In the wake of their ‘Make Films Not War: Shoot Movies Not Missiles’ campaign launched at the Venice Film Festival in September, Iara Lee and George Gund of the Lee and Gund Foundation have now turned their attentions to food in general —and Lebanese farmers in particular.
A tribute to the resilience of the Lebanese people during Israel’s 34-day bombardment of the country in the summer, the new ‘Make Food Not War: Plant Seeds for Peace’ is the second part of a trilogy of ‘cultural resistance projects’ (the third, ‘Make Music Not War: Concerts Not Battles’, is currently being organized in conjunction with the Arab Association of Music).
The first public expression of the new campaign was the presence of 40 Lebanese producers from the Beirut farmer’s market, Souk al-Tayeb, at Slow Food’s Terra Madre event in Turin last month.
‘At Terra Madre, we were completely different in color, religion and race,’ explains Kamal Mouzawak, the driving force behind Souk al-Tayeb and Slow Food’s ‘man in Beirut’. ‘All gathered in respect of land and production.’
Though the ‘Make Food Not War’ campaign ultimately plans to promote ‘culinary coexistence’ on an international level, its innovative ‘Seeds for Peace’ project, which is being developed in partnership with Souk al-Tayeb, is specific and local and aims to help Lebanese farmers and small food producers.
‘Seeds for Peace’ has three basic goals: to enhance the professionalism of small farms without compromising the traditional know-how of farmers; to promote and safeguard land in Lebanon; to introduce and sponsor the Asdiqaa al-Ard (Friends of the Earth) awards, which will be assigned to five different farmers every year for their efforts in favor of the grassroots agrifood industry.
‘Seeds for Peace’ will also award grants to farmers who produce endangered or traditional foodstuffs.
‘It is about cooperation,’ concludes Mouzawak. ‘For me, cooperation means work and then having help. If people go and tell the farmers what to do it’s not cooperation; its neocolonialism.’
Photo of Souk al-Tayeb: Äida Kanafani Zahar