Slow Food Albania is a local organization that is part of the Slow Food movement, committed to promoting healthy, environmentally friendly food and local traditions throughout the world. Founded in 1986 in Italy, it is now present in over 160 countries. The organisation's objectives are multiple: to promote healthy, sustainable and quality food by highlighting local and traditional products; to preserve biodiversity and fight against the disappearance of endangered animal and plant varieties; to promote food sovereignty; and to raise awareness of sustainable production and consumption patterns.
A large part of the Albanian population depends on agricultural production: 38% of the active population works in the agricultural sector, mostly in small farms often facing economic difficulties. Despite the preponderance of work on the land in the daily life of the Albanian population, the country's agriculture is threatened by environmental challenges: deforestation, degradation of agricultural land, pollution, in a context where industrial production and monoculture are gaining ground. Faced with these challenges, protecting agricultural land, fighting against precariousness and working towards the development of sustainable and resilient agriculture seem to be real priorities. To address these issues, and after identifying many chefs committed to sustainable food in Albania, Slow Food International opened a locally coordinated branch.
Each of Slow Food's local branches around the world is called a Convivum, and each of these communities spreads the Slow Food philosophy through several types of action:
- Supporting small farmers by promoting their initiatives and enabling them to connect with local consumers and regional markets in order to market local, seasonal products. This approach allows for a rethinking of distribution chains, promoting networking and cooperation, and allows for direct contact with loyal consumers, while reducing the impact of transport.
- Disseminating knowledge about alternatives to the current food system to change perceptions. The organisation regularly offers events and activities (conferences, workshops, food fairs, farm visits, local product tastings) to raise awareness among consumers and local producers about the importance of sustainable food, the consumption of seasonal products, local gastronomic traditions and responsible rural tourism.
- Advocacy and lobbying of political actors in order to impact decision-makers to promote more sustainable food policies.
Slow Food Chef's Alliance, a branch of Slow Food that functions as a network for restaurateurs working with small-scale producers, also helps to promote sustainable food practices in Albania by highlighting committed chefs and offering to display the names of producers on their menus. In this way, Slow Food supports small-scale producers who defend food biodiversity and helps connect food industry players to preserve local culinary cultures. The Albanian Convivium has created a network of restaurants committed to working with local products from small-scale farmers, and there are currently twenty-one active chefs in the country.
The Slow Food Albania association has helped to bring to light many projects such as Mrizi i Zanave, an agricultural farm/restaurant in the Lezha region of northern Albania. The farm was founded in 2006 by the Gjergji family and has chosen to grow local and traditional products using environmentally friendly farming techniques on a plot of land measuring around 20 hectares. The restaurant, which opened in 2013, benefits from its own supply of cheeses, jams, vegetables and wines, thus producing the majority of the ingredients offered on the menu. For the rest of the food that does not come from its own production, the restaurant works in cooperation with an autonomous system of about ten small local producers. The restaurant has become a gastronomic reference point in the region with its recipes based on local culinary heritage and fresh produce. Mrizi i Zanave also has a shop that sells the farm's products to the public and offers rural agro-tourism activities with the aim of supporting local farmers and rural communities, while offering tourists an experience of local traditions and practices.
Being self-sufficient in its production allowed Mrizi i Zanave to limit economic losses during the Covid-19 period, when the restaurant's various suppliers were going through a difficult period, by selling the various foods produced directly to consumers. The restaurant also offered to provide free transport to the farmers they usually worked with so that they could sell their produce to consumers free of delivery charges. The Mrizi i Zanave team testifies that living through the pandemic period invited them to rethink the links between producers and consumers, and now convinced them that as a restaurant, it is "not only about cooking, but also about producing".
The fight led by Slow Food and the actors who collaborate under its banner is also having the effect of gradually reappropriating the concept of working the land by its representatives, as farming occupations are often negatively associated with poverty and presented as shameful in Albania. For Altin Prenga, chef at Mrizi i Zanave, proposing local, quality products, revalorising culinary traditions and collaborating with other committed actors contributes to the pride of representing the local territory and the peasant way of life.
This initiative sheet was written by Mathis Kugel, in civic service with Let's Food in May 2023.
Last modification : 23 May 2023.
Slow Food Albania
Slow Food Albania is a local organization that is part of the Slow Food movement, committed to promoting healthy, environmentally friendly food and local traditions throughout the world.