadership skills. Such activities include food talks, cooking sessions, keynote speeches, biodiversity tours, cultural heritage sessions, and treasure hunts, all educating them on the importance of conserving indigenous foodstuff.
Edie Mukiibi, the Executive Director of Slow Food Uganda and the Vice President of Slow Food International, in his remarks during the opening ceremony, mentioned that youth is really important when we talk about the future of what we produce and eat since they are directly affected whenever food is affected.

“Young people come with a lot of ideas and creativity, so if we don’t nurture this energetic group, we lose a point, and it is important to have the voice of the youth in designing the agriculture of today and the future.” Said Edie.

In a series of interfaces, the young participants engaged in discussions on different issues, including climate change, biodiversity loss, food waste and safety, sustainable diets, malnutrition, women empowerment, and youth engagement in sustainable agriculture.
They felt excited about the biodiversity tour incorporated with team-building activities and treasure hunts at Mr. Ssemwezi Sulait’s ecological garden, which left many amused by seeing different plants for the first time such as coffee, Vanilla, Cocoa, and banana.

“Seeing different crops growing together in harmony which was not common in the agricultural system today, and all remembered it lost onions had me of when I grew affected alone, and they with diseases yet I wouldn’t make a total loss had I planted a variety of crops.” Godline Nahabwe, the participant.

Cooking Session: Sustainable Food Preparation (ekitobero)

This was presented by the community Vision, and guided by the future members climate and discussion on our food choices and consumption behaviors which have direct consequences on our health, the children’s health, the future food system, the food system, the people who compose it The youths learned about preparation techniques that support local economies, and promote seasonal production and fresh consumption.
In his remarks, Daniel Moss from Agroecology Fund stated that his country (USA) is among the leading manufacturers of synthetic chemicals which is a sharp business but far off human health importance.

“It’s absurd that I find seeds that are manufactured from my country being planted here in Africa, it’s indeed incredible.” Daniel asserted.

Stakeholders’ Dialogue and the Closing Ceremony

The closing ceremony of the Good Food Camp was graced by some distinguished guests including Mr. Antonio Querido the Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Hon. Kanabi Jimmy, the Chairperson LC5, Buikwe district, Mr. Kyambadde Mourice, the Principle Agricultural Officer of Buikwe district, and the partner organizations including PELUM Uganda, World Vision, Uganda Youth Biodiversity Network, Wilmat Foundation, CEFROHT, Food Rights Alliance, Consumer Education Trust, Uganda Red Cross Mukono Brach, Buganda Royal Institute and Homeland Organics.

The Food Talks held were facilitated by the partners including Food Choices and Consumption Behaviors facilitated by Mr. Kimera Henry of Consumer Education Trust, Gender Inclusion and Women in Agriculture Empowerment by Ms. Nabaggala Ruth of Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Uganda, Food Diversity and Sustainable Diets by Ms. Kirabo Agnes of Food Rights Alliance as well as Food rights and Adequate Living by Mr. Lubega Jonathan of Center For Food and Adequate Living Rights.
According to the district chairperson Peter Kanaabi, the Camp is an eye-opener for the district local government to start involving young people in engagements that foster agroecology. He hinted at the progress of the Buikwe District Food, Nutrition and Environment Management Ordinance 2020 which was initiated by Slow Food Uganda and passed by the Buikwe district local government. He, therefore, pledged to give his full support to Slow Food Uganda and the partners where he promised to create a more conducive environment for the partners who promote agroecology in the district.
The Chief Guest, Mr. Antonio Querido the country representative of FAO commended the organizers saying that it’s not easy to find young people gathered talking about issues concerning food. He pledged to sponsor the next camp activities. “The agricultural sector is a sector that requires passion and commitment, so we want you, the youth of Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, DRC, and all African Union to embrace Agriculture with passion.” Said Mr. Antonio Dear. He added that to succeed in terms of achieving food and nutrition security, we have to put in place systems to support our youth to allow all that are willing to be part of the sector to succeed in making a living out of sustainable agriculture as we are working on the mindset as well.

Presentation of the Issue Paper

It’s through this camp that youths asked government and other stakeholders to embrace agroecology in their agricultural policies. The participants presented an issue paper to the stakeholders at the Good Food Camp on issues affecting service delivery among households in the agricultural sector. The stakeholders present were; the Guest of Honor-FAO country Representative, District Chairman-Buikwe District Local Government, CSO representatives, Chairperson Local council 3 Ssi Sub-county, Youth leaders from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the councilors of Ssi Sub County. The issue paper cited issues like the Lack of budget allocated for youth organic farmers at the sub-county and the district level, limited awareness of local, traditional, and indigenous seeds and preservation centers for the indigenous varieties, and many others. The stakeholders were asked to sign a consent stating they were ready to push these issues to see that they are being worked upon at all levels, and this was done anonymously.

The Good Food Camp is an annual Slow Food Uganda and Slow Food Youth Network Uganda educational event, that brings together young food activists from different regions and cultures to raise their creativity, advocacy & activism skills, self-confidence, capacity building, and peer- to-peer motivation hence engaging more youth participation in the management of food structures.

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