Food heritage has always been an important element of Alpine culture. Today it also becomes an asset for the growth and prosperity of these regions. On Tuesday 29 October, during the AlpFoodway Final Community Forum, AlpFoodway partners presented their project results and the guidelines to turn food related techniques and traditions into elements of a sustainable development strategy for the Alps.
The food heritage of the Alps includes practices related to food production and processing, traditional knowledge and consumption habits linked to particular ritual moments. The AlpFoodway project stems from the need to safeguard this heritage and make it a lever for the attractiveness of the territory and the conservation of the landscape. To best respond to the demands of the Alpine regions, the project has chosen a participatory approach, consistent with the recommendations of the 2003 UNESCO convention. Anthropologists, territorial animators and communities have worked together for three years to identify and describe the 150 most relevant traditional practices, which have become part of a choral and transnational story within the online archive intangiblesearch.eu.
The project also worked to overcome the contrast between food heritage cultural and economic valorisation: in fact, the latter, provided it is well managed, can help strengthen the former. The research and pilot actions carried out within AlpFoodway show that, at product level, the key lies in differentiation from similar industrial products, and, at territorial level, lies in shared choices that valorise traditional practices without distorting them.
Now the baton passes to the actors of the Alpine territory: during the event the 14 project partners entrusted them with their own vision, 10 food heritage management strategies consistent with the 2030 United Nations sustainability objectives that will help restore the centrality to the Alps as a model of sustainability, as explained during the meeting by anthropologist Annibale Salsa.In short, the project financed by Interreg Alpine Space ends but the work to consolidate what has been achieved in the Alpine regions involved is only beginning. An important step in this direction is the transnational nomination of the Alpine Food Heritage to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was supported in 2018 by the Tyrolean Presidency of EUSALP and today by the Lombard one, but to which everyone can contribute by signing the petition on www.alpfoodway.eu. "This application is special, because it does what it claims," said Harriet Deacon, UNESCO facilitator and Visiting Research Fellow Coventry University, UK. "Not only does the nomination have the credentials to be accepted by UNESCO, but it can become a model for others, for the presence of a transnational inventory and for its truly participatory approach".
To conclude the event, a few communities from the Aps brought eleven traditional food-related practices to Piazza Città di Lombardia. Here, guests and conference attendees were able to learn about the ancient varieties of apples, discover the use of wild herbs in various parts of the Alps, understand the techniques to build barrels or dry stone walls, see how butter is made on the mountain pasture and how pork is processed and finally taste Alpine breads and traditional recipes.