After years of exploitation, former fruit pickers set up a co-operative near Rome selling vegetables and yoghurt. Now they are working ‘twice as hard’ to get supplies to families under lockdown.
Ismail bends over the vegetables in the middle of the field and shouts to his co-worker – “Lorè you’re doing nothing and your back already hurts?” – as he deftly separates a head of cauliflower from its long leaves and throws it into a waiting box.
His co-workers Lorenzo and Cheikh also get up, lifting boxes packed with produce after their morning’s work. Today the sun is shining here in Italy but there is no time to pause and enjoy it. Salad and spinach picked from other fields must be washed alongside the cabbages and cauliflowers; boxes for delivery have to be readied and loaded into the van.
This is Barikama, a co-operative started in 2011 by a group of young Africans. Many of the founders took part in the Rosarno revolt, an uprising in January 2010 in which hundreds of African fruit pickers whose labour was being exploited in Italy’s citrus groves rose up in support of a workmate seriously injured in a racist attack. The rebellion broke the silence surrounding the conditions of immigrant workers in the Italian countryside. (Text courtesy Guardian)