Even in our sprawling, globalized world, it's possible to produce nutritious, wholesome food without negatively impacting the planet or undermining its myriad cultures and farming traditions that rely on local resources: land, water, seeds and the many benefits of biodiversity. While this may seem idealistic as we're told that a handful of multinational companies are needed to feed 7 billion mouths, there is a growing agricultural and food production revolution providing sustainable, healthier alternatives on the local level.

This movement revolves around the principles of agroecology: using ecological concepts to create food systems that ensure healthy ecosystems and secure livelihoods as the surest path to see that everyone has access to food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the environment.The philosophy extends well beyond just eco-friendly practices, and is built on a holistic approach that recognizes the influence of both governmental and social factors in ensuring fair, sustainable agriculture.

University of California Professor Miguel Altieri, a Chilean agronomist and entomologist, recognized by many as the Father of Agroecology, has traced the ways ancestral knowledge of farming communities in Latin America has allowed agriculture to coexist with the natural environment for thousands of years. During a Dec. 10 live "Food Talk," Prof. Altieri will also explore how agroecology can reduce the impacts of pandemics like COVID-19, as part of Slow Food's ongoing Terra Madre digital conference.

From smart legislation to seed education to an alternative to massive rice farming to local initiatives, here are some key battles in the fight to change the way we grow food:

Common Agricultural Policy

When analyzing how legal systems can protect healthy agricultural values, the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP, is a great place to start. Recognizing that farming has unique challenges which don't apply to most industries, the European Commission created the CAP — which accounts for about 35% of the EU's budget — to address problems in modern agriculture.

• CAP Goals: Ensure that farmers make a reasonable living, support environmentally-friendly practices and maintain food security.

• CAP in Practice: Through the framework, farmers can receive income support and subsidies to address the specific needs of rural areas. CAP also regulates the market through crisis prevention measures such as encouraging EU governments to buy farm products to be sold at a later date.

• Keeping CAP On Track: CAP is built through legislative processes that also involve consultations with stakeholders. Today, there is still room for improvement, and activist groups like the Food Policy Coalition are calling for stricter CAP reforms that would further align it with the ambition for higher sustainability as outlined in the European Green Deal.

Seeds

In the past century, more than 250,000 plant varieties have become extinct. Yet many of today's seeds are engineered in a lab, and four international corporations control 63% of the seed market. To foster biodiversity and local economies, activists and grassroots groups are campaigning to bring back nutritious, natural seeds:

• Seed Education: The Colorado Grain Chain is an initiative that aims to spread "grain literacy." Created by the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the University of Colorado, the organization is made up of local farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, distillers, chefs and consumers. It offers technical support for grain growers, as well as workshops that teach producers and consumers alike the benefits and uses of local, ancient and heritage grains.

• Freed Seeds: The German non-profit No Patents On Seeds! is driven by the mission to "liberate" seeds, plants and farm animals from being patented under European law. They argue that the uptick in these patents has created both a market that is unfair for small-scale farmers and increased the risk for food security, as a few big corporations minimize biodiversity by deciding what gets grown and where. With help from member organizations like Oxfam and the Corporate Europe Observatory, No Patents On Seeds! publishes reports, organizes protests and circulates petitions to keep the agricultural sector healthy and just.

Small Scale Production

A key tenant of agroecology is the idea that increasing the impact of small farms leads to more environmentally-friendly production, better food security and an equal playing field on the market. NGOs around the world are stepping up to the plate to foster shorter, healthier distribution chains:

• South Africa: The Meat Naturally project recognizes not only the ecological issues with mass meat farming, but the negative impact it's having on communal farmers, who own nearly half the country's livestock yet supply a mere 5% of the market. The initiative partners with NGOs to promote regenerative grazing techniques and rangeland restoration practices. It also organizes mobile auctions, giving these producers a fast, inexpensive and accessible way to sustainably provide meat to their communities.

• Philippines: By joining the energy of NGO and knowledge of scientists, MASIPAG is an association originally founded to improve and promote small-scale rice production. It has expanded to support the objective of fostering "people's control over agricultural biodiversity." Programs help small farmers cultivate crops and livestock naturally adapted to the local climate, shifting farming techniques from chemical to organic, and training farmers in business development. As Alfie Pulumbarit, who heads advocacy for MASIPAG, explained at a recent Terra Madre panel: "It's a bottom-up approach, rooted in the needs and aspirations of the small farmers."



Terra Madre is an event organized by Slow Food, Regione Piemonte and Città di Torino​.

Ordinanza Regione Piemonte - Covid-19 - Comune di Usseglio

Città di Torino - Divisione Servizi Educativi

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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