14 Mar 2010 Slow Food Terra Madre October 19-25
Three years ago I began the process of nominating the heirloom rice of the Cordillera region to the Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste”. It seemed like a logical step in the effort to help preserve the native rice varieties still grown in the fragile ecosystems of the terraces and to validate the traditional farming practices that have kept those heirloom seeds alive. In July 2010, the three nominated varieties were accepted into the Ark. As a result of that designation, five farmers from the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project plus Vicky Garcia, the executive director of RICE, Inc., the non-profit capacity building NGO, were invited to be delegates to the 2010 Slow Food Foundation’s Terra Madre gathering in Turin Italy October 19-25, 2010. As founder of the project and president of Eighth Wonder, Inc., the project’s US-based marketing partner, I was honored to join them at the Terra Madre as part of the Philippine delegation.
But to actually be sitting in the Palasport Olimpico in Turin Italy for the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Terra Madre was beyond my imagination. As I watched Blacio Akinchang, a farmer from a remote village in Mountain Province, carrying the Philippine flag during the opening ceremonies, the tears were streaming down my face.
I don’t think Blacio had ever been to Manila, let alone flown in an airplane. But there he was, an extremely proud farmer, representing not only our heirloom rice communities, but also the tens of thousands of indigenous farmers in the Cordillera still struggling to produce their native rice.
A tangible link had been made between these farmers and a supportive global community that understands and values the connection between indigenous knowledge, food, culture and environmental sustainability.