We, representatives of the Terra Madre and Slow Food network from 90 countries, declare that the whole world is our home and that our action is global in scope. Our network knows no boundaries. We thus reject any form of political, economic and social exclusion that turns into outlaws people who migrate on account of conflict, violence, discrimination, eviction, poverty and natural calamity.

Extract from the Declaration of Chengdu, passed at the 7th Slow Food International Congress

 in Chengdu, China, in 2017

The history of food has always been linked to the movement of people.

People have been moving around the world since the dawn of humanity, and many of the foods that we now consider to be “indigenous” to a specific place are in fact only there because of the migration of women and men.

The factors that push groups of people to move are many, but these movements tend to be based on people’s desire to improve or radically change their living conditions. Two reasons in particular are playing an increasingly important role: climate change and conflicts over access to natural resources, like water and land.

According to World Bank figures, the number of “climate migrants” could reach 140 million by 2050, with 86 million from sub-Saharan Africa alone.[1]

Food thus has a dual significance: Shortages of food and water are one of the factors pushing populations to migrate, while at the same time food is part of the cultural baggage that migrants bring with them in the form of seeds, recipes, and traditions, enriching the biocultural diversity of their new home.

© Alessandro Vargiu

 

Climate change

Rising global temperatures seriously threaten the ability of millions of people around the world to access the resources they need to survive and these people are forced to make long journeys across continents in search of a better life.

The natural equilibrium that provides the basis for resilience  in ecosystems started falling apart a few centuries ago thanks to human actions. Deforestation on a massive scale to make room for monocultures and intensive livestock farming, the uncontrolled spread of urban centers, and the industrialization of rural areas have all contributed to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the retention of heat close to the Earth, and the consequent rise in the average global temperature.

Within this context, further aggravated by rampant desertification, the available area of fertile land is being drastically reduced. According to a study by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), soil degradation, combined with climate change, will be one of the main causes behind the migration of millions of people by 2050.[2]

The other resource at risk is water, the most important source of life in the world. A United Nations report on the world’s water showed that 3.6 billion people live in areas where water scarcity is a potential problem for at least a month every year, and this figure could reach 5.7 billion by 2050. [3]

While continental waters are running short due to excessive exploitation of resources, sea levels are rising, making the survival of coastal populations even more tenuous. Due to global warming, over 3 million square kilometers of surface ice  have been lost since 1979, and the level of seas and oceans around the world is rising dramatically (by 2100 this increase could range from 52 to 98 centimeters[4]).

 

Conflicts

Among the anthropic factors behind the exodus of millions of people from their homelands are the armed conflicts over control of the few remaining natural resources.

Access to and management of land, water, and the raw materials used for food and energy production are being contested by those who have always lived with these resources and those who want to exploit them for economic gain.

According to data from the Environmental Justice Atlas (EJAtlas), over 600 conflicts are currently being fought over land grabbing, 357 over the production of renewable energy, 270 over mining projects, 179 over fossil fuels, and 77 over control of fishing.[5] The Pacific Institute’s figures, meanwhile, report 263 crises linked to the management of water resources between 2010 and the present.[6]

The Environment, Conflict and Cooperation site (www.ecc-platform.org), designed by Adelphi and funded by the German government, collects and updates data and information about all the conflicts in the world connected to climate change.

© Alessandro Vargiu

What We Do

When migrants arrive in a new country, they bring much from their homelands—knowledge, seeds, recipes—which contribute to enriching the local biodiversity. This is the wealth that characterizes the Slow Food Migrant network. Since 2014  the network has been striving to promote the traditional knowledge of internal and international migrants from over 40 countries around the world.

Every day, the Slow Food Migrant network supports cooks, farmers, cheesemakers, beekeepers, and many others who are cultivating their own diversity in their new homes, triggering gradual processes of adaptation and fascinating cultural and gastronomic cross-pollinations. The network is bringing this hidden world to light, showing how this microcosm can eventually change the lifestyles and economies of migrant and host communities and lay the foundations for the construction of a multi-ethnic society.

[1] World Bank report Groundswell – Preparing for Internal Climate Migration 2018

[2] https://www.ipbes.net/system/tdf/downloads/ipbes-6-15-add.5_spm_ldr_english.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=23015

[3] http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002615/261594e.pdf

[4] IPCC Report Climate Change 2013 The Physical Science Basis

[5] https://ejatlas.org/

[6] http://www.worldwater.org/conflict/map/

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