The seventh Slow Food International Congress, from 29th September to 1st October 2017 in Chengdu (China), will allow the voices of delegates from all over the world to be heard. Their stories recount their commitment in the battle to make good, clean and fair food available to everybody. Their contribution to the Congress will contribute towards outlining the political strategy of this worldwide organisation which involves millions of people in 160 countries. Here is the profile of some of the delegates:
From Brazil, Luis Carrazza, vice president of Slow Food Brazil and founder of the Central do Cerrado, an association which brings together thirty-five communities from seven states in Brazil to sell their products. The Cerrado is a vast tropical savannah, with an incredible biodiversity of plants and animals, and represents a unique ecosystem, which is now unfortunately under threat and greatly at risk from agriculture and intensive cattle breeding. Organising and supporting the people who practise agroecology in this region, by protecting the biodiversity, is a positive example in net contrast with the development model of this country, which is devastating the natural resources that are part of the world’s heritage.
From Chile, Belgica Navea, a bee-keeper in the arid region of the Atacama Desert. Together with her community, Belgica has developed more than thirty products derived from bee-keeping. Belgica is part of the steering committee of the national association of Slow Food in Chile and coordinates the market in the Coquimbo area, in the region of Atacama. To combat the mass death of bees which is occurring all over the world due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and pollution, Slow Food is spearheading initiatives on all levels, from pressuring European institutions into banning neonicotinoids to setting up presidia to oversee virgin honeys and native species of bees.
From China, Lanying Zhang, director of the Centre for Rural Reconstruction and president of the scientific committee of Slow Food Great China. After graduating from the University of the Philippines, she returned to China and embarked on her career in the field of social development at the International Institution of Rural Reconstruction, where she coordinated and started projects, training courses and workshops dealing with sustainable agriculture, environmental and health education, with an approach promoting participation in the development. The partnership with the Centre for Rural Reconstruction in China has led to the cataloguing of one hundred Chinese products in the Ark of Taste and aims to improve social conditions in villages in the Chinese countryside, by supporting farmers who practise sustainable agriculture, and by combating the uncontrolled migration towards the cities.
From Colombia, María Alicia Ramirez, head of the local Slow Food group in Barranquilla, teacher and coordinator of a centre for play and educational courses for children centred around food and cooking. Together with other teachers from different countries, she has created Slow Food Educa Latino America, the Latin-American network which promotes education on food and taste for adults and children to train their senses and help them rediscover the pleasure of food. One of the main goals of Slow Food is to invest in a future for everybody by working with the younger generations and educating them through the sense of taste and the pleasure in playing with, manipulating and enjoying healthy food.
From the Philippines, Pacita Juan, member of Slow Food Manila. Pacita founded the ECHOstore and is president of the Philippine Coffee Board. She dedicates herself full-time to social and environmental issues and organises exhibitions of products from Slow Food’s Ark of Taste at the WOFEX (World Food Expo Philippines) and the Madrid Manila Fusion. Slow Food has dedicated six presidia to coffee, one of the most widely sold commodities in the world and a source of many social injustices towards producers. From Africa to Latin America, the people who grow and harvest coffee represent the weak link in economic supply chain that assures enormous profits to everyone except them.
From Japan, Koyuru Saito, a farmer for Miyamotoyama, an agricultural company with over 1,300 years of history, situated in the city of Sosa, in the Japanese prefecture of Chiba. Around thirty years have passed since his parents set off on the path of organic farming, with the help of the community. Koyuru is currently working on a project to optimise the benefits of solar energy without jeopardising the agricultural production when installing solar panels. Here is a short video featuring him. His experience is important because it demonstrates how technological innovation and science can be employed to help sustainable agriculture, overcoming the prejudice of those who are keen to label it a romantic, inefficient and substantially outdated practice.
From Italy, Valentina Gucciardo, the enthusiastic coordinator of school gardens in Tuscany, who every year involves over a thousand students and teachers, together with chefs and farmers. For the last five years, she has established a stable relationship with the Slow Food gardens in Uganda. With the takings from the end-of-year markets, the schoolchildren have adopted five gardens within the scope of the project 10,000 Gardens in Africa launched by the Slow Food Foundation. Activities within schools are crucial for Slow Food which, for over fifteen years, has undertaken to create school gardens not only in Italy and Africa, but also in the USA, alongside Alice Waters (vice president of Slow Food) and her Edible Schoolyards Project.
From Lativia, Astride Rozite, head of Slow Food Straupe. Astride has contributed towards starting up the first Earth Market in the Baltic States. She coordinates the project “Health in cities and the countryside” and works in the tourist office of the town of Pargauja. She is the editor and co-author of “Piena grāmata”, a historic novel about the cooperative of livestock breeders and dairy farmers in Straupe (the Straupe Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society). The Earth Markets are an international network of farmers’ markets, consistent with the Slow Food philosophy. Places where only local and seasonal products are sold of which there are currently sixty worldwide.
