Sicily, in its central position in the Mediterranean, has always been a crossroads of cultures and agriculture. It has the largest surface area (280,448 hectares) of fertile organic land, the highest number of organic operators (9,888 producers/processors) in Italy (SINAB, 2014) and one of the richest concentrations of biodiversity in Europe. Despite the concentration of abandoned agricultural land, in recent years there has been a revival of traditional methods of agriculture with farmers saving over 40 varieties of wheat.
Sicily still bears the impact of the economic recession of 2008 and is the poorest region in Italy with 54.4% of Sicilians living below the poverty threshold (ISTAT), and youth unemployment over 40% (ISTAT). The fragile state of the economy has significantly reduced the capacity of Sicily’s labour market to absorb the continuous flow of migrant job-seekers. Furthermore this flow obliges Sicilian institutions to deal with their integration while interacting with a range of social, religious and cultural complexities.
In Sicily there is an urgent need for integrated approaches that support the socio-economic integration of the growing flux of migrants while promoting new sustainable trends to enhance Sicilian local economy. Riace in Calabria has demonstrated how integration of migrants into an existing Italian society is possible. In 1998 when 200 Kurds fleeing the Turkish-Kurdish conflict landed on a beach near Riace, a small village with an ageing population, it was in danger of becoming extinct. Today a quarter of the population is comprised of immigrants who have been given new homes and a new start in life.