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Slow Food Somalia

Somalia is a tough place to build a community garden. Between drought, warlords, a near-absence of infrastructure and a prevailing mood of powerlessness, it takes commitment, and ideally some help. Sid Ali Mohammed, 65and Mohamed Abdukadir “Mudane” Hassan, 26, have both. They’ve managed to build 15 community and family gardens in Somalia as part of Slow Food’s A Thousand Gardens in Africa project. But it hasn’t been easy. Read more

Wading into Deep Waters: On California Water Stewardship with Dave Runsten

Last week while savoring the last of the stone fruit and the first crisp apples here in California, I worried about water. If you eat fruits and vegetables, you, too, should be very worried about water. This is because California, the state that supplies vast quantities of our nation’s produce, is running out. The culprit? Urban development gone wild, climate change, and generations of water transfer in a state with a high percentage land in the desert.

Reading excellent coverage of the farmers vs. fisherman water issue here on Civil Eats piqued my interest. Then, last week I heard a roomful of water experts discuss how our water issues impact food and farming. Presented by Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), and Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), along with San Francisco Professional Food Society and Les Dames des Escoffier, the panel discussion made me more nervous and confused. What was true? After the panel I caught up with Dave Runsten, who heads up CAFF’s work with the California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative, to seek clarification.  Runsten’s July 2010 report Why Water Stewardship for Agriculture was published July 2010 and outlines some relevant points of the debate on water issues facing the state’s urban dwellers, farmers and the food system. Read more

Development Threatens One of World’s Oldest Fruit Seed Collections

As droughts threaten the wheat harvest in Russia, resulting in a ban on exports there this year that is driving up prices abroad, something entirely different now threatens one of the world’s most extensive collection of fruits and berries at the Pavlovsk Experimental Station, a seed bank 19 miles southeast of St. Petersburg: development.

Perhaps one of the oldest in the world, the seed bank was started 84 years ago by Nikolai Vavilov, who died of starvation in one of Joseph Stalin’s labor camps in 1943. His seed bank was famously guarded by 12 scientists who eventually starved to death during the 900-day Siege of Leningrad, despite the fact that they were surrounded by edible seeds. Now, a court will decide on Wednesday if the “priceless” collection of 4,000 varieties from all over the world–which includes 1,000 types of strawberries, and 100 varieties each of raspberries, gooseberries and cherries–will be handed over to the Russian Housing Development Foundation to be cleared for housing. Read more

Filming Haiti’s Food Crisis and Grassroots Movement for Sustainable Agriculture (VIDEO)

When I volunteered in Haiti after the earthquake, it was glaringly obvious that we were standing in the midst of a failed food system that had been collapsing for decades.  Natural disasters strike annually all over the world.  Yet Haiti’s post-quake humanitarian crisis is the ultimate test case of the dangers of food dependence and an urban-factory based development model.  To truly get at the heart of how food affects the most vulnerable people and environments around the world, you must understand the Haitian story. Read more

Farmland Conservation: The Important Lesson of Brentwood, California

The road to Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood travels northern California’s Highway 4, a hot and dusty corridor that was once lined with jeweled fields of cherries, peaches and apricots. Roughly 50 miles east of San Francisco on the Sacramento River Delta, this agricultural region is well-known known for its stone fruit and corn. As with most places in the U.S., the landscape here has vastly changed in the past 30 years. Where once farmland reigned, endless rows of strip malls, big box stores, and tracts homes have sprouted, all to support a population explosion. Read more