Viva Symbola

The right to have good natural food is a fundamental contributor to our quality of life and this right is being demanded ever more insistently. It is only one aspect I know, but it is close to my heart and I was delighted to add my support to Symbola, the Foundation for Italian Quality. It is a foundation which aims to put quality at the center of development processes, forming networks and aiding communication between culture and science, institutions and regions, local and global players. Its objective is to recognize and promote the best features of present-day Italy.

The project originated with the ‘Ravello Charter’, a document signed in 2004 in the enchanting town on the Amalfi Coast. The signatories pledged to construct a common project for an Italy focused on quality — promoting social capital and the best aspects of the country with the help of its inhabitants.

To achieve its objectives it seeks to bring together all those operating in the area of territorial quality, creating networks between people, who — in their very diverse ways and localities — are engaged in rediscovering the natural, historical and cultural, food, wine and artisanal resources of the country.

But the efforts of all those who are already endeavoring to fulfill the potential of the “underground quality” hidden in so many parts of Italy would not be enough by itself. It is important to also introduce a system of credit which will back the creation of new small-scale enterprises. This can be a channel for young people just starting out on their working careers — and others — to implement their entrepreneurial ideas, thus contributing to the country’s growth along pathways of sustainable development based on quality.

The project seems to have a lot of potential and I think it should be supported. I also like it because it links in very well with ideas I have mulled over in the past and am keen to revisit.

Not many people have a clear idea just how much undeveloped potential there is in rural areas of Italy. Opportunities exist both in the low-lying plains and in the high ground of the Apennines and along the Alpine chain. It is certainly not a lesser Italy in terms of size or importance, but it is too little known and has been neglected for too long.
In the last fifty years these areas have experienced a massive flood of people leaving agricultural activity and too few are left to look after the land, cultivate it, ensure it bears fruit, preserve it from abandonment and erosion by natural forces (particularly important in mountainous areas). This hemorrhage has now stopped and there are even slight signs that the trend may have reversed. It is an appropriate moment to launch this project to support new rural life, which is capable of revitalizing country areas and reclaiming them from the sad fate of becoming mere appendages to the huge conurbations, a useful but lifeless place where you go at the end of the day to sleep or spend the weekend.

Returning to agricultural activity is not a pipedream of nostalgic traditionalists and it doesn’t mean striving to restore a world which has disappeared. On the contrary, it is a very modern thing to do, since it produces wealth in a sustainable way, bringing new life to the interaction between nature and culture, which is the essence of our rural areas.

The proposal is simple and revolutionary. It aims to stop destroying the natural environment and to create durable wealth in its place. People can make a living while supporting the land and its rhythms. There are many people who, after years of living in the city, have returned to work in the country alongside their aged parents. It has brought enormous benefits both for their lifestyles and for the environment. There are also numerous people without a family background to fall back on who have invented new careers for themselves in the agricultural sector.

The data are encouraging and indicate there are many new enterprises earning an income, not only in the wine sector which can provide a quicker return, but also in livestock farming, high country cheesemaking or apiculture in mountain areas, as well as sustainable tourism.

First printed in La Stampa on May 24 2005

Adapted by Ronnie Richards

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