Terra Madre Youth - #WeFeedThePlanet – Day 2: Getting inspired

By Andrea Listanti

Superstudio Piu
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The first day at Terra Madre Youth focused on making connections and meeting people. And we succeeded to break the ice!!! The theme of the second day was inspiration!

We were challenged to  develop innovative solutions to feed the planet, and to do this we had to form our own opinion on food production. The first step was to listen to the others, that is why the halls of Superstudio Più, (each of which has a different colour) were filled with young people eager to attend conferences and participate in discussions. The programme was full of debates on various topics, with many hosts delivering speeches.

Serge Latouche, partisan of the degrowth theory, was the first to take the stage. His style while different from that of Raj Patel and Carlo Petrini, who spoke took the floor the first day, was equally engaging. He sat down, spoke calmly, taking his time to find the proper words in his almost perfect Italian.

Inspiring lectures, debates and talks
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
His speech was very inspiring, challenging and thought provoking. “We live in a society of unlimited growth. A society which seeks infinite consumption through an unlimited production which results in unlimited pollution”, said Latouche. According to him, marketing, irresponsible credit lines and producing products that are obsolete overnight are the three “bubbles” of a corrupt economic system which produce unsustainable “growth for the growth”.

The current system is unsustainable, reminded Latouche. On the one hand from an ecological point of view, the high carbon footprint on the environment has adversely impacted biodiversity, on the other hand from a social point of view, avidity and the limitless desire of consumption has led to an unhappy society which since the financial crisis of 2008 is in constant quest for equality and wellbeing.  If we apply these concepts to food system, we see that an intensive industrial production involves a massive, high mechanized exploitation of land, threatening small-scale farmers and their valuable cultural diversity.

Serge Latouche
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Latouche explained his idea of a new, happy society based on subjective well-being, in which sustainable food productions play a pivotal role. “Food is not a commodity, we have to keep food out of the capitalistic idea of market”. A young participant asked how can we practically build a society that is different from what we have. We all felt a sense of déjà-vu: as on the first day we had asked Joris Lohman a similar question.

“You already have the answer. Joining initiatives such as Slow Food  is a form of resistance to counter bad food culture and a consumer-driven society. Good, clean and fair is also the philosophy of the degrowth. Embrace this… think globally, act locally”, said Latouche.

A good speaker is not necessarily right, but certainly inspiring. We took Latouche’s inspiring words with us as we joined other sessions and discussions. Superstudio Più  hosted sessions focusing on land grabbing, edible insects and intercultural gastronomy. The debates were not the only attraction. Outside the seminar rooms, people met each other, talked, played and danced. Walking around at "Terra Madre Giovani" is far from being a waste of time, it is a source of inspiration.

We are activist.......
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
We met Carlos, one of our “twins. Carlos is 27 years old dairy producer from Venezuela. He is not too talkative. He stares at the world with his proud eyes. I asked him whether it was the first time he was traveling outside Venezuela, to which he answered: “It’s the second time, but the first time I come to Europe". We really wanted to know his story and he indulged.

“I was born in the city, but then moved to the countryside. I've been living in a rural area for the last 13 years”, he told us. “We moved because in the rural area I can do what I like most, I can cultivate my passion for agriculture. When I wake up in the morning I go the fields where I feed and take care of my animals”.

Carlos has had his share of challenges. For example, the irrigation system of his farm is broken and he cannot buy fertilizer for his crops. Fixing the irrigation system would cost him 180 million Bolivar.

Our "Twin" Carlos
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
He told us “The broken irrigation system means, not being able to make money and more importantly, it is preventing others from joining my enterprise. Things would be better if I had a business partner, but no irrigation systems means no partners”.

Recently, Carlos was able to benefit from a IFAD-funded project. Carlos told us that the IFAD-funded intervention helped him and his community a lot. “It helped because funds are being distributed equally among many different small-scale producers”, told us Carlos and we were proud to hear this.

Then we switched gears and started talking about youth and the land.  We asked him whether he thought other young Venezuelans would be willing to move to rural areas and make agriculture their profession just like he had done. “I don’t know anyone who would do something like that. Most of the young people in Venezuela leave rural areas… They abandon the land. But people around me say that I’m lucky, because I managed to build my own life and I’m doing what I’ve always loved to do”, said Carlos.

Here in Italy we normally don’t have any relation with the land. We live in our houses in the city and buy food in the shops. But for someone like Carlos things are different. We asked him whether he could conceive of a life without land. And his answer was loud and clear: “No I cannot think of a life without land. Even if my wife left me, I would stay behind. I want to teach my children to love the land. I love agriculture, I love breeding and livestock. When I was a child my parents bought me a bicycle and I sold it to buy hens. So As you can see my passion for land and agriculture dates back to my childhood and is something that has stayed with me…..”.

Lessons and concrete experience are the two components of knowledge, and we were lucky to have both. Inspiration is part of the learning process, and we learnt a lot and were equally inspired a lot. Now we are ready for the third day, when knowledge and inspiration will be used to create new campaign ideas, business plans and communication strategies through creative sessions and workshops.