Today marks the first stop on an important journey: Slow Food’s Roadmap to CAP. The aim is to bring together various Slow Food initiatives related to the Common Agricultural Policy taking place around Europe over the next two months and putting the spotlight on our vision for a holistic future common food policy.
As the publication of the new CAP legislative proposal approaches, what can the reality of small-scale agroecological farmers teach us and how can we help shape a more holistic food policy? During this journey we will be learning from farmers, creating dialogue with citizens and policymakers and informing on food policies through evidence-based research. Each step in this journey will present a realistic snapshot of what we think the future of the EU food system (which includes EU agriculture) should look like.
The first leg of our journey takes us to the heart of Sicily, where a group of Slow Food protected, small-scale producers showcased their vision of agriculture to an official from the European Commission. Following an increasingly stronger dialogue over the last few years with the Commission’s Directorate General for the Environment, the opportunity emerged to organize a visit on the ground. The producers visited are examples of small-scale agroecological farming in action, a model that should become mainstream in Europe and should be supported and encouraged by adequate policies. The visit aimed to provide the policymaker with the possibility of seeing firsthand what agroecological farming and the promotion of agrobiodiversity looks like, while demonstrating that it is feasible and promotes environmental, socio-cultural and economic sustainability. Watch a short clip here!
During the visit, Director of the Natural Capital Unit of DG Environment, Mr Humberto Delgado Rosa visited small-scale producers from 9 Slow Food Presidia projects: the Leonforte Fava Bean, Leonforte Lentil, Leonforte Late-Harvest Peaches, Scillato Apricot, Polizzi Generosa Pepper and Badda Bean, Sicilian Black Bee, Madonie Manna and Madonie Provola cheese. The aim of these projects is to save native breeds, vegetable varieties and artisanal products at risk of disappearing: they strengthen producer organization, promote local areas, preserve traditional methods and knowledge, and support sustainable practices. This important occasion has been a chance for producers to have a direct exchange with an EU official on the reality of their day to day work and how agricultural and environmental policies affect them and the agrobiodiversity they are protecting.
Delgado described his visit as an eye-opener and expressed his thanks for an experience which gave him the chance to better understand the crucial link between local producers and agrobiodiversity. He took the time to reflect on the importance of agroecology, both for its innovative techniques and its use of ancient knowledge and recognized its role in the future of agriculture. “The next CAP must really trigger a true transition to sustainable agriculture. Agriculture is varied, there are many forms, and this movement of small-scale and local farmers, sustains the environment and biodiversity is a part of this future sustainability”. When asked about the future of EU agriculture, Delgado said, “we must have a new CAP that really delivers on the environment, we need to get results allowing member states a form of flexibility, but a flexibility that delivers according to the EU environmental regulations.”
When discussing the CAP and the challenges faced by small-scale farmers, Giulio Gelardi, producer of the Slow Food Manna Presidium, commented, “EU grants are often too big for small producers, they actually disempower people and make them change their lifestyle. If I need 30,000 Euros and the minimum I can ask for is 100,000 Euros, I am forced to change my way of life to produce more, asking for money I don’t need”. A thought which was echoed by the Slow Food Badda Bean Presidium producers, who added, “The challenge is not to produce more or less, it is to make a living out of it.”
Francesco Sottile, Slow Food Italy Councilor, expert agronomist and Professor at the University of Palermo (Sicily), who accompanied Delgado and the Slow Food team during the visit said, “Institutions should visit small scale producers to understand what their needs are and to see their enthusiasm. EU agriculture is made up of so much small-scale and family agriculture, we run the risk of losing these producers and their enthusiasm. It would be a terrible loss, even for the environmental preservation of the land. These producers need to feel accompanied and supported on their journey. They need to know they are not considered to be the least important, they are in fact the backbone of European agriculture.”
The new CAP proposal, leaked this week, outlines objectives relating to sustainability, but hands over the responsibility for their achievement entirely to Member States, leaving their delivery subject to the goodwill of national and regional authorities. The promotion of agroecological farming and food systems in Europe demands far more than just the redistribution of payments.
The visit by DG Environment has been an important occasion for Slow Food to give voice and visibility to farmers who exemplify the good, clean and fair approach to food production which we believe should guide food policies of the future. Find out more next week as we continue the journey on our Roadmap to CAP!