What can happen in local communities when Partners in GFAR from diverse sectors work together to preserve their cultural traditions while at the same time embracing the future? How important are the relationships between the leaders of these organizations to making their initiatives successful?
Slow Food Convivium Velika Plana, a multi-sectoral collaboration in Central Serbia, is a true example of a mutually benefiting partnership, which fosters empowerment of small-scale food producers, promotion of the territory, and recognition of private sector as an important engine for development.
It has been 5 years since YPARD representative for Serbia, Ivana Radić first interacted with Superior, a seed producing company now involved in Slow Food Convivium Velika Plana. First an intern herself, she later became a consultant for the development of an internship program. She soon became a proponent of a rather innovative idea (at the time, in this area): the Slow Food philosophy for local community development, which advances the importance of biodiversity preservation. Ivana was a true connector who recognized with few other people the potential of partnership on the local level, while leveraging various networks on the global level.
YPARD, Superior, and Slow Food first interacted at the Conference Food biodiversity preservation as a main tool for rural development and small-scale farmers’ support at the Faculty of agriculture University of Belgrade back in 2013. Common connecting ideas emerged already at this first meeting of the 3 partners: the importance of young people in agriculture, local biodiversity preservation, and the fast disappearance of traditional knowledge.
Most recently, on 29 July 2017, Slow Food Convivium Velika Plana organized the event Dani Polj Superior Terra Madre Morava 2017, an event which showcased the experimental fields of Superior and small-scale food producers from the area, and featured a conference about rural youth, an exhibition about fruit biodiversity, and several rural tourism activities. This event gathered around 600 people from all over the Balkans. This week during GFAR’s Partner Spotlight on Convivium Velika Plana, some pieces will be shared that explore the topics addressed in more detail.
The Partners advancing the initiative
Superior, where modern science encounters traditional knowledge
Seed producing company from Bresje, Velika Plana, a village located in central Serbia, has a main focus on producing quality hybrid vegetable seeds, in particular tomato and pepper, as well as fruit seedlings. The company has modern greenhouses, a tissue culture lab, and all the latest techniques. Still, the philosophy behind it is to be in harmony with nature and respect biodiversity. The main plant breeder of the company, Professor Ivo Djinović, is a brilliant, scientist with many years of experience. As a man who observes and learns from nature, he has a vision that fully respects nature. His new tomato hybrids are not only tested in the lab, but also by taste and the pleasure they give when eaten. With his team, Professor Ivo will taste a tomato fruit directly from the plant, which helps them take the decision about its suitability. Professor Ivo is also very passionate about biodiversity, and in his collection he has around one thousand different cultivars of vegetables and fruits, some of which he has been collecting all over Serbia and the Balkans in order to save old varieties that could be soon forgotten. Professor Ivo is a dear personality happy to share all his knowledge with young agronomists eager to learn from him.
YPARD, young people bringing innovative ideas
Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, an international network of young people involved in agriculture, has a relatively small but rather dynamic group in Serbia. YPARD in Serbia had a project “Youngfarmers’ vision” which featured Nebojša Djinović (CEO of Superior) in a documentary showcasing good examples of young farmers. YPARDian Miloš Dilkić, successfully leads a program addressed to teenagers and children called “Life in the countryside” aimed to connect urban youth with rural areas and the village lifestyle. Ivan Tupajić was the best intern in the internship program of Superior.
Slow Food, quality and diversity of food for success of small producers
Slow Food is an international organization focused on small-scale food producers and preservation of agricultural and cultural biodiversity. It’s made up of a global network of producers, consumers, chefs, who aim to point out the importance of traditional knowledge as a tool for preservation of biodiversity, as well as the role of consumers who value this tradition, knowledge and diverse taste. Slow Food is very active in the Balkans, with many local chapters, called Convivia, composed of people enthusiastic for good, healthy and fair food.
Interpersonal synergies for real change
Together with a few other people, Ivana, Nebojša, Miloš and Ivan and Professor Ivo lead Slow Food Convivium Velika Plana. Though they have different backgrounds and bring different experience, they all identify with the common purpose and vision of their initiative:
- Ivana Radić, a PhD student in France who hasn’t forgetten her origin and contributes to the local community by bringing her international networks to it, in order to foster knowledge exchange and the flow of new ideas.
- Nebojša Djinović, a serious, disciplined company CEO who recognizes the importance of local and traditional biodiversity as a way to achieve quality.
- Miloš Dilkić, an artist and intangible heritage enthusiast who constantly connects new ideas, and thinks outside of the box in a rather scientific and managerial group.
- Ivan Tupajić, an enthusiastic young agronomist always looking for new ways to learn more.
In only one year since the creation of the Convivium, they have presented locally produced tomato-based preserves at the global event Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy; presented local products from Velika Plana at several events in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and many local events; fundraised for a development project in Haiti; and as a final activity of the first year of Convivium Velika Plana they organized the event Dani Polj Superior Terra Madre Morava 2017.
Although they are only three out of many partners of GFAR, the multistakeholder collaboration between Convivium Velika Plana, Superior and YPARD, though at a small scale, is a great example of the impact of partnership, networking and exchange of ideas that goes beyond people, nations, disciplines and ages. And through their activities, the local community of Velika Plana is being shown to the world as a good example of agricultural innovation!
This story is part of our Partner Spotlight this week on Convivium Velika Plana.
GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFARwho share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!
Photo credits: Convivium Velika Plana