RegenerAction 2022: The value of local supply chains, true custodians of the land and biodiversity

The Challenge: Taking care of the territory through its protagonists

📢 Giving voice and value to agrifood supply chains, those capable of regenerating the land and its diversity, capable of producing healthy and nutritious food, rooted in the peculiarities and care of the territory, is one of the greatest challenges of the current agrifood system, still largely characterized by highly extractive, intensive, extensive, and standardized models.

Why it is important: supporting local supply chains to cultivate both the social fabric and the land

❗ We are accustomed to thinking of food as something whose only utility is our nourishment. Yet, behind every piece of food lies an entire ecosystem, comprised of people and hard work, knowledge and traditions, local crops and endemic biodiversity. These underlying, valuable ecosystem services are built upon expectations, adaptations, risks, and care. They are grown from relationships with the land that connects the local territory through agri-food chains.

Forgetting this complexity is what is leading us to literally consume our Planet, as evidenced by the relentless advance of Earth Overshoot Day. It is also fueling food insecurity, environmental degradation, resource extraction, climate disasters, and food injustice-all of which lead to collective impoverishment and ultimately harm human health and survival.

This inextricable link between the health of our ecosystem and supply chains is made even more obvious by contemporary events: a pandemic that destabilized the entire agrifood system, the war in Ukraine that has driven soaring global commodity prices, and the environmental and climate crisis, which is hitting the agrifood sector hard, especially the Italian and Mediterranean sectors.

In our country, where the agrifood sector is the backbone of Italian GDP, preserving local supply chains together with small and very small farms, the real driving force of the Italian economy, is crucial. They are the undisputed protagonists in nourishing and safeguarding local ecosystems, preserving biodiversity and ancient or forgotten crops, averting the genetic erosion that began in the last sixty years, and ensuring greater resilience and territorial identity of the food produced. It is always the small local supply chains that support the Italian economy of denominations, which boasts the world record for the number of certified products [with 841 PDOs, PGIs, and TSGs]. By giving value to the land, these are serving as a lever to revive the national economy of quality and care even abroad, as demonstrated by the jump in Italian exports in the last two years despite the pandemic crisis.

Deeply understanding that working the land means having a direct relationship with the life that spreads and thrives even where hidden, starting from underground, carries with it an invaluable value: helping to restore lost relationships between human beings. Agri-culture, and forms of regenerative agriculture, today represent a way to hold communities together and the towns they inhabit, to cultivate the social fabric as well as the land, and ward off the dangers of abandonment and depopulation, most acutely in small, inland towns and mountainous areas. Ties that unite the community, strengthen relationships between employers and employees, and also between producers and consumers are paramount.

In light of this, it is not complicated to imagine why the Mediterranean Diet plays such an important role in maintaining and establishing a balance that allows the supply chain to survive but even more so to allow the context in which it is articulated to be healthy and prolific. Future Food is committed to the protection of the Mediterranean basin, a region rich in biodiversity and products whose enhancement offers a sustainable path forward.

The EU Strategy: Strengthening the resilience of small and medium-sized enterprises

🇪🇺 The European Union is committed to preserving the quality of agrifood supply chains through several action plans. One of these is the Farm to Fork strategy. Aiming to reduce the overall environmental footprint of the food system and improve the quality of people’s food, the strategy focuses on shortening the distance between consumers and producers, thereby facilitating the accessibility of healthy and sustainable food options.

To achieve this aim, its priorities include redefining production and distribution methods to make them more sustainable and incentivizing circular production, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and placing respect for human and environmental rights in global value chains at the center. On this path, the proposal to pass a legislative framework for sustainable food systems by the end of 2023, as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, could further strengthen the role of supply chains in the green transition, particularly given the goal of unifying European and national policies to increase resilience.

The issue of supply chains is also central to the development of trade policies and international cooperation instruments, especially in light of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, promoting a range of actions in the short and medium-term to address rising prices of essential commodities, to protect EU farmers and consumers.

Seeds of change: Standing up for local food heroes

🌱 It is not possible to implement regenerative models of food production without supporting, with appropriate food policies but also with the right prices, the food produced by those on the front line who are working to ensure that the latter is the result of a perfect balance between man, nature, territory, and diversity.

To make this possible, one of the most important initiatives put in place by the Future Food Institute has been the creation, in collaboration with FAO and UNIDO ITPO Italy, of a Coalition dedicated to Mediterranean supply chains, which was conceived to accelerate the ecological transition of global agri-food systems, develop innovative solutions, and actively support the most sensitive supply chains in the Mediterranean agricultural sector. Established as part of the Reshaping Agri-food Systems to Build Back Better conference and launched at the G20 in Matera, this coalition comes to life through deep collaboration between institutions and the private sector, including the “Angelo Vassallo” Mediterranean Diet Study Center, GenerationAG (Greece), and KMZero (Spain) to actively support the most sensitive supply chains in the Mediterranean agricultural sector, local institutions, and small-scale farmers.

Preserving and protecting iconic Italian supply chains is also an integral part of the Future Food Institute’s outreach and dissemination work. From the International Week of Italian Cuisine in the World to the anniversary of the Mediterranean Diet, to the Food is a Conversation” – special edition RegenerAction, giving power and relevance to the true heroes of the ecological transition also means giving voice to the representatives of Italian supply chains and consortiums for the protection of PDO and PGI products.

These are encounters that from the latest Future Food Living Lab opened in Pollica-the Paideia Campus-find their fullest appreciation. The campus is a place where tradition meets an extraordinary melting pot of diversity, within which pivotal consortiums of Campania’s regional identity, such as that of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Olive Oil, or Pasta di Gragnano, Cooperatives, farmers, fishermen, attentive breeders, networks of regenerative farmers, such as Rareche, the first network of regenerative farmers, and Biodistricts meet and transit.

With an area covering more than 3,196 square kilometers, 36 municipalities, and 400 organic farms oriented to multifunctionality, the Biodistrict of Cilento represents a perfect example of a regener-action application expanded and applied to the whole territory. Starting from organic and regenerative agriculture, the focus is to aggregate the will of farmers, trade associations, but also universities, local municipalities, and all the actors that have a direct and indirect relationship with the sustainable development of the territory. A regeneration-action that requires awareness and active participation and that cannot be lasting without being permeated through local territories and their communities.

That’s why, from Pollica, meeting the ambassadors of the Mediterranean Diet and its supply chains is an integral part of the educational program offered to students and professors, in our Boot Camps, school-to-work programs, and moments of convivial rediscovery through the products and protagonists of the iconic Mediterranean supply chains. But also through long-term programs such as the Pollica 2050 project which aims to make Cilento the ideal place to prototype innovative models for the transformation of food systems, through the reuse of abandoned land that will allow the village to return to its ancient beauty and give the opportunity to experiment with new production models such as regenerative agriculture.

Supporting these actors in the ecological and digital transition is crucial to ensuring resilient, biodiverse, and regenerative food systems. This is why the theme of supply chains will also be central to the European Agrifood Week, held in Pollica from next week.

During the event series, we will talk about supply and distribution chains, new production paradigms for economic regeneration, and the Italian ecosystem in agri-tech, but we will also delve into European strategies, such as Farm to Fork and support for local supply chains. We will share this journey with exceptional guests such as the Consorzio Protezione Sughereti Campania and Luciana Cipriani, founder of Natura Humana and undisputed expert on the carob tree, a wild plant of the Mediterranean basin, used since antiquity by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans and recently revalued also by the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.

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