26. 10. 12. - 16:38
Garlic helps to keep beggars off the streets
By Rachael Williams
A project to tackle begging from jobless Roma that involves giving them full-time paid employment to grow organic garlic at home is now set to be expanded.
The project entitled "Bio-Knoblauch-Romanes" ("Roma organic garlic") provides Roma families in Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Croatia with opportunities for work and training in farming.
The project came into life last year as a way of tackling begging at source after councillors in the southern city of Graz announced a ban on begging - but put up funds for the intiative to give tghe beggars work back home.
And the project has proben such a success tnat it is now to be expanded and aims to create tens of thousands of jobs for the Roma community.
Europe is currently more than 90 per cent dependent on imports for garlic and most of the bulbs sold worldwide are imported from China. However the production in China has been criticised for unsafe working conditions, unreasonable transport routes and the negative ecological footprint it leaves behind. The "Bio-Knoblauch-Romanes" will open up the market for European quality organic garlic - and it will be given the best marketing opportunities in the EU by being sold as a premium brand.
The organisation "European Neighbours" invested 12,200 euro into the garlic farming project in the Styrian capital Graz, where Roma communities can learn agricultural skills. The initiative offers part of the Roma population a real possibility for an independent livelihood and a release from marginalisation.
The Roma community is made up of 10-12 million people and is the largest ethnic minority in Europe. This minority is also the poorest, with many of the population living in overcrowded squatter communities. Social prejudice is a big problem and as very few Roma people are able to integrate fully into society, the vast majority are forced to migrate. This brings with it a myriad of problems such as high unemployment, unsuitable living conditions and lack of education or opportunities.
There are several initiatives already in place but the problems of the Roma community remain. Discrimination is rife and despite many education initiatives it is still the case that very few Roma children complete school. In many areas the group’s dependence on social security systems has provoked anger against them whilst making the group extremely sensitive to changes in social security.
The garlic farming project will provide sustainable agricultural work for Roma communities in their home countries as part of a broadly recognised and firmly rooted scheme. It is a large-scale collaboration between numerous public institutions, associations, businesses and individuals where transparency from all partners is key.
The necessary training for garlic farming will be offered at the agricultural college at Alt-Grottenhof in Graz; a college which has been and will remain an integral part of the project. Although it is a robust crop, garlic requires intensive farming which must be carried out by hand. Crop rotation and mixed cropping will also be used in order to make the most of the farming land used by the project, but all skills and techniques must be taught beforehand. At Alt-Grottenhof training of Roma groups is already underway and the initiative has received a great deal of support.
Speaking at a conference held in Graz on 23 October 2012, the CEO of "European Neighbours", Bernd Spiegl, said: "Our vision is to create tens of thousands of jobs for Roma families through this eco-social project and also to make locally sourced produce available to consumers."
Chairman of the Cultural Association of Austrian Roma Rudolph Sarkӧzi commented: "There will be great results from this project and its expansion. There are so many unused fields in Europe and Western European countries are crying out for organic produce – here is our opportunity."
Throughout Europe and particularly in Eastern Europe there are large areas of fallow land which have been held by regional authorities and largely underused. Through negotiations between the project’s collaborating partners and these authorities, adequate areas of land have been made available. As it places no special demand upon soil or climate, garlic is an ideal crop for this area and the farming techniques taught and used will also benefit the soil for the foreseeable future.
Regional cooperatives have already been established in different countries for the organic garlic and with the backing of retail giant Spar among other influential companies the initiative is now set for success.
The European Council has also backed the project and the Program Manager of the European Alliance for Roma Issues Ana Rozanova said: "We support the initiative fully and look forward to sharing the experiences of those from Graz and their exemplary and pioneering ideas with the Roma projects in our 47 member countries."