Terra Madre Part 1: A Global Food Gathering
A former child soldier from Sierra Leone tells Dan Saladino how food and farming provided redemption, one of three stories from Africa as told at Slow Food's Terra Madre event.
Dan Saladino reports from Slow Food's global food event Terra Madre with stories from Africa.
Terra Madre (aka Mother Earth) is probably one of the world's biggest gatherings around food. Thousands of farmers, cooks and producers travel from 140 countries and five different continents to congregate in the northern Italian city of Turin.
Hundreds of thousands of people simply interested in food also travel from Italy and beyond to join in the spectacle; to watch events, join discussions and (importantly) experience the most diverse range of food and drink imaginable.
The biannual event is organised by the international Slow Food movement to raise awareness about issues around food and drink and to celebrate the diversity of food cultures around the world. It is also a unique opportunity to hear inspirational stories of how people produce and cook food.
Dan Saladino was there to collect as many stories as he could from around the world. Over two editions of The Food Programme he tells highlights from Terra Madre.
In this first programme the focus is on Africa and features the story of three people who in their home countries are trying to make a positive change through food.
The first comes from a village thousands of metres up within the highlands of south-eastern Ethiopia, Rira. There, honey producers use bamboo to create bee hives. They smoke the bark of a tree to "perfume" the hive and attract the bees. These long bamboo tubes are coated in leaves, sealed with animal manure and then placed 25m high up in trees among the rainforest canopy.
In recent years the honey they collect has been sold to the producers of a honey wine in Ethiopia which is both traditional and popular. However the prices paid for this hard to get honey have been low.
Terra Madre is an opportunity for producers around the world to meet and exchange ideas and over the years the Rira villagers have met honey producers from Macedonia, Brazil, Japan and Indonesia. From this "knowledge exchange" the Rira were able to set up a co-operative, improve the quality of the honey and sell it in Ethiopia's biggest towns and cities. This has meant more people are now able to make a real living from honey production and remain in the village (and important opportunity when the country is seeing large numbers leave rural areas and move to the cities).
The second story comes from Uganda and is told by Edward Mukiibi who oversees Slow Food projects in the country. One of the most important involves the world's (and the UK's) most popular fruit, the banana. In Uganda 50 different varieties are used on a daily basis. Some are used to brew beers or distil drinks that feature in ceremonies.
The banana we know well in the UK is the Cavendish, the variety that has dominated the global trade for more than half a century. The fungal, Panama disease, has had an impact on Cavendish plantations around the world leading to reduced production in Australia and Asia. In Africa, more Cavendish plantations are being established. Edward explains in the programme why he's now on a mission to save Uganda's traditional banana varieties and protect the country's biodiversity.
The final story from Sierra Leone and is that of the experience of a child soldier who was involved in the violent civil war that tore the country apart in the 1990's. Ibrahim was abducted by the RUF rebel force at the age of nine. As he explains to Dan, he was involved in atrocities and had to fight against the government's forces in armed combat. For seven years he lived and fought with this rebel army. When he finally managed to escape he was rejected by his community. It became clear his return wouldn't would easy and forgiveness hard to win.
In the programme Ibrahim describes how food and farming was the key to his eventual redemption.
Presented and produced by Dan Saladino.
Photo: Carla Capalbo.