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Giampaolo Cantini. Feeding Knowledge: the future lies in a Mediterranean laboratory

Innovation / -

Giampaolo Cantini

During the course of the ceremony to announce the results of the Call for Best Practices for Sustainable Development, an initiative launched by Expo Milano 2015 to bring together and give visibility to the projects related to food security in the Mediterranean, we interviewed Giampaolo Cantini, the Director General for Development Cooperation at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to gain a better understanding of the Feeding Knowledge program and the future of the related Best Practices.

Could you explain briefly the key features of the Feeding Knowledge program?
Sponsored by Expo 2015 and implemented by CIHEAM-IAMB in Bari and the Polytechnic University of Milan, the Feeding Knowledge program is the largest collaborative network in the Mediterranean area on issues related to food security and sustainable development, involving institutions, organizations and research centers. In its three years of operation, Feeding Knowledge has laid the foundation for a shared and widespread system on the knowledge about food security, helping to better understand needs, and promoting innovation and the search for solutions that can be applied in the various member countries. Lastly, via the international Call for Best Practices for Sustainable Development, the program has collected more than 700 successful case histories that can be studied and could provide inspiration for new initiatives.
How is the Italian Cooperation for Development improving food systems and agricultural production in the participating countries?
Considering the wide range of best practices that we have collected and presented via the Feeding Knowledge Call, it’s clear that improving food and agricultural production is key to Italian Cooperation. Our operations in the countries taking part in Expo focus on improving and managing production chains – durum wheat in Ethiopia and coffee in Latin America, for example. We address aspects such as marketing and sustainability, as well as the rediscovery and use of traditional production methods specific to certain areas – such as quinoa in the Andean countries. Other initiatives promote the sustainable use of resources such as soil and water, while other projects support the development of a cooperative model that combines support to the small producer while providing more efficient systems for granting access to credit and management.
Can you provide three figures to indicate the need to improve access to food?
The first is that 805 million people worldwide suffer from chronic malnutrition. It's a figure that reminds the international community of the need to persevere in its efforts to eliminate hunger. Some encouragement can come from my second figure:100 million people have managed to escape this situation over the last decade. This means that, in addition to the knowledge, tools and, potentially, the resources, the conditions are in place to achieve "Zero Hunger". People need to understand the importance of this challenge and to support the political commitment to overcome it. My third figure concerns food loss and wastage. One-third of the food produced each year is lost post-harvest due to the lack of appropriate technologies, infrastructure or access to markets; more food is then wasted during distribution and consumption. All that, while demand for food in the world continues to grow. Therefore, we need action on two levels. First, we need to develop knowledge on supply chain management, we need to enhance infrastructure and adopt appropriate policies. The second involves building awareness among people – especially the younger generations  – of our individual responsibility as a consumer and as part of a global system, and the opportunity that we have, via our choices, to influence the development and the future of the Planet. These are the main messages that, by means of the Expo, can reach millions of people. It is also on these issues that the Italian Cooperation will work as part of the exhibition.
What is the future of Feeding Knowledge, post-Expo Milano 2015?
I believe it lies in consolidating and further developing the wealth of experience, partnerships and relationships built up over the years, as well as establishing a virtual focal point on knowledge of food security and sustainable development in the Mediterranean area. This "Mediterranean laboratory", would continue to encourage the sharing of knowledge, research and innovation, as well as the adoption of the most effective solutions to common problems.

A more sustainable city already exists. In Italy

Sustainability / -

Cassinetta di Lugagnano is one of the few Italian cities, if not the only one, commendable for employing strategic sustainable planning. With just over 1,800 inhabitants, its territory extends down to the Naviglio Grande, about 26 miles south of Milan, and immersed in the nature reserve of Parco del Ticino (Ticino Park).

The first town in the region of Lombardy to have approved in 2007 land-use planning with zero soil consumption. "One does not use the land to make money", said former mayor Domenico Finiguerra, a proponent of a long battle to save the landscape and local economy. The contemporary urban policy is geared towards obtaining finance from private capital.
Sprawling cities, fragmented cities
Local governments are often driven to sell-off parts of their territory or issue permits to build in return for development costs, irreversibly damaging (or even completely destroying) vulnerable areas, with agricultural land first in line. This is how urban sprawl begins. The city becomes fragmented, with jagged edges that are difficult to manage. Born in times when it was normal to feed London and Paris with resources coming from nearby rural villages, they in turn absorbed the capital’s policies. Today the phenomenon of urban sprawl results in a damaging approach towards the environment and the community.

