Thanks to Slow Food and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Syrian small-scale women farmers have been offered a unique opportunity to partner with organic artisan food producers in northwest Italy. For Syria, a land of rich cultural heritage devastated by almost a decade of war, this alliance offers a bright ray of hope for a more peaceful and sustainable future. The many years of crisis have damaged Syria’s agricultural sector. As a result, in many localities women have become the sole breadwinners, often turning to agriculture as the only means to support their families. The good news is that the unique study tour will allow a handful of Syrian small-scale women farmers to visit and partner with successful organic farms outside of their own country.
FAO is helping Syrian rural women producers and their communities to grow in self-sufficiency by increasing food production as well as entrepreneurial skills. FAO provides the farmers with good quality seeds, fertilizers and training in sustainable agriculture and marketing skills. The FAO also helps to set up irrigation systems and creates support through water users’ groups in an effort to revive the country’s agricultural sector.
Offering knowledge on all aspects of production, marketing and value chain, targeted products for the Syrian producers include honey, dairy, oils, cereals, breads, fruits and vegetables. Organizers expect that the visiting Syrian team will share the skills and knowledge gained with other women farmers in their communities when they return to their home country. The Syrian products and producers will also be included in the global Slow Food network and Presidia. Traditional heritage foods represented by the visiting team include figs and honey.
The purpose of the Slow Food Presidia is to help artisan food producers and farmers all over the world to safeguard their food and agricultural heritage. The Syrian team will meet farmers from Italian Presidia projects focused on producing products such as butter of high Elvo Valley, extra-virgin olive oil, high mountain honey and Robiola (cheese) di Roccaverano.
Years of conflict and the drought that preceded the Syrian war have led to serious declines in biodiversity in the country. Due to a lack of training and expertise to engage in sustainable agriculture amongst the Syrian farmer community, Slow Food organizers now wish to build a growing agricultural partnership with these farmers and plan on organizing future workshops which will improve food production using agro-ecological practices.
Organizers envision that the current Syrian/Italian study tour will help Syrian women learn both technical and entrepreneurial skills. This in turn will allow them to convert their products from “homemade” to artisanal while promoting sales to wider markets. The initiative is part of FAO’s efforts to boost Syrian agricultural production and improve food security
Slow Food is a global network of local communities founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food, cultures and traditions while counteracting the rise of a ‘fast food culture” Since its founding, Slow Food has expanded as a global movement to include millions of people in more than160 countries. Slow Food’s mission is to ensure that everyone has access to good, clean and fairly produced food.
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