A project titled "Sfruttazero" (Zero Exploitation) in Italy's southern city of Bari produces tomato sauce that is completely free from exploitation of migrant farm workers. The project has been active for five years and is run by the Solidaria association.

The "Sfruttazero" project by the Solidaria association in Bari, a city in Southeast Italy, is now in its fifth year of producing and selling tomato sauce made with "0% exploitation" of migrant farm workers. This year's tomato harvest is currently underway.

The project's goal is to transform the tomato, a symbol of migrant farm worker exploitation in the fields of the Puglia region, into a symbol of collective and fair-trade work.

Regular work for migrants and Italians

"Sfruttazero" was founded in 2014 as an initiative by the Solidaria association in Bari, and, starting the following year, it began working in collaboration with the association "Diritti al Sud" (Rights in the South), based in the town of Nardò. In the project, a group of African migrants and Italians grow and harvest tomatoes on land in the outskirts of Bari. They use the tomatoes to make sauce and they sell it in markets and small shops through the national networks "Fuorimercato" and "Genuino Clandestino."

Each worker who is hired with a regular contract is paid seven euros net per hour for a maximum of six to eight hours of work per day.

When the project began four years ago, 600 bottles were produced and sold. This year production is estimated to total 25,000 bottles. According to "Sfruttazero," two percent of the revenue from sales goes to a mutual aid fund with which the association supports, among other things, the disputes of workers who are exploited in the fields. Another eight percent goes to social and training activities, while a full 40 percent of the total is used to pay the workers' salaries. The bottles of tomato sauce can be reserved by email or on the group's Facebook page.

Migrant workers died from exploitation

This year, part of the tomato sauce production will take place in the coming days, once the harvest is over, in the courtyard of Villa Roth, an abandoned public building in the San Pasquale neighbourhood of Bari, where 15 families of African migrants and Italians live in self-managed conditions.

Villa Roth is where Joseph Isaac Ismel Awuku, a 24-year-old from Ghana, had lived for some time. Awuku was one of the victims of a road accident that took place on August 6 in the province of Foggia while he was returning from a day of work in the tomato fields of lower Molise. "I knew Ismel, he often came to sleep here, and he was here until a few weeks ago, before leaving for Foggia," said Moro, one of the 40 people living in Villa Roth. After the death of their fellow migrant workers, those living at Villa Roth decided to participate in the "red beret march" that took place on August 8 in the former Rignano ghetto in Foggia, bringing the "Sfruttazero" banner with them.


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