Mexico’s fishermen are aging and 20% of them are leaving the industry every year. This is leading to an intensification of the industrialization of Mexican fishing and the loss of knowledge about traditional fishing techniques.
In order to rescue this valuable heritage Dr. Luis Bourillòn from the Comunidad y Biodiversidad organization in Mexico approached the Youth Food Movement to start a collaboration with its exchange program Pangea: Ark of Knowledge. Through documentation of the traditional techniques produced by each exchange student, a database of this cultural heritage will be created. But the impact of the exchange can be much deeper, as shown by a similar exchange in Gallicia in Spain. There, where the same problems of the dying craft of fishing exist, an exchange program between high school students and fishermen led to astonishing results: as the old fishermen were regarded, for the first time in their lives, as respected and admired teachers, the local youth regained respect for the older generation, asking to learn from them and even expressing the wish to to carry on their activity.
Sam Levin's "Project Sprout" inspires hope for younger generations
At the Opening Ceremony of Terra Madre 2008, Sam Levin, a 15-year-old student at Monument Mountain High School in Massachusetts, United States, explained why he had come to Terra Madre: “My fellow students and I want to tell the world that they no longer need to scoff, ‘kids these days,’ but instead can say proudly, ‘kids these days!’ and know that we’ve been listening all long.”
Sam spoke on behalf of Project Sprout, a program he has organized to bring students together to plant an organic garden on the grounds of his high school and begin serving, fresh, healthy, student-grown food in the cafeteria. His words echo the commitment that over 1,300 young people from 97 countries have made at Terra Madre: that they realize the gravity of the world food crisis and will do whatever it takes to build a global food system that provides everyone on earth with good, clean and fair food.
Sam spoke with wisdom and articulacy well beyond his years, as well as a profound humility. He has spent his time at Terra Madre connecting with other similar projects from around the world.
Terra Madre has both unified the Youth Food Movement and reminded it of its roots. Sam closed his speech with a pledge: “My story is not a success story; it is something else entirely. It is a window through which all of us can glimpse the power of youth. It’s a promise to all of you that we will finish what you started. It’s a message to our parents that we will be the generation that will reunite mankind with the earth.”
Meghan Cohaest: working on student / Farm Workers Alliance
A young activist from Florida, Meghan Cohaest, is a member of the food justice delegation. She came across the Youth Food Movement here at Terra Madre and spontaneously added the subject of fair food to the agenda of possible discussion groups evolving during Terra Madre between the youth delegates.
Back home in Florida, she works with Student/Farm Worker Alliance, a youth branch of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) which fights for fair working conditions in Immokalee, where wages for harvest helpers hasn’t risen for the last 30 years. Around two tons of vegetables have to be harvested in order to earn just $50, and working days can be 10-14 hours long.
She said that the best way to change these slavery-like conditions would be to raise awareness among consumers, who can then put pressure on the actual buyers like fast food chains and supermarkets. As young people are one of the target groups of these companies, CIW started the Student/Farm Worker Alliance in order to rise the awareness about production conditions among young consumers. The alliance now has over 1,000 members, including more than 300 universties and high schools.
Through this pressure a historic agreement has already been achieved, with McDonalds, Burger King and the Yum Brand (parent company of Taco Bell) agreeing to directly improve farm workers’ wages and working conditions.
Meghan sees the Youth Food Movement as a useful tool to spread her message to more young people, making their voices internationally heard and recognized. Sfalliance.org Ciw-online.org
A seed-guardian of Ecuador presents pictures of her community
After the Spanish regional meeting 30 young people – from backgrounds as various as veterinary medicine, agricultural engineering and cooking – sat down on the floor for a gathering in the Youth Food Movement room. They had come together spontaneously to discuss the different problems of food and agriculture in their respective areas.
The outcomes of the meeting, which reflected the real food issues that concern young people today in Spain, were presented at the Youth Earth Workshop on Sunday. Those present created an e-mail address list, thus marking the starting point for a network of active young Spaniards interconnected through the Youth Food Movement.
Real Food Challenge
The US-based Real Food Challenge convened over 60 Terra Madre youth delegates to discuss how their universities can drive the food movement forward. The Real Food Challenge youth organizers--whose mission is to unite students for a more just and sustainable food system--have mobilized thousands of students across the United States this past year. The Challenge, in partnership with Slow Food USA, is calling on American universities to divest the more than $4 billion spent each year on food from industrial agribusiness, and re-invest it in real food--food that truly nourishes people, communities, and the earth.
"I've never seen youth come together like this," commented one young Italian delegate, after the closing circle. "This energy and enthusiasm inspires me to bring this model back to my university."
Together, the youth--from Kenya, Turkey, United States, Italy and more--discussed recent developments in the US youth food movement and how emerging international ties might bolster their own efforts organizing for change. At the meeting, participants painted their own visions for the future of food and agriculture--a future where real food is the norm in every university and all communities have control over their food economy.
Over the last month, thousands of students in nearly 300 American universities connected to the Real Food Challenge, and organized more than 160 events in all corners of the country. This spring, the Real Food Challenge will host five regional summits, creating opportunities for American students to develop new resources and leadership skills, as they build bridges with the international Terra Madre Youth Food Movement network.
The Youth Food Movement was launched at the Fifth International Slow Food Congress. It originated with students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences and Slow Food USA, and consists of a group from U.S. university campuses, young producers, cooks, and activists. Their objective is to engage 1000 youth from 150 countries worldwide, active within their own local food communities. Together with 5000 farmers, breeders, fishers, food artisans and processors, 1000 cooks, chefs, and restaurateurs (the bridge between high-quality production and consumption), and 500 academics (key to the exchange of knowledge, whether empirical, theoretic, from rural experience, or research-based), these young people are helping to forge links in the ever-strengthening chain that is the Terra Madre network.
Terra Madre 2008 will be an opportunity to expand this network to future leaders in the world of food production. The participation of a delegation of young people representing the Youth Food Movement assures that food and agriculture knowledge will be handed from one generation to the next, and that it will be preserved for a new generation of active and involved co-producers.