Each year thousands of men, women and children attempt a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. From January to December 2015, the total number of refugees and migrants arriving in Italy by sea stands at around 153,850 persons (Italy - sea arrivals, UNHCR UPDATE #4, December 2015). Key disembarkation points in 2015 remained Sicilian ports which have been identified as hotspots with 83,017 migrants arrivals (UNHCR 2016). Despite the efforts, existing approaches to protection have proven singularly unable to find solutions for long-term displaced populations.
Sicily, at the center of the Mediterranean, has always been a crossroads of cultures and agriculture. It has the largest surface of fertile organic land, the highest number of organic operators in Italy (SINAB, 2014) and one of the richest concentrations of biodiversity in Europe.
Gaia Education in partnership with the University of Catania is conducting of series of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) courses to address the convergence of humanitarian and economic crises in Sicily by supporting the professionalisation of migrants and unemployed youth in the context of the rich agricultural legacy of the island.
The project developed under the banner of Sicilia Integra - an official contribution to the SDGs implementation - aims to strengthen the socio-economic integration of refugees and migrants arriving in Sicily through sustainable community and agro-ecology capacity building activities with the view of creating an alternative trading platform for the commercialisation of Sicilian organic products in European markets.
Design for Sustainability and Organic Food Systems course provides the knowledge and practical skills on regenerative and organic farming techniques in the context of the three dimensions of sustainability– environment, society and economy, with culture as an underlying dimension. 17 migrants and 2 unemployed Sicilians were trained in the first course which took place in Piazza Armerina in spring 2016 with all of them preparing to enter a 6 month training-in-the-job apprenticeships starting during the Summer 2016.
Watch the Design for Sustainability & Organic Food Systems Learning Journey film showing the transformative impact the first course as told by the participants themselves.