From Kazakhstan, Aida Baimakova, a young activist, coordinator of Slow Food Youth Network Astana, and daughter of Gulmaira Baimakova, main contact person for the Aqmola community of traditional dairy producers. This community is composed of women from the village of Karabulak, in the northern province of Akmola who take their livestock to pasture in the summer period and help to preserve and restore the degraded pasture land, applying the “green belt” system used by the Kazakh people since ancient times. When the mountain areas are abandoned, it leads to widespread environmental degradation: landslides, fires and avalanches, caused by snow that flows over uncut meadows, and rivers that overflow and drag logs downstream… Slow Food supports the work of the shepherds in the mountains for their role in protecting and preserving the region.
From Macedonia, Sonja Srbinovska, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, an expert on the flexibility of hygienic and sanitary rules for dairy production, in particular raw milk. Like the Terra Madre Balkans network, Slow Food has, for many years, been assisting small producers who are often required to make disproportionate investments to stay in the market legally.
From Senegal, Mbaye Diongue will submit a development project to the Congress that proposes to work on the Moroccan and Senegalese diaspora (DIAMASE). The project is funded by IFAD and aims to involve the two diasporas in a joint effort to create enterprises in rural areas.
From South Africa, Caroline McCann: she began her career as a lawyer, but subsequently decided to open the Braeside butcher, whose motto is free range and grass fed. In the shops in the urban area of Johannesburg, she explains to consumers what meat they are buying and which producer it comes from. With the help of various chefs, she has organised the past editions of Slow Meat in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and other places in South Africa, to raise the awareness of consumers in making use of all the cuts of the animal, and demanding to know the origin of the meat and understand how to choose it. Slow Meat is an international campaign on the importance of reducing the consumption of meat and choosing it from sustainable herds that take care of the animal’s welfare.
From Turkey, Guven Eken, a Turkish activist involved in a project called Doga Oulu (“Nature school”), aimed at conserving the ancestral landscapes of the Aegean, i.e. those vast areas of Anatolia where the olive tree has grown spontaneously on land used for sheep farming.
The Slow Food International Congress will also see the participation of representatives of indigenous communities from all over the world. Indigenous communities preserve the heritage of traditions, cultures and languages that, over the course of history, has suffered cultural suppression and, in some cases, genocide. Slow Food supports indigenous populations and organised the global Indigenous Terra Madre event in Shillong in India, in 2015.
Among the indigenous delegates of Slow Food there are:
From Morocco, Fatiha El Jazouli, and indigenous Amazigh, leader of the local Slow Food group in Marrakech. El Houz is president of a cooperative involving grain farmers and local processors who produce different types of traditional couscous.
From Mexico, Dalí Nolasco Cruz, an indigenous Nahua woman, coordinator of the Presidium of the Tlaola Serrano Chili Pepper and head of the local Slow Food group in Tlaola Kukuk.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nicolas Mushumbi Mukumo, a Pygmy activist involved in defending the rights of his people and the indigenous peoples of the forest of Kivu, in general. He is the creator and main coordinator of the first Terra Madre in the region, Terra Madre des Grands Lacs, an important event that also involved numerous people from neighbouring countries (Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania).
From Russia, Liudmila Ignatenko, President of the indigenous community of Aleskam, one of the first indigenous communities of Kamchatka which obtained legally recognised status in 1992. The name Aleskam is the combination of the names of the Aleuti, the Eskimos and the Kamchadali. The Aleskam community consists of about fifty people involved in the harvesting and processing herbs and wild plants. They are specialised in the production of herb-based mixtures. The Community has organised the festival of wild plants since 2006.
The United States, Prairie Rose Seminole, an indigenous Arikara/Hidatsa woman. Teacher and activist. She participates and holds training courses promoting the empowerment of her community, especially by raising awareness among young people. She is an expert in natural medicine and the use of herbs and wild plants.
From Sweden, Anna-Marja Helene Kaddik, an indigenous Sami woman, who will address some issues to the Congress, related to climate change and the management of its herds.
From Uganda, John Wanyu, who takes pride in calling himself Uganda’s very first gastronomer. He graduated in 2016 with a thesis on the biodiversity of his country and is now one of the coordinators of Slow Food activities in Uganda, in particular, for the Presidium of the ancient varieties of Teso Kyere Finger Millet, for all communication on the local network and for the Chefs’ Alliance.
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The Slow Food International Congress is certified as a zero emissions event thanks to the contribution of SouthPole Group – An international company specialising in the reduction of greenhouse gases and in a wide range of sustainable solutions for both public and private organisations. SouthPole Group will compensate for the impact and emissions generated by the Congress, including flights, through its project Huóshui Grouped Small Hydropower.
The Slow Food Congress is organised by Slow Food, Chengdu Municipal Commission of Commerce and Slow Food Great China; it is also possible thanks to the support of the following partners: Autogrill, Colussi, Di Martino, Eataly, Lavazza and Rivetti. Legal partners BLB Studio Legale, Service Provider Sommos.