The brave decision made by Cassinetta di Lugagnano
For this reason, the brave decision made by the municipality of Cassinetta di Lugagnano and the local residents during the phases of involvment is an important and forward-looking example of policy and local government. Despite the close proximity to the capital of Lombardy and the conformation of the urban landscape, which is regular and compact, the municipality of Cassinetta has chosen not to enter the orbit of Milan or expand its urban area with many subdivisions far out from its center. Instead, it has decided to boost sustainable food production by developing the local economy, already heavily focused on agriculture.
The first goal? Teaching responsible consumption
The most important goal achieved by the municipality has been educating the local population to be responsible consumers, on fair distribution of resources, and on waste management. It can be said that the battle won by Domenico Finiguerra and his committee was fought from the inside, informing and educating the local residents on taking very real and immediate actions. If in Cassinetta di Lugagnano the importance of the relationship between town and countryside has been well understood, in Campione d’Italia, the third most built-up town in Italy, the entire municipality has been urbanized. The choice, which is quite disputable, to waterproof 83.4 percent of public land (2010), completely removing all the agricultural parkland bordering the town of Campione d’Italia, is a move that cost citizens their quality of life, amounting to much more than any wealth the Italian Las Vegas is able inject into the municipal coffers.
Recovering the abandoned buildings
Returning to the example of Cassinetta, with its zero growth in planned land-use, meaning no growth is forecast for the urban settlement, it aims to preserve the agricultural belt – recognized by UNESCO – that surrounds it. The expected increase by 3.5 percent in demand for housing up until 2015, due to the arrival of new households, is being met by promoting the reclamation of abandoned buildings and the saturation of the more built-up areas. So no consumption of agricultural land with the increasing population of Cassinetta, and instead productive areas that are not harmonious with the surrounding landscape are being converted.

Livia Pomodoro, it's time to think about the best legacy of Expo 2015

Culture / -

© Giorgio Salvatori/Splash News/Corbis

UNESCO, bioethics, equal opportunities. Livia Pomodoro, President of the Court of Milan, has held a variety of roles in her career. Her resourcefulness has led to her leading a think tank that is already focusing on the legacy of the Universal Exposition both to Milan and the Planet in terms of the right to food. Hers is a tough job that sets her squarely before the difficult task of turning good intentions into deeds and actions - even when the spotlights are switched off.

From now until October 2015, Milan is to become a capital of food, a place where ideas and projects are born to transform an event into something that will help guarantee the right to food for all. How does the formation of the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy - which you chair - fit into this context?
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the global organization behind all Universal Expositions, provides that there is one legacy for every Expo, a tangible inheritance that is left at the end of the event. The tangible legacy that is set to leave its mark after Milan Expo 2015 is the creation of the Center for its documentation and research into nutritional regulations and public policies. These initiatives are important as initiatives of action, but a framework is also needed to keep the good intentions alive over time, for the long run. So , to reach this goal we must make a further leap and work to ensure that Milan remains the world capital of food in the future. We have to implement an agreement made of minimum rules on the right to guaranteed food. This means laying groundwork that ensures good and adequate food for all, not subject to waste, profit for some or suffering for others.
The initiative is Milanese because the City of Milan, the Lombardy Region and the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, are participating, but its aims are international...
Yes, these organizations set up the business association and asked me to chair it, which I do willingly. And clearly, while we are starting from Milan, we will go on to build something in the international arena.
Gender equality in agriculture is still an illusion. Women are those who produce much of the food, are also those who suffer the most from hunger. Which policies should be adopted at least to reduce this gap?
Well above all we must always recognize basic human rights for all and in equal measure, be they men or women and in this context gender does not come into the question of food. But if women are carrying out this fundamental work, it is essential that they have at their disposal the means to help themselves and to help the Planet to grow.
In amongst the most important human rights is the right to education. According to the findings in recent years there is a positive correlation between the level of female education and the quality of the diet of their families. What is the connection between these two fundamental rights, especially when talking about women?
The link is informing all human beings, from childhood, of the role that each individual plays and exercises in ensuring their own survival and respect for the Earth's survival. For this reason, the right to learning and an education in general plays an indispensable role.
When it comes to food, we should mention the inequality that exists in food supply and malnutrition. What next steps will be taken to address these issues through the Expo and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy?
Inequality and malnutrition are extremely importance issues with huge consequences, and so we must be careful not to get confused. It is clear that for both the production and distribution of sustainable and natural food, we must adopt certain rules that respect the interest of the community, as part of the common good, and not the interests of a few who make profit regardless of the multitudes that go hungry.
Unesco has registered the agricultural practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines (vite ad alberello) in Pantelleria as part of the intangible culture heritage of humanity. What positive effects will this recognition bring to Italy?
I think it is outstanding. Unesco did well and in reality I hope that there will be other similar awards and not just in Italy, but throughout the world. It is crucial to protect and take account of the practices and of intangible heritage: the world is full of people capable of creating beauty, but also many others who can destroy it.
Livia Pomodoro is an Ambassador for WE-Women for Expo. Read her biography and the interview online.

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