As of this month, readers of the SF journal Slow will be introduced to SlowArk, a new addition to the ever growing Slow Food Editore family. The new magazine is a natural offshoot of L’Arca; which Italian readers have received over the last couple of years. The format and the graphics have changed but the central topics – conservation and the defense of agroindustrial diversity – remain the same.
Slow Food has already made three major steps forward in this direction.
– the Ark project to catalog products in danger of extinction;
– the Presidia project to save products (now developing outside Italy, as Paolo Di Croce explains in his article);
– the Slow Food Award, presented for the second time last year in Porto.
All this is accompanied of course by wide-ranging consumer information and education activities – tasting and training courses, Taste Workshops, awareness campaigns, conferences and publications – all designed to make gourmets more environmentally-minded. In short, to make them ‘eco-gastronomes’, a word our readers are now amply familiar with.
Slow 25, also the first number of SlowArk, tells the stories of the 14 winners of the Slow Food Award 2001, all accompanied by Tim Turner’s beautiful photographs.
Thierno Maadjou Bah, Mamadou Mouctar Sow (Guinea) – two agronomes who have grasped the vital importance of the néré tree (Parkia biglobosa) and have worked to resuscitate it and the condiment (soumbara) made from its seeds. In so doing, they have helped protect a fundamental element for the culture, tradition and economy of one of the poorest countries in the world.
The Amal la Cooperative (Morocco) – an all-female enterprise that produces oil from the kernel of the fruit of the argan tree, an endemic, spontaneous variety which grows only in the Essaouira area, and whose existence is jeopardized by drought and intensive deforestation.
Noel Honeyborne (South Africa) – a zoogeneticist specialized in poultry, has developed the Fowls for Africa, maintaining old breeds of hen to fight hunger in southern Africa and allowing small peasants, women and deprived communities to breed them.
Carlos Lewis (Argentina) – an agronomist specialized in tobacco who runs a finca cum farmstay. Here he has saved crops on the verge of extinction and rediscovering arts and crafts that seemed to have no future ahead of them.
Pablo Jara (Chile) – a mechanical engineer who has revived the cultivation in Chile of quinoa, a plant native to the Andean altipiano. As well as being full of proteins and calories, edible quinoa is also highly digestible. Its recovery is important from both the cultural and the economic points of view.
Doña Sebastiana Juarez Broca (Messico) – a peasant woman, who has pioneered organic cacao growing in conjunction with the Asesoria Tecnica en Cultivos Organicos, a non profit organization. ‘Tia Tana’, as she is affectionately known, now coordinates three women’s cooperatives that produce chocolate according to the Maya tradition.
Adriana Valcarcel (Perù) – a chemist, she runs Mara, a company which produces flour, baked cakes, puffed cereals and other products made from traditions, local raw materials.
The Chuyma Aru Association (Perù) – an NGO that is seeking to revive vegetable and animal varieties that have almost disappeared, to re-establish links among the communities of the Lake Titicaca area and to resuscitate the ancient learning and agricultural rites of the Aymara tribe;
Rew Kuang Choon (South Korea) – a fisherman who leads a group of 20 or so people in the traditional activity of jukbang (literally, bamboo net fishing), a 1,000-year-old tradition which combines respect for the environment with an end-product of the very highest quality.
Bija Devi (India, Dehra Dun) – coordinator of Navdanya, a project founded in 1990 by Vandana Shiva, a world authority in the field of acroecological and peasant rights, to protect and exchange rare seed varieties.
Predrag Peca Petrovic (Jugoslavia) – a biologist, he spends his life studying and breeding autocthonous breeds, growing rare fruits and coordinating Yugoslavia’s most important environmentalist project, the Association of Ecological Research, based in Mionica.
Necton (Portugal) – a company that has resuscitated the old abandoned salt pans in the National Park of Ria Formosa, producing salt of the very highest quality.
Marie-Noëlle Anderson (Switzerland) – a healer who follows the methods of traditional African medicine to safeguard ancient learning and medicinal plants.
The Poppy Growers of Ismailkoy, Turkey – a group of peasants who, despite the difficulties posed by the NATO agreements on poppy-growing, continue to grow this traditional crop. Opium apart poppy seed oil is a basic ingredient of traditional Anatolian cuisine, though it has been almost completely replaced by sunflower seed oil.
Five of the winners – Thierno Maadjou Bah and Mamadou Mouctar Sow, the Amal Cooperative, Doña Sebastiana Juarez Broca, Bija Devi and Necton – received the Special Jury Award.
Slow 25 also includes an account of the award ceremony, which featured speeches by the Portuguese first lady, Maria José Ritta, and Vitor Neto, the Secretary of State for Tourism.
In addition, Vandana Shiva speaks about the role of women in the conservation of biodiversity and José Esquinas Alcazar, secretary of the FAO Commission for Genetical Resources for Agriculture and Food, recounts the 20-year history of the International Treaty On Phylogenetic Resources that FAO passed last November.
The third Slow Food Award ceremony will be held in Turin on October 23 2002.
Elena Marino is a member of the Slow Food Editore editorial staff.
Adapted by John Irving