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June 28, 2018

IT’S NOT A SECRET GARDEN

Kenya’s Slow gardens are so similar to our Philippine backyard farms, untouched by chemicals and harmful pesticides.

We went to see two of Africa’s project to create 10,000 gardens, a project of Slow Food which I first found out about at the Terra Madre 2012. To date Africa has about 4,000 gardens. It’s not only flower gardens but also gardens of natural food, companion plants, “weeds” which actually are plants, the use of which still have not discovered.

The garden in Maragwa looks like it came straight out of our Cavite town—with guavas, lemongrass, “makahiya”, mangoes, bananas—except that its perched on an elevation which is about 6,000 feet. It’s higher than Baguio but just as cool and dry.

Carlo Petrini (middle) and Wahu Kaara (right)

As we entered the garden with Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini, we were welcomed by Wahu Kaara, who is now 67. She bought the 3-acre land some 7 years ago. She is a teacher but lost her teaching job during the political turmoil. She continued to fight for Social Justice and to defend the marginalized. Wahu brought a few young men into the farm with nothing but their bare hands and the shirt on their back.

Today, some seven years after, two of them (Nganga and Rasabasa) took us around the Permaculture-inspired farm and showed us their garden’s blessings. It’s not a secret garden at all. Every plant, even what we call weeds, has a role to play in keeping us healthy. Rasabasa showed us the uses for mint leaves, chia seeds, guava leaves, and other plants that grow and multiply.

“Everything is for them,” Wafu says. Even if she owns the productive land, she has allowed the boys to handle every harvest to ensure that their income is sustainable. Nganga proudly tells us that they practice organic farming even if their neighbors do not. “But soon we know they will also follow what we do,” he declares proudly.

And it’s all built on community values. People helping one another to grow food and making food their medicine, just like what Hippocrates said: “Let food be Thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. This comes to mind as Rasabasa sticks mint leaves up his nose and breathes in the healing properties of God’s gifts. “Just do this if you have a breathing problem or if you feel you’re catching a cold,” he says.

Meanwhile, Rasabasa shows me how to get the chia seeds from the stalks that are abundant in the garden.

The guava tree, unknown to many of my companions, is a tree full of fruits and beneficial parts. Its leaves are for curing wounds and other ailments. The bark, which they burn, is used for a poultice of sorts.

What else is in this garden? Jackfruit, ginger, bananas—I swear it’s something we can start in Cavite, Davao, or Cebu—and keeping it alive as a garden is no secret.

 

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