The Battle is Just Beginning

Two years on from the launch of the ESSEDRA project, Ivo Kara Pešić, Dubrovnik Convivium Leader and organizer of the most recent Terra Madre Balkans takes a look back…

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 The Terra Madre Balkans network met in June this year, in Dubrovnik, to discuss issues crucial to the survival of the small-scale food producers and traditional fishers of our countries. For us organizers, the event was a great challenge. But if we didn’t like challenges, we wouldn’t be part of the big Slow Food family. If we didn’t like challenges, Terra Madre Balkans 2014 wouldn’t have been the success that it was: gathering more than 300 delegates coming from 11 countries across the Balkans, alongside institutions from every level from local to European.

Often in the European image of the Balkans is one of unrest and is often approached with strong prejudices. Because of the frequent conflicts in the past, this land has remained little-known and little-explored. And as you know, where there are economic troubles, radicalism can thrive.

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Organizing Terra Madre Balkans in Croatia less than a year after our country joined the European Union was hugely important, because our producers found themselves, often unprepared, in a completely new context. Hearing experiences from countries like Bulgaria and Romania was very valuable. The disastrous floods that hit Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia wiped out borders and united people in solidarity, but they also showed how little has been done to tackle the effects of climate change. To our rural areas, Slow Food offers a concrete model of development which is already creating employment without endangering the resources of communities. All together, we are rediscovering the agricultural wealth and potential for a different kind of development, based on the wisdom that has evolved over centuries of human presence.

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Through our network, in less than two years we have identified over 200 food products that have boarded the Ark of Taste. Without our commitment, these products would have disappeared, and instead they are becoming engines for local economies.  Terra Madre Balkans 2014 showed us that our network is alive and efficient, and thanks to the incredible work of thousands of people, our voice is heard as far as Brussels, where every day we have more supporters.

But our work does not stop here! In the coming years we will undertake to change the food-safety laws that regulate the production of processed foods, in the European Union and in countries on the road to membership. This will be a crucial battle for the survival of thousands of wonderful traditional foods, which expresses one of the basic ideas of our movement: life cannot be treated like inanimate matter.

By Ivo Kara Pesic
Photos by Ivo Danchev

Find out more:
Balkan Ark of Taste products: www.essedra.com/biodiversity/the-ark-of-taste/
Events in the Balkans: www.essedra.com/essedra-action-event/
To find out more about the ESSEDRA project see the document „Field Research II – Outcomes“: www.essedra.com/materials-essedra/