A story worth telling

[Reading time:  3 minutes]

Last Monday I attended an inspiring conference organised by LUISS Professor Marcello di Paola and the Italian journalist and writer Antonio Galdo. The speaker of the event was Suleman Diara, a 28-year-old guy from Mali, founder of the social cooperative Barikamà. The story of his cooperative, a story of social and environmental sustainability, deserves to be told!

Barikamà, in Bambara, the national language of Mali, means both resistant and resilient, two adjectives which surely describe Diara and his colleagues. Barikamà is a social cooperative that produces yoghurt with the milk of an organic farm from Amatrice, Lazio. This activity was originally launched by Diara and a friend of his thanks to a microcredit of 30€. They started off with a production of 15kg of yoghurt a week. They now produce 300kg and have 6 more colleagues. This social cooperative represents both an example of social integration and a model of sustainable practices.

Diara stated that the aim of his cooperative is to integrate people at the margins of the local society, such as migrants and people with disabilities. He and his colleagues have a chance to interact with the city and the population of Rome through their small business, and to prove that hard working and good will can achieve anything.

As concerns the environment their yoghurt is sold in glass jars, much more environmentally friendly than the plastic containers usually found in supermarkets. Furthermore, their yoghurt jars are delivered by bike, which means that the carbon footprint of delivery is equal to zero!

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An interesting part of the story of this cooperative is the story of Suleman Diara himself, a story which must not be overlooked. Once Diara arrived in Italy from Mali, he found himself trapped in the black market of tomato- and orange-picking in the South of Italy, first in the region of Calabria and then in Apulia. For a crate of 350kg of handpicked tomatoes he was paid 3€. “Think of how much a jar of tomato paste or a kilo of fresh tomatoes cost, and you’ll understand the level of exploitation we were subject to”, said Diara during the conference. This represents yet another source of reflections. What is the real cost of our food? How is it possible that the food we find in supermarkets is so cheap? The banner in the photo, painted for a manifestation against Princes, a tomato factory near Foggia, in Apulia, in 2010, reads “your made in Italy has a stain – our blood”. One more reason to think twice before we eat.

If you are curious about Barikamà have a look at the website http://barikama.altervista.org/ !

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