Posted on Mon, November 10, 2008 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Events, Farms and Farming, Youth Food Movement,
by Ariane Lotti
At the closing ceremony of Terra Madre, a spontaneous protest broke out. As a pre-recorded message by the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, played on-screen, delegates in the audience stood and turned their backs on him.
For four days, thousands of producers, cooks, students, activists and academics from 153 countries shared stories, exchanged information and compared notes on topics ranging from starting a school garden and producing quality honey to using agro-ecological principles to address climate change and finding ways to make food more affordable while paying farmers a fair price.
During those four days, it was impossible to meet someone not doing something really cool and unique. In line for lunch, I met a Kenyan woman who started an organization that educates street girls about organic farming and environmental conservation and connecting them with farmers in need of these services. At lunch another day, I sat across from a man who works with indigenous communities in North America and uses permaculture techniques to establish food security in those communities. On the bus, I sat next to two young farmers from Oregon who have run a Community-Supported Agriculture farm for three years and are beginning to experiment with ways to be completely energy self sufficient.
Apart from the informal and spontaneous conversations with people, there were workshops and regional meetings where delegates spoke about how they had started an urban community garden, gotten sustainably-grown food in schools and cafeterias, and achieved a wage raise for farmworkers against political, economic, and cultural odds. All these stories shared a narrative: there were problems in my community; I believed things could be different and better; and I worked to translate that belief into a reality.
Bring together people who share that common narrative and the result is Terra Madre. In a conversation with one of Slow Foods Presidia producers (the farmers who raise the endangered breeds and grow the endangered varieties that Slow Food aims to save), the producer said that Terra Madre gives him the fresh air, the oxygen, to continue to be the only person raising Euskal Txerria pigs, the last local breed of pig in the Basque Country not to have gone extinct. Being reminded at Terra Madre that there are other producers working to save endangered breeds and varieties and who persist despite unfavorable regulations and policies, renews his energy to keep on doing exceptional work.
Energized, inspired, and humbled from four days of these conversations and workshops, I was one of thousands of delegates who listened as Italian politicians bid us farewell and good luck, and as Heeni Hoterene, a Maori educator, reminded us that we had to stand up and say something, act on it when something is wrong.
When Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, spoke to the delegates in his video address, we listened. But when he praised the G8 for its actions on the food crisis, some in the audience reacted with jeers and whistles. Others among us stood and turned their backs to the screens when he advocated solutions based on a global economic structure rather than rooted within local food economies. For many, it was as if we were being told to believe in a system of governance that has upheld and enabled so many of the structures that we seek to overcome in order to build the good, clean, and fair food system were all working toward.
Taking the stage, Carlo Petrini reminded the delegates to listen, because had they done so instead of loudly protesting, they would have heard the Minister inviting a delegation from Terra Madre to the discussions of the G8 as an ally.
While the jeers and whistles were disrespectful (and may have been more about ending a seventeen-minute-long address rather than its content), the people who stood in protest did so in silence, showing disagreement by standing.
If a delegation from Terra Madre is in fact invited to participate in G8 discussions, I hope that the participants will not just passively sit and listen, but listen, participate and stand up for the democratic values at the base of a good, clean and fair agriculture system that continues to grow thanks to the work of Terra Madre delegates and the food communities they represent. It is in this way by standing up for what we believe in that we will continue to be successful in changing the food systems in our communities worldwide.