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Organic yogurt wins migrants freedom from exploitation in Italy

Video guest: Josephine Mwangi

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Organic yogurt wins migrants freedom from exploitation in Italy

When race riots sparked by the shooting of two African migrant workers forced Suleiman Diara to abandon life as a fruit picker in southern Italy he decided to turn his hand to making yoghurt. With 30 euro ($32) borrowed from an Italian charity worker, he and a friend bought 15 litres of milk and tried their luck. Six years on, the two friends and five other migrants are running a small organic farming business that U.N. experts say is an example of sustainable agricultural development, which if replicated could help feed the growing global population. "We named it Barikama, which means 'resilience' as we went through many difficulties to open this company but we never gave up," he said referring to a term used in Bambara, a language spoken in his native Mali. Born in a rural area of southwestern Mali, Diara arrived in Italy on a migrant boat from Libya in 2008 hoping to make enough money to buy his family a cow and a plough. "We had no equipment to work the land and struggled to produce enough food for the whole year," he said. Italy has since become Europe's main entry point for refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. A record 181,000 crossed the Mediterranean last year, most on flimsy boats run by people smugglers. "I was told it would be easy to find a job in Italy," said the 32-year old. But the reality turned out to be different. Like thousands of others, Diara ended up working in vegetable fields and fruit orchards in conditions that have been described as exploitative and slave-like by rights groups and labour unions. In January 2010, he was picking oranges for 20 euros a day near the town of Rosarno, in the southern Calabria region, when a gang of white youths fired air rifles at a group of African migrants returning from work, injuring two of them. The shooting set off riots that led authorities to evacuate more than 1,000 migrants from the town, including Diara and his future business partners, who had been living in abandoned factories with no running water or electricity. The group ended up homeless in Rome, where they decided to have a go at producing organic yogurt.

Source: Reuters