Sunday, September 11, 2016

On organized crime as agricultural crime in Italy

NPR ran this story yesterday by Christopher Livesay, headlined, "'Tough Guy' Farmers Stand Up to Italian Mafia--and Win."  The story features GOEL Bio, a consortium of organic farmers who work together to respond to agricultural crime by the Calabrian mafia, the 'Ndrangheta.  GOEL Bio does so by pitching in to help the victim.  Livesay features recent "victim" Daniele Pacicca, a farmer of organic olives in Stilo.
[Pacicca's] 1,200 trees are his livelihood. One morning this summer, he was shocked to find 13 of them had been hacked to the ground. 
"It was like a kick in the stomach," he says. "Look at them. I don't think it was an accident that they chose the most visible ones, closest to the road. Maybe someone was trying to teach me a lesson." 
Pacicca is pretty sure who that was: the 'Ndrangheta, the region's organized crime group. Typically when they attack a farmer, they'll do it again and again, until the farmer pays protection money and vows loyalty. 
But that's not what Pacicca did. 
"We cried out: Enough! This can't go on any longer with this mafia system," he says. "That's the idea behind GOEL."
* * *  
"They chopped down 13 trees, so we planted twice as many, 26," says Vincenzo Linarello, the founder of GOEL Bio. "The idea is to send a message right away that they can't stop us. And we'll get up stronger every time they strike. They work by sending signals. So we need to send a signal."
Another Italian agriculture story, this one in the New York Times about saving heirloom fruit trees, is here.  

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