The importance of defending the land

Ours is not the only Forum that is engaged in matters of the land. The need to come together and to break down the ideological or psychological barriers that lead us to act “alone” has become an urgent necessity. This was the conclusion reached by a group of university researchers and interested individuals brought together in 2015 by the Fondazione Basso in Rome. A series of meetings led to the creation of the “Forum Diseguaglianze Diversità” (Forum on Inequality and Diversity or Forum DD). Officially active since October 2017, the forum held its inaugural conference in February 2018.

Why are we telling you about this?

For two reasons. The first is that we can and must work together (as stated in the proverb at the top of this newsletter); the second is that early research by the Forum has identified land use as one of the most important influences on inequality and poverty 

Interesting interviews with two experts reveal facts that are to some degree familiar to those who take an interest in the soil, the land and the landscape. One interesting case we would like to share with you is that of the municipality of Succivo, presented to Forum DD by Paola Pascale. Succivo is a rural settlement located between Naples and Caserta, blighted by excessive construction and occupied by the Camorra: a dormitory town whose environment has been systematically destroyed, scarred by pollution, lack of services, unemployment, youth emigration…

As in the , the commitment of a group of Succivo residents has succeeded in starting to reverse these trends. This group managed to purchase an abandoned 18thC farm (Casale di Teverolaccio), belonging to the Comune. They have revived its rural and agricultural character, rebuilt it and set up the Ecomuseo Terra Felix (Terra Felix Ecomuseum) to promote appreciation of the local cultural, natural and archaeological heritage. The Ecomuseum has become a multipurpose enterprise: there are organic community fruit and vegetable gardens, educational trails, as well as the opportunity to try local produce.  It’s interesting to note that the Ecomuseum is a few kilometres away from the Museo del Suolo (Museum of the Soil, Pertosa, Salerno) which we wrote about in a previous newsletter .

It should not be imagined that the process was an idyllic one. The Camorra has been using these areas – commonly know as the Terra dei Fuochi or Land of Fire – to dump toxic waste of all kinds. The effects can be seen in the high levels of patients with cancer and other fatal diseases certified by the local Istituto Superiore della Sanità (National Institute for Health).

Those behind the Casale di Teverolaccio therefore had to fight both bureaucracy and organized criminality. One problem they faced was that – partly due to negative media coverage – people were not buying the produce of the small family farms that had been revived in the area. Farming activity was only able to continue thanks to direct contact with the public who were shown the local produce and the places where it was produced in order to persuade them it was safe.

It is worth mentioning the citation of the Italian Culture Ministry when awarding the 2017 national landscape prize to the Ecomusuem: “legality and landscape, the fight against illegal and unauthorized activities through enhanced appreciation of the qualities of the land”.

For more information on the Succivo experience, contact Paola Pascale: paola.pascale32@gmail.com