Land Rights Now: Indigenous Terra Madre
So spoke Dalí Nolasco Cruz, a member of the Nahua indigenous people and the leader of the Slow Food Tlaola Kukuk Convivium in Mexico, at the Teatro Carignano during the inauguration ceremony of Terra Madre on September 23 last. ‘Our project came into being in 1992, when a group of women joined together to apply for credit for their production of the Serrano chili pepper. It was a first step and it made a huge difference for many women in our country who have always been discriminated against on three counts: for being women, for being indigenous and for being poor. Only 1% of land in the world is owned by women, and this degree of inequality has prevented us from exercising our right to property and well-paid jobs. The way wasn’t easy for our founders: they were lambasted as being mad, rebellious and idle because they didn’t take care of the housework, they were ill-treated and censured. Many of them had to give up their dream under the burden of social pressure. What happened to the founders of Mompapa is happening to thousands of women across the world, who struggle on a daily basis to conquer their dreams and build a fairer, more inclusive, more respectful society.’
The story of Dalí speaks not only of her battle to have her rights respected, but also of the hope of building a better future, in which the Earth is seen and treated as a generous mother who is thanked for the gifts she offers, not trodden over, abused and robbed. It intertwines with dozens of others from all over the world, the Indigenous Terra Madre network comprising 86 counties, 277 food communities, 602 Ark products and 46 Presidium products. For five days these stories and these testimonies have been at the center of the Indigenous Terra Madre space, organized with the support of Ifad and the Christensen Fund in the heart of Turn’s Parco del Valentino. They have recounted indigenous knowledge and practices with examples of wild plants used as medicines and foodstuffs, each a symbol of indigenous identity. They have told of the experiences of shepherds and nomads and the manifold difficulties they encounter in gaining access to land and exercising their rights. One fact sums up the matter we are talking about: namely that 50% of the landmass of the planet is protected by indigenous people, but their rights to land are formally recognized in only 10% of cases.
The event has addressed questions of leadership and discussed the tools indigenous peoples have to relate with the institutions. It has also spoken a great deal about the future. In a speech to the representatives of the indigenous peoples, Carlo Petrini expressed his gratitude for everything they are doing and for the political message they are conveying with their daily commitment to defend the land and pass it down from generation to generation. ‘You stand for the beating heart of Terra Madre, Mother Earth, the truest reality of all, you are authentic interpreters of the relationship between man and nature. The love you bring to local areas is infinite, but, alas, it hasn’t always enjoyed the respect it deserves. Yet your resistance has been obstinate, and you’re still here to show how important your political energy is. If we wish to get to the roots of our existence, we have to move in the direction of indigenous communities.’ Petrini also spoke at length about the values that the western world does not recognize as such and, indeed, denigrates. ‘The testimony of Dalí, the Mexican delegate, was the best speech in the whole inauguration ceremony. Telling us about the battles of the women of her community, she spoke with her heart . She brought to the stage the voices of poor indigenous women. These are the values that western society refuses to acknowledge as such. Yet our world too, which thinks it’s so rich, has to learn from these three qualities. Anyone who fails to understand that dignified poverty is a value offends the poor. If we learn to listen to women, the indigenous and the poor, we’ll be able to lay the bases for a new form of politics. If we don’t, we’ll have failed to understand how to build the future and we’ll be nearing the brink—a brink of huge environmental proportions. If homo really is sapiens, when we reach the brink, the only intelligent thing to do will be to turn back. And there to point the way will be “the last”: namely the women, the indigenous and the poor.’
Anyone passing through the Indigenous Terra Madre space will certainly have learned to listen again, heard stories of oppression and blackmail, shared a different point of view, and seen new campaigns being activated. One of these, Stand for Land Rights, is part of the global Land Rights Now campaign and fights for the rights of the Panama community in Sri Lanka, forced to leave their land to make way for new tourist developments. This is not the future that indigenous peoples want and this is not the right future for the earth. Together, we have to learn to build that future.