Food security and sustainable agriculture was one of the most important topics at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 last month, given the huge ecological impact of today’ agriculture and food production system. However, while there was some interesting discussion, many international observers and organizations have concluded that essentially the Summit has fallen short or failed entirely in producing solutions.
In the official Food and Nutrition Dialogue, Slow Food President Carlo Petrini, who wrote this critique of the Summit, joined ten panelists who mostly agreed that empowering small farmers in developing countries is key to the future of agriculture. At the end of the session the panelists and 2,000 participants voted to select the three most pressing proposals: promote food systems that are sustainable and improve health; eliminate misery and poverty-rooted malnutrition; and develop policies to encourage sustainable production of food supplies directed to both producers and consumers.
Meanwhile, in the quarters of Rio, Slow Food was busy hosting a range of actions that actually showed how communities are striving to put these principles into action. Slow Food took the opportunity to invite locals, Summit visitors and authorities such as EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Cioloş, EU Commisioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva to visit two of the six Circuito Carioca de Feiras Orgânicas markets – a new network of organic farmers’ markets in Rio supported by Slow Food.
Commissioner Piebalgs published this video of his trip to the Tijuca market, and commented on his blog about how these projects promote a return to organic food, local production and consumption and small farming communities. “Maria, one of the facilitators of the movement in Rio, told us how she works in the favelas to bring back the use of cassava, which is a major product of Brazil, instead of relying on imported wheat.”
Cioloş also highlighted the importance of a more sustainable model of agriculture to preserve the environment as well as cultural traditions, and commented that he’d had a great experience talking with local producers at the opening of the Jardim Botanico market, as captured in this album. Here, the market producers presented their produce in cooking demonstrations and held workshops on home composting while at the Ipanema market, Slow Food organized educational activities such as Taste Workshops and a “Biodiversity Tasting Tent” of authentic Brazilian products that are mostly unknown to the general public.
During Rio+20, Slow Food also produced the guide Rio de Janeiro – 100 Tips Slow Food with advice on ‘good, clean and fair food’ organized by neighborhood. Twenty thousand printed copies were circulated and 3,000 electronic copies were downloaded on the day, providing both Rio’s inhabitants and the thousands of visitors with tips on where to eat or buy locally sourced foods as well as details of social projects in poor communities and favelas and some of the many urban agriculture projects popping up around the vibrant city.
Community projects were also highlighted in a Slow Food conference during the People’s Summit, that brought together producers, chefs, academics, researchers, project leaders, scholars and members of the Terra Madre network to talk about food and its complex production chain. Carlo Petrini joined the crowded tent to listen to the real experiences of communities using sustainable food production and consumption as an instrument for social transformation.
Slow Food has been working closely with farmers in Rio to promote the Circuito Carioca organic markets since December 2011, as part of a commitment to building opportunities for direct relationships between small-scale farmers and consumers and defending the right of every person to food that is good, clean and fair.
The association has been present in Brazil since 2002 and counts 32 convivia (local chapters). Through its projects such as the Ark of Taste, Presidia and Terra Madre, it now involves over 40,000 producers.