Last night, the Palasport Alpitour in Turin became a sea of different colored flags and a veritable babel of languages as it welcomed over 3000 delegates, members of the global Slow Food network, the people of Turin and the international press; all present to celebrate the opening of the 2014 edition of Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre.
Throughout the show, guests heard messages and stories from those present in the room, as well as those who had sent video messages from afar, including the Michelle Obama and Pope Francis. The First Lady of the United States sent a message thanking Slow Food for their work to “promote healthy eating and good nutrition in our families and communities” and for their work to raise awareness of these issues across the globe. She reserved special praise for Slow Food’s 10,000 Garden’s in Africa project: “I know how important it is to produce healthy food right in our own communities, and that is one of the reasons why I started a garden on the White House lawn a few years ago.” Pope Francis stated that nobody should be without sufficient food.
Words from the Director General of the FAO, Josè Graziano da Silva, highlighted the important role of one of this year’s themes: family farming. He pointed out that 500 million of the world’s farms were small-scale family farms. He gave the statistic that 84% of all farms are less than two hectares, yet account for just 12% of the total arable land and thanked Terra Madre for its help in highlighting the role small-scale farming can play in a food-secure future.
Alice Waters, Vice President of Slow Food International, spoke of her campaign of “Edible Education” in the US school systems. She addressed the audience by saying that we need to go back to school and work together to build an international movement for edible education in schools – a theme that will be developed over the next four days at Salone Del Gusto.
Alice was followed by a series of short speeches from Slow Food delegates outlining success stories from across the Terra Madre network, which is now in its 10th year. Naseegh Jaffer told the audience of how small-scale producers and fishers in his native South Africa have won a battle to change legislation in the country. Previous laws had denied them their rights to the sea and stopped them from feeding themselves. He described the court victory in emphatic terms, stating that it had caused the government to develop a “new policy framework to specifically accommodate us.” A similar story came from Adelita San Vicente Tello who spoke of a legal victory in Mexico that has meant tighter measures when issuing permits for growing GM corn.
But it was not just an occasion for celebration and self-congratulation. Future challenges were also identified. Jerônimo Villas-Bôas, ecologist and coordinator of the Slow Food network for native bee species in Brazil, told the audience about the plight of native bee species in his country. He lamented the Brazilian ban on honey from native bees in Brazil and praised Slow Food for its fight in Brazil to regulate and value products from native stingless bees. Selvi Nanji, spoke about the challenges faced by her tribe in India, explaining there are no longer enough elders to lead youth in matters of cultural identity, village systems, traditional medicine, and pass on old knowledge.
The emphatic words of Carlo Petrini succinctly summarized his thoughts on the role Slow Food will play in helping to solve the world’s agricultural problems: “Defending the earth means safeguarding biodiversity, the landscape and farming. Those who haven’t seen the importance of farming haven’t understood anything!” he thundered. Addressing the delegates he said:
“You are the real intellectuals of the earth and the sea. Don’t be scared or shy. Teach what you know to others. Speak and tell your stories. We need your knowledge, practices to defeat the great evils of the world like hunger and malnutrition.”
Over the next four days Salone del Gusto will bring together experts, activists, producers and passionate members of the Slow Food network from all over the globe. Together we will make new acquaintances, share different ideas and form new partnerships. Together we will decide the future action that will resolve these problems and help secure a fairer, cleaner world of biodiversity for all. Watch this space!