10 migrant youth and 7 unemployed Sicilians embarked on the now well tested 5-week learning journey in Design for Sustainability and Organic Food Systems, led by Gaia Education, the University of Catania and associazione I Girasoli.
The programme took place at Masseria San Marco, in the municipality of Paternò, in the Simeto river valley, on the south side and foot of Mount Etna. This is a bioregional laboratory and cross breading ground for numerous associations and initiatives. 10 municipalities are involved in redesigning the future of what was once one of the richest citrus and vegetable growing areas of Sicily.
Theoretical lessons and field activities, focused on organic regenerative design and market possibilities around a demanded food and cosmetic industry, took place inside an existing 2000 square meter warehouse and food lab located on site.
Awakening to the opportunities of production for fresh fruits, juices, essential oils, jams, sauces, dry fruits and vegetables, and pasta making has fueled the imagination of this new generation of designers for sustainability.
The team of Sicilia Integra and some course graduates are now establishing a social cooperative and plan to be part of the regenerative development momentum that is enlivening this territory.
In the late spring of 2017, Gaia Education, the cooperative Passwork and the cooperative l’Arcolaio conducted, in the Iblei Mountains, one of the most biodiverse regions of Europe, a course on aromatic and medicinal plants.
12 women, aged 16 to 29, from Nigeria, Gambia and Mali, joined the course. (Most of these women have been in treatment for a more or less severe PTSD condition). Through a dynamic journey grounded in theoretical and practical experiences, they learned about indigeneous plants such as rosemary, sage, lavender and oregano.
The practice to cultivate, transform and maintain the aromatic and medicinal value of the plants, coupled with an analysis of different market opportunities connected to the cosmetics, culinary, medicinal and aromatics properties of the plants awakened an enthusiasm and a thirst for more education and experience in all the students, as well as the possibility of a carrier destination for these gifted young women.
The women of the Association Thamaia promoting a better quality of life for women and children living in harsh conditions eat Grani di Gaia pasta which support s the socio-economic integration of the Sicilia Integra migrants and youth.
Migrant youth and unemployed Sicilians embarked on a two-month learning journey led by Gaia Education, the University of Catania and Il Nodo, with a 5-week Design for Sustainability and Organic Food Systems course and a 3-week field implementation.
The programme took place at the Il Nodo Migrant Welcome Center where both theoretical lessons and field activities were carried out, leading to the design and rehabilitation of an urban garden that had been abandoned for over 20 years. The migrants and Sicilian youth learned how to develop a productive garden oasis system using minimum water and maximum fertility retention, and diverse microclimate opportunities. They recovered an old orchard with lemons, oranges, prickly pears and medlar trees and, by utilising various composting techniques, established a vegetable garden with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cabbages, broccoli, eggplants in an integrated design.
The course graduates, now empowered with design for sustainability skills, are planning to establish their own cooperative for organic garden management services, with some becoming trainers on urban garden design.
On the 8th and 9th February 2017, London’s authentic Tobacco Dock hosted the second edition of the Lush Summit.
The ancient venue was successfully transformed into an interactive platform, bringing together charities, speakers and grassroots organisations from all around the world whose projects have been funded by Lush.
Open to the general public, the event welcomed activists, campaigners and like-minded people to explore the medley of products, activities, talks and videos organised by advocates for positive change. These groups defend a variety of topical global causes, such as: food sovereignty, animals in servitude, climate & energy and many more. Both Gaia Education and Sicilia Integra found their place in the War & Poverty room, amongst other charities raising their voices for those that the world chooses not to hear.
While cooking up the ancient grain pasta for passers-by to taste, Gaia Education’s May East and Ginny Gegg, alongside Sicilia Integra trainer, Vincenzo Santiglia, recounted the tale of how a group of migrants became empowered by the training in Design for Sustainability & Organic Food Systems offered by the Sicilia Integra programme. Empowered and inspired, the migrants went on to etablish their own social enterprise called ‘Grani di Gaia’, in the heart of Sicily, the home of organic agriculture.
At Grani di Gaia, the migrants, together with master baker Maurizio Spinello and Sicilian youth, carefully mould the ancient wheat into opportunities for joy, hope, courage, trust and peace…
My name is Katerina Skronta, I am from Greece and I graduated from the School of Agriculture at the University of Thessaloniki. I discovered permaculture from two Italian farmers that have lived their lives according to the principles of it. I always wanted to learn more about permaculture and to gain experience working in the farm.
During this course, I learned more than I expected. First of all, I met beautiful people from all over the world. Every day, little by little, we came closer, we shared our stories and started to build a team. This for me was unique because it is the first time that I have tried to build a big project while being a part of a team. I realised the importance of taking into consideration everybody’s opinions and giving everybody the opportunity to express their thoughts. I had also the opportunity to express my own ideas and to dream of how this project would be in the future. I developed my critical thought and every day when the course ended I always had food for thought at home.
From the agricultural point of view, I learned techniques that I am very interested in practicing more in the future. Meeting John Button and Francesca Simonetti who taught us how to design our farm in a sustainable way following the principles of permaculture was very helpful because it showed me that this approach can be successful and efficient.
I would like to thank all the people that helped to accomplish this course wishing to continue working all together for future projects and completing everybody’s dreams.