Updated: Mar 24, 2021
A new project promoting the transition to sustainable and fair food systems in the Mediterranean region called Foodnected was launched on 10 March as part of Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, an international food festival. The project aims to shorten distance between producers and consumers and develop an ethical code of environmental and social values for the way food is produced and consumed.
Alessia Pautasso, communication manager at Slow Food, says Foodnected will address the shortcomings in the market, reverse any unfair situation faced by small-scale producers and is driven by the vision of bringing producers and consumers together through shared values. She says the program intends to facilitate the emergence of short-chain food systems that work for nature and people, consumers and small-scale producers who depend on them for their livelihood.
“The project is scheduled to unfold in three phases and will first clarify an approach to fair and sustainable food systems through nurturing the development of a Community of Practice made up of actors along the value chain. Second, pilot initiatives will be implemented to develop market solutions for fair and sustainable food production and consumption at local level, especially in the Balearic Islands (Spain),” she says.
Finally, the project aims to share lessons at a regional level and results from the first two phases will be disseminated through advocacy work. This will happen at national and wider regional, Mediterranean and EU levels, especially within the framework of the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and in the context of the FAO International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022.
Paula Barbeito, coordinator at Slow Food, a global network of local communities preventing the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, says they have been emphasizing the importance of education and raising consumer awareness of the value of food, as well as connection with people who produce it, for years. She says they are excited to collaborate with sustainable fishing and farming organizations to progress to a world where all actors can come together through common initiatives to improve each other’s lives.
“We do this through an essential aspect of what it means to be human, by the food we choose to consume to feed our bodies, but also nurture our spirits and communities. Foodnected is about connecting people and nature around local, fair and sustainable food systems,” says Barbeito.
Julien Semelin, manager at MAVA Foundation, an organization conserving biodiversity that is funding Foodnected over a two-year period, says their foundation supports sustainability initiatives that protect nature and support people’s livelihoods. He says the way we consume and produce food impacts our environment and short-chain food systems grounded in local traditions hold a great potential to maintain and preserve biodiversity, both cultivated and wild.
Brian O’Riordan, executive secretary at Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE), an organization of small-scale fishers around Europe, says gaining fair access to resources and markets is a fundamental struggle for small-scale low-impact fishers who make up the majority of the European fleet. He says he believes working together with others is essential to achieving a positive and meaningful change in our food systems.
“To be viable, fishers must be rewarded for the value they add through their good practices. On the other hand, consumers need to be able to easily identify sustainable, healthy and fair products and to know their story, so they can value and select them,” he says.
Alessandro Galli, senior scientist and the Mediterranean-MENA program director at Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability organization, says all of us as citizens, producers and consumers can play a central role in the transition towards sustainable food systems. But he says making the right choices depends on the possibility to rely on scientifically-sound information.
“For this reason, relying on a science-based approach to identify pertinent practices is going to be a strong aspect of this project. By applying Ecological Footprint accounting, we will be able to quantitatively monitor the impact of such practices,” says Galli.
Miquel Camps, program director of GOB Menorca, a conservation society, says the work they’ve been developing through their local network of farmers is set to enjoy a wider impact thanks to this project. He says they are excited to be actors and to witness first-hand how they can accelerate change at home and inspire other communities.