Slow Food Presidia Agreement with Brazil

23 Jul 2004 | English

Brazil’s Minister for Agricultural Development, Miguel Soldatelli Rossetto, the Deputy Minister, Humberto Oliveira, and Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food, have signed an important agreement which consolidates the long-term friendship between Brazil and our Association and ratifies our ongoing collaboration.

The relationship goes back many years – stemming from our solidarity towards the Sem Terra movement and, more recently, our support for the Lula Zero Hunger program – and has slowly developed from political like-mindedness to common strategy.

Brazil has remarkable agricultural biodiversity as well as in its foods, cultures and languages: it is home to a good 210 indigenous ethnic groups and 180 languages are still spoken daily. It is therefore a natural interlocutor for an international movement like Slow Food which has moved from gastronomy to eco-gastronomy, from interest in the foods on our plate to the social, cultural and environmental context that bring the foods to our plate. It is also just as natural that the 2003 Slow Food Award for Biodiversity went to the indigenous Krahô tribe and that in 2002 Amazonia was the site of one of the first International Presidia. This was for authentic guarana, harvested in the forest and hand-processed by the Sateré Mawé.

The new agreement marks the beginning of a solid partnership. It aims to identify products throughout the whole of Brazil which are in need of safeguarding, develop new Presidia and bring 180 Brazilian producers – one of the largest and most important delegations in the world – to Turin for the Terra Madre event.

This is no casual partnership: the Ministry of Agricultural Development manages a distinct sector, dedicated to the development of family agriculture and rural Brazilian territories. Brazil’s situation is paradoxical: it is the only Latin American country that still lacks an agricultural reform policy, as Frei Betto commented in a recent interview with Carlo Petrini (see ‘Carlin’s Corner’). Hence the only real hope for combating hunger is its small farmers. These are the people who produce Brazilians’ daily food (70% of the country’s beans, 58% of its pigs, 54% of its cows, 40% of its eggs…) and yet almost half of the country’s 821,000,000 hectares of cultivable land remains in the hands of just 1% of its land owners. And it is of course the interest in local products and small producers that has led to the convergence between a number of the Ministry’s activities and the projects of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.

Slow Food will also present three new Brazilian Presidia at the Hall of Taste later this year, all supported by the Ministry of Agricultural Development: the Jucara palm heart, the Canapù bean and the Umbù.

The Jucara is one of the many palms cultivated by the Guaranì, the most important indigenous Brazilian group; others include the Dindò, Jerivà and Pupunha. A Presidium has been set up to protect the Jucara because it is the most traditional and its hearts are the most tender and delicate. The project is complex, involving an initial formative phase, run by indigenous technicians, to help the community manage the palm sustainably. This will involve creating nurseries in the forest and replanting plantlets after each cut.

The Jucara palm heart will not be on sale at the Salone but will be available for tasting at the World Bistro and in a Taste Workshop dedicated to South America.

The second Presidium represents the Canapù, a variety of eyed bean (Vigna unguiculata) cultivated in the southern part of Piauì State. The Canapù bean is as small as a corn kernel and its color ranges from pink and light brownish to pale green; it is soft in the mouth with a piquant flavor and marked herbaceous notes. It can be eaten fresh or dried and is an ingredient in various traditional dishes such as mucunzà, which is based on corn and pork rinds as well as the beans.

Finally comes the Umbù (also called imbù) a fruit from northeast Brazil that grows in the caatinga, the typical scrubland of Brazil’s semi-arid Sertão region. The name derives from the Tupi-Guarani Indios word “y-mb-u”, meaning “tree giving something to drink”. The umbuzeiro (the large, centuries-old umbù trees) have roots that can contain 2,000-3,000 liters of water and so can bear fruit even in the driest of years. The fruits vary from cherry- to lemon-sized and are round, with a yellow-green skin. The flesh is juicy with an attractive sweet-sour taste. They will be at the Hall in the form of juices, jams and jellies.

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