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Let’s Not Eat Up Our Planet

The second day of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto featured the first discussions, with Valentino Castle and Torino Esposizioni hosting the first 10 of the 40 forums on the agenda. The topics included natural agriculture, pastoralism, Slow Food projects involving the 10,000 vegetable gardens in Africa, the Earth Markets, food waste and climate change.

To illustrate the subject, Pak Teguh Triono (pictured), the Indonesian delegate who represents the Kehati organization spoke of Flores (East Timor) – an island with poor, light-colored rocky soil
and little rainfall.
What rain there is falls only within a four-month period, while the remaining eight months of drought-like conditions make agricultural production extremely difficult. Despite this, government programs designed to stimulate agriculture and boost production focus on crops that require considerable amounts of water, like soy, rice and corn, without taking into account the island’s pedoclimatic conditions. This kind of thinking is both inefficient and unsustainable, leading to a further depletion of available resources. Kehati has thus analyzed the results of a World Bank study and decided to focus on another crop, sorghum, which can be grown in poor soil and requires little water.

To support this argument, the Indonesian delegate played a video of lush, green fields around the village of Likotuden. He showed that some crops can actually revitalize the soil, if their characteristics are in harmony with the local environmental conditions. At the same time, there are social benefits: initially, the sorghum program involved only four farmers, but today many more have joined in, cultivating a total of 120 hectares. Families have adjusted their eating habits, abandoning rice in favor of the local crop.

Many associations and organizations, including Slow Food itself, are working towards change. For the COP21 conference in 2015 Slow Food launched an appeal,Let’s Not Eat Up Our Planet!”, making the case for greater attention and concrete actions on the part of governmental authorities. Unfortunately, as explained by Francesca Rocchi, vice-president of Slow Food Italy, concrete actions are often late in arriving, as shown by the fact that in Italy, almost a year after COP21, we are still waiting for the issuance of the Green Act, which our leaders had promised to draw up. All too often, when it comes to the climate, promises are hastily made and soon forgotten, although the problem clearly calls for urgent action.

Some possible solutions are offered by organizations and associations like the Good Planet Foundation, founded by photographer, Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Their proposals were presented by the group’s executive director, Thierry Touchais, who illustrated how the program entitled “The solution is on the table” focuses on nutrition, a critical issue that was overlooked in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. If we intervened at the level of meat consumption, for example, or on food waste, part of the solution would already be achieved. Other steps have instead been taken at the institutional level, as recounted by Angelo Salsi of the European Commission. For example, the Life program, now in its 25th year, finances about 200 projects targeting the climate and the environment each year. It is important to note that in recent years, many of these projects have addressed issues related to food and agriculture, like reducing the impact of agro-alimentary production.

Adolfo Brizzi, director of the Policy and Technical Advisory Board of IFAD, and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN appointee on the rights of indigenous peoples, spoke on behalf of small-scale farmers—two and a half billion people worldwide—and indigenous populations. Their contributions are often underestimated and their rights ignored, despite the fact that both are able to furnish efficient and long-lasting solutions. This is because, more than anyone else, they live and work directly with the land that sustains them, as shown by the example of the sorghum farmers in East Timor, and have a much lower impact on the environment. Following their example and respecting their rights would be an important step in the right direction if we want to mitigate our impact on the global climate.

Silvia Ceriani

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
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