Slow Food is trying out a model for development that takes food as a starting point and a driving force for change. This integrated approach puts food at the center and unites aspects that are usually separated: biodiversity protection and environmental sustainability, attention to local communities and their traditions and culture, and economic freedom for producers.
The idea that a community can be protected by protecting a product, plant variety or animal breed typical to that community has particularly strong significance in Africa, the continent that has become a symbol of hunger in the world.
In this context, work with food is focused primarily on community subsistence, intended as something positive, something that guarantees sustenance. A subsistence economy is often depicted negatively, as a symbol of backwardness, but in a context where the alternatives are emigration to the global north or begging in the streets of the slums, we should give this kind of economy the value it deserves.
As well as playing a fundamental role in food security and sovereignty, the protection of local products also has a strong social and cultural aspect. Through a product, it is possible to strengthen the culture it represents, restoring pride and dignity to those who cultivate and process the product. Often in this context everything local is seen as outdated, poor and ugly, while everything from the west is perceived as better, more attractive and desirable.
This model also aims to involve European consumers, to help them understand that their choices can have a decisive impact, that everything in the world is connected and that what we do here has consequences elsewhere.
Slow Food's many micro-interventions have a strong symbolic value, which goes well beyond the financial support being provided. They are about restoring pride and motivation to a continent that needs to walk on its own feet and find its own autonomy.
Thanks to 4Cities4Dev, for the first time Slow Food will have the chance to test out the effectiveness of this approach. This is thanks to the participation of a team of researchers from the University of Turin who are currently working on a research and evaluation report examining Slow Food's activities in the global south. The University of Turin report on the Slow Food approach will shortly be downloadable from this website.
Learn more about the Food Community Model in Slow Food's Action in Africa