On International Women’s Day, Voices from the Slow Food Movement Show that Agroecology Is Key to Promoting Inclusion

05 Mar 2024 | English

“Inspire Inclusion”: That’s the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, a particularly current and meaningful topic given the current sociopolitical and environmental crises through which we are living.

“Food concerns us all. Yet the role of those who bring food to our tables, and especially the role of women within food systems, is often overlooked and underestimated,” points out Marta Messa, the Slow Food Secretary General. “Across the world, women play a key role in food systems, often doing the heavy lifting, yet with limited decision-making power or land ownership rights.” Inclusion, on the other hand, means creating a society where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate and benefit, regardless of background or identity. “Women can accelerate the transition to sustainable food systems, all the more so within agroecological food systems that are rooted in gender equity, among other principles. The principles of agroecology provide a framework where diversity, equality and justice are tiles within a broader mosaic of sustainable food systems.”

The Slow Food movement amplifies the voices from many communities around the world seeking to elevate the role of women in society, fight against prejudice and violence and advance projects that can help make women free and independent.

Adelaida Bolom Gomez is an indigenous Tseltal and Tsotsil woman from the Nueva Palestina Community in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. She has been involved in community activities her whole life, focusing on granting women access to land and creating a female-led agroecological garden. “We promote food sovereignty and good nutrition to strengthen the identities and role of women in food production, including by preserving local seeds with agroecological practices. We faced difficulties in convincing local groups to give us access to resources such as water and land, but now they understood the value of our work.”

“The women of the Dyikan Muras network save seeds for future generations,” explains Aida Jamangulova from the Ala-Too Slow Food Community in Kyrgyzstan. “It is mainly women who grow local vegetables to prepare nutritious and healthy food for their families or sell the surplus to the market. Recently they also started organizing local agroecological schools, where more experienced women farmers share their knowledge with younger generations.”

Fatmata Mansaray, a local teacher and organic farmer from Kono District, Sierra Leone, says: “On this Women’s Day, I want to emphasize that the Slow Food Gardens project has been a life-changing and resounding success in the fight for inclusion within our communities, giving us the possibility to engage with local authorities and open doors to educational opportunities that have been transformative for women’s inclusion and empowerment. It stands as a testament to the power of collective action and the transformative potential of empowering women. Together, we are creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all.”

“Being a woman in our wine communities means playing a role that goes far beyond making wine,” says Carolina Alvarado, a wine producer and coordinator of the Slow Wine Marga Marga community in Chile. “It means generating and regenerating, it means nurturing, growing, holding strong bonds, as well as taking care of the land and production. All this always following agroecological principles in total respect for Mother Earth. Our commitment now lies precisely in carrying out training and awareness-raising activities so that women have the knowledge to negotiate a fair price for their land and products, standing up to big industries and large landowners. During the fires that ravaged our biodiversity, we saw how strongly the women held the ties within the community, and with strength they are rebuilding.”

“On March 8 I would like to ask you, free women in the world, to become our voice now that we are made silent, now that our hearts are cold and disappointed with life and our rights have been taken from us,” says a young Afghan woman and activist, whom we cannot name to protect her safety. “For us girls and women in Afghanistan life is now like a prison from which we do not have any hope of getting out, we do not see any light or warmth because no one holds our hands.”

“In order to influence a change in consciousness and to empower women living in the Gledić Mountains area, we organized several workshops for them and for school children, especially addressing topics such as domestic violence and their rights,” explains Dragana Velovic, the Slow Food Gledic local coordinator in Serbia. “Too often women have on their shoulders housework, childcare and work in the fields, but without any recognition of freedom, neither personal nor economic. We are here to try to change this.”

“Throughout Italy, there were once many mountain communities that based their economy on the chestnut tree, gathering around them women, men and children, each with their own role,” says Linda Orlandini, a producer in the Bolognese Apennines who is working to regenerate this ancient tradition. The goal is to revive, precisely from the chestnut, new opportunities for younger people, and to restore value to the central role that women played within communities. Together with other chestnut farmers, she is part of the Italian Slow Food Chestnut Farmers Network, which for Linda “is a vehicle of knowledge. We rediscovered ourselves united by the same passion for this extraordinary and powerful tree and, today, we give each other confidence and courage.”

“Slow Island Food & Beverage Co. was directly inspired by the ethos of the Slow Food movement and by the languid pace of living in our beautiful, bountiful island home”. Founded by chef & entrepreneur Gida Snyder in 2017, Slow Island Co. creates pantry staples and specialty food products from Hawaii grown ingredients. The greater Slow Island mission aims to foster lasting relationships with farms and farmers while providing mentorship and education for aspiring young entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. “Community wellness is a key value for Slow Island and we believe that our food security comes with ensuring the health and well-being of our farmers and farm-land. We partner directly with our island farmers growing with sustainable and regenerative methods to source the ingredients for our line of sauces and syrups and condiments”. As a black female in the industry, Chef Gida knows the impact it can make to see positive representation for other young culinary professionals looking towards a career in food. She is a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier International and a longtime member of Slow Food.

Nacyb Allouchi and Hayet Taboui, activists and coordinators of Rayhana, an association active in Tunisia, explain how they have opened the door to all women and are committed to developing a transformative movement for a new generation of free and conscious women, promoting a culture of common goods and environmental protection with the reduction of gender inequalities and promotion of socioeconomic opportunities for women. Rayhana, with the support of the international SUSTAvianFEED project, plays a critical role in empowering women through education and skills development. They offer tailored training programs that equip women with the knowledge and tools they need to excel in sustainable agriculture. These programs cover a wide range of topics, from organic farming techniques to sustainable land management practices. “By enhancing women’s capacities, we are not only improving their livelihoods but also strengthening the overall sustainability of agriculture.”

Local communities can benefit from agroecology’s promotion of agrobiodiversity and resilient ecosystems, which can lead to food security and economic stability, making it easier to face environmental challenges such as the climate crisis.

Social justice issues within the agricultural sector are addressed through inclusive agroecology, which grants access to resources, land and education from a social perspective. In addition, the emphasis on local, community-based food systems in agroecology is in line with the principles of inclusion. Local economies can be strengthened by supporting local markets and small-scale farmers, which also fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility. Agroecology plays a role in building food systems that are more inclusive and resilient and prioritize the well-being of both people and the planet.

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