From the peaks of the Andes to the Asian steppes, from the arctic coasts to the African Savannah, roughly 30,000 edible crops have been identified throughout the world. And throughout history humankind has learned to use about 7,000 of them: for nourishment, clothing and healing properties. Today, according to data from the FAO, 30 kinds of crops provide 90% of the calories eaten the world over alone and three of these (rice, grain and corn) account for more than half.
We are slowly forgetting how to identify, cultivate, cook and conserve hundreds of local varieties that have adapted over time to the climactic conditions and the characteristics of every kind of land. We are losing a precious fountain of knowledge that has been accumulated over generations to find in local nature a response to our needs. We have become dependent on three kinds of cereals while the number of hungry people doesn’t stop increasing and according to international organizations there are now more than one billion such people in the world.
The minor varieties, cancelled out be industrial monoculture, are still a reference point for the feeding and cultures of many peoples and they have a fundamental role in the actual state of affairs: they can guarantee more resilience, better capacity to withstand climate change and can take on a central role in the promotion of local economies in the fight against malnutrition.
The United Nations has declared that 2013 is the year of the quinoa: this Andean cereal is at the center of a recurrence that is obviously only symbolic, but that hopes to remind people of local crops that have been forgotten.
Among the celebrations, we’d like to underline the international conference titled “Crops for the 21st century – Old and new crops to respond to the challenges of the 21st century” that is held in the south of Spain, in Cordoba, from December 10-13. This is the fourth event organized by bodies like the FAO, the IFAD, the University of Cordoba and Slow Food. Among the planned events in the Andalusian city there is much anticipation for José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the FAO, who will open the meeting, the Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Alimentation and Environment, Miguel Aries Cañete, the special supervisor of the UN for food rights, Olivier de Schutter and the president of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini.
The 15th century Palacio de la Merced, the conference venue, will host various exhibitions, among which there is the “Faces of Terra Madre,” with the producers, students, cooks, and researchers of the worldwide Terra Madre network photographed by Mauro Vallinotto.