On January 19, at the foot of Berlin’s Brandenburg gate, 35,000 activists and citizens of all ages gathered to send a loud and clear message to policy makers: Wir Haben es Satt! “ We have had enough!”. Its 9th installment took place on the week of the Berlin Agriculture Ministers‘ Conference and Berlin’s International Green Week, which attracted many European stakeholders and decision-makers to the capital of Germany. Protesters from all over the country and beyond used the opportunity to voice their discontent with the current industrial agricultural system and to demand climate-friendly farming.
The theme for this year’s event Essen ist Politisch “Eating is Political” struck a chord, a few months before Europeans head to the polls to decide upon the make-up of the European Parliament. A major issue for Slow Food in Europe, echoed by those marching in Berlin, is the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which distributes funding and capital to farms and agricultural entities based on their size, without recognizing the methods that they use.
An already uneven playing field is made virtually untenable for small scale farmers engaged in more costly and less profitable organic agriculture, and their ability to compete with industrial farms is severely affected. One of the main objectives for Slow Food in Europe is to see reforms to the CAP which would adequately recognize and support the work of small-scale farmers and create incentives for others to adopt cleaner and better methods.
“To safeguard our food and that of the next generation, we must preserve biocultural diversity and support smallholder agriculture, artisanal fishing and food production. Only those who provide social and ecological services can be supported. A political change of course is inevitable for this,” said Ursula Hudson, the president of Slow Food Germany at the opening of the demonstration.
Hudson’s input was followed by that of Marie Pugatschow, board member of Slow Food Youth Network Germany, highlighting the role of youth activists in the rally: later as the protest got into full swing, the march was led by the Youth Bloc, a group of young farmers, activists, and consumers, including members of the local Slow Food Youth Network.
170 tractors accompanied the demonstration, presenting a clear reminder of why the tractor has become a symbol of the Wir Haben es Satt! march. The young, the old, the new, and the experienced, each tractor’s occupants represented a different slice of the rural communities working for a better model of agriculture and a better food system. From old couples who had seen seasons and policies change over the course of decades, to young families, representing the handover of traditions and knowledge across generations. Horns blared and klaxons hooted, while all around the pedestrians banged on pots and pans, clapped, and cheered, to celebrate the heroes of small-scale agriculture. Wir Haben es Satt is not merely a call of frustration, instead there is a positive message to be heard: there are real, viable alternatives that must be promoted.
As activists made the final turn back to the Brandenburg gate, the square had filled with the aroma of hot soup, made from salvaged veggies and prepared the night before for the Schnippeldisko. The first of the now worldwide disco soups, the Schnippeldisko celebrated its 8th edition by saving 2.5 tonnes of vegetables (yes 2,500 kgs!) that would have otherwise been wasted. Meanwhile, more soup was being heated and enjoyed a 10-minute walk away, at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, for the Soup n’ Talk event. An oasis to those who braved the cold for the march and a starting point for those finding out more about Wir Haben es Satt and the values it expounds. Workshops and presentations took on the major topics facing the agricultural world today, both practical and political, feeding discussion and sowing the seeds of resistance against an unfair, unsustainable system. At such a crucial moment, leading into a defining election in Europe, the voices and rights of small-scale farmers must be heard by politicians and citizens alike.