On November 29-30 and December 1, 2006 the first Salone of Rural Territories, a sort of Brazilian Terra Madre, was held in Brasilia. The event involved 180 territories with more than 800 delegates from all over Brazil, providing an opportunity for people to meet and exchange ideas. I gather that the workshops held on the last two days were particularly interesting and lively discussions took place.
Local Slow Food delegates and representatives from the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity took an active part in the event and were able to tell me about proceedings in detail.
I think it is interesting to mention this news because the Brazilian Salone was organized by the MDA—the second Ministry of Agriculture in the country, dealing with the development of marginal lands and family agriculture—and its work deserves to be more widely known. We are well aware that malnutrition is a pressing problem in this vast country, which contains many subcultures and ecosystems of crucial importance for the whole world.
The President Lula’s Zero Hunger program, whatever its inevitable organizational limitations, is an admirable scheme, but it is not the only intelligent initiative being implemented. The MDA has launched a complex long-term project which has involved the setting up of Rural Territories. Supported by agreements made with other ministries, it has focused on both traditional products and more recent food developments, all of excellent quality.
The minister responsible, Umberto Oliveira, has confessed that he was inspired by Slow Food’s Presidia projects, but apart from giving me personal pleasure, it is important to highlight the excellent results being achieved as a result of supporting family agriculture, both in fighting malnutrition and in stimulating production.
By focusing on the excellent sustainable produce of the country and nurturing it, a virtuous competitive process has been created. It has encouraged many other producers to enhance quality in terms of taste, environmental impact and social justice; there have been marked improvements in food availability and quantities produced.
The ministerial review of the project was heartened by its indisputable success, which appears to be helping to tackle the problem of hunger in Brazil. In a country growing GMOs and vast monocultures for US and European interests, the most basic food problems are being defeated by small-scale family agriculture and the networks created when high-quality products and top chefs are brought together. The results are truly encouraging and we hope that this example can be copied in other areas of our planet.
First printed in La Stampa on 17 December, 2006
Adapted by Ronnie Richards