Slow Rice 2020: rice as biodiversity

25 November 2020

Slow Rice, the first event on the sustainability, the tradition and the future of rice, will be held in Wenzhou, China, and online here at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, from November 27 to 29.

For those with a good memory: among the examples of resilience which we talked about last spring, we mentioned the experience of the community in Wenzhou to restore value to their local area.

Their resilience has become even more proactive since then, leading the community to organize the first edition of Slow Rice. The event will be held physically in Wenzhou in the village of Qidu Qiansha, in collaboration with the local authority and several other associations, and is accompanied by online activities accessible to all.

Among these activities is the forum Rice: A Food That Grows in Water with two sessions on November 27 at 9 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. CET. You’ll learn more from producers, chefs and researchers from Taiwan, Azerbaijan, China, Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and Brazil. To attend the forum with an interpreter you need to register (for free, as usual!) using the link in the event page.

Slow Rice: Slow Food community to restore value to local traditions

Slow Rice Slow Food Wenzhou
The Slow Food Community of Wenzhou.

The Wenzhou Community was the first Slow Food Community in China and was founded with the goal of encouraging research into more sustainable lifestyles for the local population. It also aims to protect and promote the food culture and traditions of Wenzhou, its local food biodiversity, traditional methods of food production from cultivation to cooking, the ideals of social justice and equality, care for the environment and ensuring access to good, clean and fair food for all.

Slow Rice is the first project organized by the Slow Food Community of Wenzhou at Qidu Qiansha. The hope is to transform the village into a gastronomic cultural center, revitalizing the rural social fabric and aiding in the development of rural tourism.

Rice plantations as reservoirs of biodiversity

Slow Rice wants to raise public awareness of the continuous impoverishment of agricultural biodiversity. Today 60% of the global diet is based on three cereals – wheat, rice and corn. What’s more, it’s a handful of “commercial varieties” that dominate our consumption and not the thousands of varieties selected by rice farmers over time in India and China, nor the thousands of varieties of corn cultivated in Mexico. In any case, rice plantations are still an extremely rich store of biodiversity, and Chinese agriculture boasts thousands of years of history of ecological practices. Before modernization, for centuries this great country was able to feed its population without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

Slow Food has fought to defend biodiversity for a long time. To preserve this heritage it has started the Ark of Taste, which catalogues vegetable varieties, animal breeds and food products which belong to the cultures, histories and traditions of communities and which are at risk of extinction. There are 86 Chinese products on the Ark so far, nine of which are varieties of rice or foods made using rice.

Food Talk, forums and local events

Red Mouth Glutinous Rice, a Chinese variety included on the Ark of Taste

The first international festival dedicated to “slow” rice will feature three days of themed events.

We start on November 26 at 3 p.m. CET with a small preview: the Food Talk by Professor Wen Tiejun on the theme of  building an ecological civilization. Wen Tiejun is the Executive Dean of the Institute of Advanced Studies for Sustainability in Beijing, is one of the founding members of the Global University for Sustainability. His talk isn’t focused so much on rice as on agriculture and the food system in general. He explores the theme of the impact of agriculture on the climate and the environment, and analyzes possible solutions to our problems.

On November 27 Slow Food host the forum Rice: A Food That Grows in Water with two sessions, the first at 9 a.m. CET and a second at 6.30 p.m. CET. Rice is the main food of around half the world population, cultivated in nearly every country, and is by far the most cultivated cereal. But it’s also one of the most critical food systems where the massive use of pesticides in concerned. What impact does intensive rice farming have on our planet?  Is it possible to cultivate rice sustainably?

Then, November 28 and 29, the first international festival dedicated to Slow Rice: two days of events in the across Qiansha, Qidu, Lucheng and Wenzhou. Among the activities will be a market, educational sessions for children, taste workshops, cultural activities dedicated to poetry and books and much more.. All activities are organized with strict adherence to the rules regarding the containment of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cover Image Aaron Grenwood | Unsplash