Poverty knowledge.

By Massimo Pieri

“What are poverty and hunger? From the viewpoint of Western countries, poor people are those with low per capita income (lower than one or two dollars a day), not enough to ensure adequate diet, health, and well-being. Such indicators, however, represent the poverty issue only in quantitative terms and don’t provide any qualitative definition or solutions about the type or quality of needed food or about the techniques to supply it. From such homologating perspective, the goal to be achieved is income and consumption power.

Conversely, from the traditional viewpoint, poor people are those who cannot eat twice a day. Such definition entails fundamental information: the most simple and necessary condition for people’s life is to be able to and know how to eat. In this case, the goal to be achieved is food. Like it happens for wildlife animals, also for traditional peoples, the possibility to survive is linked to their know-how in supplying food and water. A community cannot be defined as poor until it knows the techniques for harvesting, growing, breading, and cooking food for their own subsistence. For indigenous peoples, just like for wildlife animals, surviving means being able to supply food and water, even under the most extreme conditions.

As for history, agriculture has been the drive behind well-being, since it has allowed people to meet their primary, biological needs, and to have some free time to devote to the development of knowledge (therefore becoming “homo faber”), which benefited from the development of this fundamental activity. As for agriculture, nature itself imposes limits to exploitation. Biological rhythms are established and, up to now, not even molecular biology has succeeded in changing wheat growing and ripening or cattle breading rhythms. Traditional knowledge, laws and rules related to food and social issues contain the necessary techniques for the subsistence of a community and, therefore, the concept of poverty is linked to the loss of its capacity of supplying food, and therefore, to loss of knowledge (Jappelli).

What is food? Food products of all peoples, groups or communities are characterized by a complex qualitative and sensorial whole, which is defined by conditions determined by their cultural, geographical and environmental origin; it includes both material properties (sensorial, linked to health and nutrition, local know-how, information) and non-material properties (ethical, linked to cultural diversity, tradition, spirituality, and aesthetic). Products with a specific origin, such as food and food chains linked to a given tradition, including its manufacturing and packaging processes, may be good examples of food products with high technical and cultural value, capable of generating satisfaction and being useful to fight hunger and poverty  (Pieri).

It is necessary to notice that the existence of communities and people capable of managing their existence in relation to the surrounding environment even under the most extreme conditions can be interpreted as a token of the validity of cultural diversity in the general context of vital economy (Borioni). In this context, it is necessary to assess whether combining traditional knowledge and modern science allows developing higher knowledge in the field of hunger, poverty, and food safety.

Food choices have a high impact on environment and poverty. Rule-less food production, as in Western countries, is responsible, among other things, of about one fifth of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive agriculture and cattle-breeding, covering a great part of the whole territory, cause severe consequences to environment and poverty; meat production concentrated in big areas devoted to breading and forage production causes a great waste of water and food resources. It has been noticed and proven that the so-called “from-farm-to-fork” food (i.e. marketed near the production place) allows significant savings on transport costs, since it avoids long delivery transfers. Therefore it seems appropriate to foster local and traditional production which is in favor of vegetal origin food.

Right to food is a recognized human right. Extreme poverty and hunger are problems linked to human rights: they hit areas and peoples who have suffered from racism, exploitation, slavery, deportation of millions of people, and, therefore, wars or humanitarian and environmental disasters. If poverty and extreme hunger represent a problem which, in high-risk areas, seems to have no solution as well as being extreme, deeply rooted and incurable, the right to food is recognized as one of the fundamental human rights (HRC, MDGs).”

Poverty Knowledge Project.

COBASE multidisciplinary development project (health, education, economy and agriculture), Poverty Knowledge (PK), aims at creating productive systems which last in time and are sustainable, balanced and stable, i.e. capable of solving the problem of hunger, supporting themselves and renewing with a low resource input. It will be necessary to produce food autonomously in order to fight poverty and hunger, and to provide nutritional and therapeutic assistance in particular to children. To develop this program, it is necessary to apply the instruction “Help others to help themselves” (Maimonide), to take care of earth, animals, plants, and people by sharing resources following three main actions:

1 –  Permanent Organization. Limiting our consumption to our needs to share the earth’s resources. Permanent organization allows to collectively manage common goods and resources, such as food, energy, water, and to restore wellness and civilization levels which are sustainable from an ecological, social and civil point of view. The adjective “sustainable” refers to the idea of collectively organizing so that the reduction of goods production does not cause reduction in civilization levels. Organizing a permanent campaign for food safety meets the need for stability in wellness conditions which ensure food production and rural sustainability.

2 – Permanent (Re)Education to restore lost bonds, both cognitive and traditional, with the already existent production environment, and to apply useful ecologic principles and strategies.

One of the goals will be represented by the fact that this initiative aims at accessible communication supporting the overcome of the digital divide towards some special categories or areas. In line with internationally recognized directions and norms related to educational projects in e-learning mode in PAs, the project can be accessed and used, without digital divide.

The creation of the portal for information, scientific analysis, and discussion of topics of interest constitutes an agency for promoting the values of traditional knowledge and cultural diversity for rural and environmental sustainability, as well as the basis of the coordination and spreading of the activities in the different cultivation and knowledge sectors.

Creating and populating DHDB (Development Holistic DataBase) Database, which is holistic, interactive, relational, accessible, including search engine, glossary, and all services for users. DHDB database will be made up of thousands of records and as many documents; it will also be organized so to create a network of information divided in categories and sub-categories representing the different aspects of the topic. The database made up of search items such as events, documents, articles, interviews, lessons, will be organized in the main categories which represent the fundamental aspects of the issue: poverty, food, diet, water, chains, etc. and will be equipped with a multimedia platform.

3 – Permanent agriculture. It aims at designing human settlements imitating natural ecosystems (Mollison), allowing, through the development of the traditional local agriculture, to restore the balance of degraded systems, such as hunger, which lays at the basis of life. It aims at developing a sustainable production activity in order to ensure a sustainable rural development with production of food to be distributed according to bio-economic rules in areas of food uncertainty by using the model of sustainable degrowth. Thanks to a series of agronomic practices, inspired to the rules of nature and the concepts of bio-economy, the natural fertility of earth is preserved through the imitation of nature by applying a holistic approach aiming at the balance restoration between natural environment and human presence in critical areas.

Creation of technological production structures for agricultural and industrial production, (COBASE patent) for the production of food for nutritional and therapeutic use. The project implies the analysis of diets and therapeutic systems, the restoration of traditional and biological chains, the study of trophic and eutrophic chains, and the definition of workshops and programs for the recovery of areas characterized by food uncertainty, desertification, with the participation of local institutions and holders of traditional knowledge.

Drafting of “Practice Codes”. Several practice codes will be drafted, including images, drawings, files, texts; available in different languages, they will be provided also on digital devices in order to create a hypertext structure. Practice codes will include sections devoted to interventions, definition of indicators, parameters and practices related to rural, environmental, energy, food, health management

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