When you hear the word “weed”, what do you think of?
As Fulvio Gioanetto suggests in this video, we have learned to think about weeds as ‘bad’, reflecting a Eurocentric way of thinking, predominant in industrial monocultural agricultural production. In fact, weeds can refer to all kinds of wild plants growing naturally within an ecosystem. And they can have many uses, from healing illnesses as medicinal plants to being transformed into natural fertilizers, herbicides and fungicides.
Fulvio is an Italian-born ethnobotanist trained in Europe but living within the autonomous Purépecha community of Nurio in the state of Michaocán, Mexico, where he has been creating natural inputs from ‘weeds.’ His Purépecha wife Maria (reference or hyperlink to Maria’s intro page), a medicinal plant expert and healer, organizes women in their village to gather the plants and manages the selling of the natural fertilizers and herbicides to local campesinos, or farmers.
Fulvio has spent his life developing his practice and sharing his knowledge through intercultural and intergenerational relations. In this video, you will see him passing on knowledge to his son-in-law Miguel in the forests of Central Mexico, while also teaching his sons how to create natural fertilizers on a farm in southern Ontario in Canada. For Fulvio, this is an important part of ‘food sovereignty’, in that it frees campesinos from being indebted by buying expensive and often toxic inputs year after year. When local materials are used, a local economy is being built.
He sees this approach to farming as an important part of agroecology, farming that “centers on food production that makes the best use of nature’s goods and services while not damaging these resources.” It applies ecological principles to the design of farming systems; uses a whole-systems approach to farming and food systems; and links ecology, culture, economics and society to create healthy environments, food production and communities. (Source: http://www.moreandbetter.org/en/news/a-viable-food-future ).
Download the accompanying facilitator’s guide to engage students or community members in a critical and collective engagement with The Alchemy of Agroecology” video. It can serve as a catalyst to explore the meaning of food sovereignty and agroecology, and the related themes of functional biodiversity, migrant labour, biopiracy, fertilizer debt and local alternatives, and Indigenous knowledge and identity.