A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Last week I joined the Oxfam team in Turin (Italy) to attend Terra Madre & Salone del Gusto – one of the biggest international food fairs in the world. Terra Madre is organized by Slow Food, one of Oxfam’s partners on the GROW campaign.
The opening ceremony saw a succession of inspiring speakers, including Indian activist Vandana Shiva, chef and food educator Alice Waters, and Nobel laureate Daro Fo, as well as small scale producers from the most remote corners of the earth. The opening speech by the Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva sent a clear message: “With hunger, the only number acceptable is zero” he continued by stressing that “there will be 9 billion of us by 2050 and in order to increase our food production by 60%, we need to change our way of producing food and conserving energy.”
He identified food waste as one of the key problems: “If we managed to cut total food loss and waste by half we would have enough food to feed 1 billion more people,” he said.
Exploring positive solutions to our broken food system was what the food festival was all about. Over 200,000 people queued for hours over five days to meet with small scale producers from 150 different countries, to see, taste and learn about the different food of the world, how it is produced and what challenges the current food system poses. Over 16,000 people, took part in 56 conferences. In packed rooms, we listened to debates on topics ranging from health and nutrition, to water and landgrabs, and to panels on sustainable production and consumption with food producers, experts, community representatives and youth from all over the world. Oxfam speakers were there too, taking part at the Land grabs and Green Economy conferences.
An ‘alternative’ is possible
From enthusiastic youth to the wisdom of old age (and everything in between, I saw such a diverse crowd of food lovers, chefs, producers and consumers, showing that an ‘alternative’ is possible and is already out there reconnecting producers and eaters.
All these people want a system that is good for consumers, producers and the planet and the best part is that they are not only dreamers, they have successful stories to tell: Aurora from Mexico is a director of a foundation that works to rebuild and develop the Mayan communities of Yucatán; Donaldsoz is from Jamaica and runs an organic farm in Rio Grande, where he organizes projects to help close the gap between old and young generations; Eleni is active in the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN) in Greece, working to promote a good food future in her home country.
It was great to see how people from different backgrounds meet and exchange ideas and find solidarity through the giving and sharing of food. I was so inspired to see that a global movement of individuals, organizations and communities with a vision for a healthy food system that supports everyone is growing and using new ways of thinking, producing and consuming.
Female food heroes
All in all it was an action packed, noisy, colored, smelly, inspiring and tasty five days full of human stories that are making a difference in the food system. Among these many stories and voices Oxfam brought the voice a of Ester and Mariana, who are making a difference in their everyday lives back home in Tanzania and Siberia.
Together with the Slow Food Youth Network, Ester discussed how the project Female Food Hero in Tanzania is raising awareness on the role of women farmers and is bringing young people close to agriculture and food production. While Mariana talked about how you can start fighting hunger at your kitchen table using the GROW Method.
As Terra Madre came to a close, people packed their suitcases and went back to their homes, but the movement will keep working: individuals, producers, chefs, consumers, organizations and networks will keep fighting the injustice of the food system back in their countries waiting to meet again in 2 years time, bigger and stronger than before.
Another food system is possible. Join the conversation, join the movement today!
Watch the Tierra Madre video!