Defenders of the Future – from Sicily to Albania

25 Oct 2016

Love the Earth – Defend the Future: with our new fundraising campaign we want to tell you the stories of all the people who are working to guarantee a better future for our planet, and how we’re supporting them every day in the field.

There are, at time of writing, 511 Slow Food Presidia, in the world, spread throughout 128 countries and involving over 13,000 small-scale producers. In Sicily, the Madonie Regional Natural Park alone hosts five such projects, which the producers explain in their own words:

“By now we’re a good group, about 20 of us, farmers, cheesemakers and beekeepers from villages in the Madonie. Sixteen years ago we didn’t even know each other, but then Slow Food arrived with the Presidia, and now we’re inseparable, united by a profound love for this land. A few years ago the Badda bean from Polizzi Generosa was almost completely unknown; Madonie manna, collected from the bark of ash trees, was a mysterious substance found only in a few herbalist shops; Madonie provola was an undervalued cheese; Scillato apricots were excellent, but nobody trusted in their potential; and only one beekeeper was still protecting the Sicilian black bee. With the Presidia, Slow Food has given value to these small-scale products, raising their profile in Italy and in other countries. Comparing ourselves with each other has helped us to improve, and collaborating has united us. Now we run events and markets together, and when there’s a problem we know that we can always count on our little group, and on Slow Food.”

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Elsewhere in the world, the Presidia have empowered people in rural communities, like Gjystina Grishaj, an Albanian producer of Mishavinë, a raw-milk cheese belonging to the large “cheese in a sack” family that are still common today throughout the Balkans and Anatolia. Mishavinë is produced exclusively in the summer months, when the flocks graze freely on the slope of Mount Trojane, and consumed during the long winter. As Gjystina tells us:

mishavin“Life isn’t easy in Kelmend: The winter is long, we lack many services and it takes hours on an unpaved road to reach the bottom of the valley. But I love this land, where the mountains touch the sky. And when many emigrated, we stayed. Ten years ago we participated in Terra Madre, and this experience had a great impact on us. We started to work to promote our land and we created a network of guesthouses. Now more and more tourists are choosing to spend a few days here, and more and more of them appreciate our products. That’s one of the reasons we asked Slow Food to help us turn our most important homemade product, Mishavinë into something we could sell on the market. Now the country’s best chefs serve Mishavinë in their restaurants, and this cheese has become a source of pride and redemption for us.”

In practice, the Slow Food Presidia:

• have effectively contributed to saving numerous animal breeds, plant species, cheese, breads and cured meats at risk of extinction;
• have helped hundreds of producers to continue their activities, encouraging contact with consumers that are concerned about quality and willing to pay a fair price;
• have tangibly contributed to demonstrating that another system of agriculture and food production is possible;
• are a benchmark for many small-scale producers and food communities across the world (including those beyond the Slow Food network);
• are models for other small-scale producers with whom Slow Food works and collaborates;
• are an important reservoir of knowledge and experience that is passed on to other producers during exchanges and collaborations, constituting fundamental nodes in the larger Slow Food network.

The Presidia demonstrate that there is another way of practicing agriculture, that cultivating, breeding and producing food with respect for the earth and local cultures gives rise to a more virtuous economy. But to carry these projects forward, freely and independently, Slow Food needs your support. Even a small donation can make a difference. Help us to promote good, clean and fair food for all, and together we will build a better world.

#lovetheearth #defendthefuture

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