Get­ting her goats

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD - ALESSAN­DRO BIANCHI in Valle dei Mocheni

AN Ethiopian who ar­rived in Italy as a refugee in 2010 has built a thriv­ing busi­ness sell­ing goat’s cheese and cos­met­ics. Refugees must not be marginalised, she says: ‘‘Some­one who has crossed the desert, crossed the sea, has phys­i­cal re­silience and also the mo­ti­va­tion to re­deem them­selves.’’

AGITU Idea Gudeta has built up a thriv­ing busi­ness in her adopted Italy mak­ing goat’s cheese and beauty prod­ucts in just a few years since flee­ing her na­tive Ethiopia in 2010 over a land dis­pute.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence is a shin­ing ex­am­ple of what mi­grants can achieve, given half a chance, though Gudeta fears grow­ing hos­til­ity to new­com­ers in Italy will make it harder for out­siders to con­trib­ute in the fu­ture.

‘‘I cre­ated my space and made my­self known; there was no re­sis­tance to me,’’ she told Reuters. ‘‘But [the ex­pe­ri­ence] of those who are com­ing now . . . is ob­vi­ously be­ing con­di­tioned by ide­olo­gies based on lies that can cre­ate fear and re­sis­tance.’’

Gudeta (40) has made her home in the moun­tains of the Trentino re­gion in Valle dei Mocheni, a strong­hold of the far­right

League party, which is led by Mat­teo Salvini, Italy’s hard­line in­te­rior min­is­ter.

Some opin­ion polls say the League is now Italy’s most pop­u­lar party, its sup­port fu­elled by its un­com­pro­mis­ing stance against the ar­rival of more than 650,000 mi­grants, many from sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa, over the past five years.

Gudeta es­caped from her home town of Ad­dis Ababa, the cap­i­tal of Ethiopia, af­ter her protests against so­called ‘‘land­grab­bing’’ — whereby huge swaths of farm­land were sold to for­eign in­vestors — raised the ire of the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.

Iron­i­cally, in Italy she was able to use com­mon land in the north­ern moun­tains to build her new en­ter­prise, tak­ing ad­van­tage of per­mits that give farm­ers ac­cess to pub­lic land to pre­vent lo­cal ter­ri­tory from be­ing re­claimed by wild na­ture.

‘‘While I was hold­ing down an­other job, I started to re­cover the land and an­i­mals, start­ing off with 15 goats. To­day I have 180 goats,’’ she said.

She em­ploys a fel­low­mi­grant to help out at her busi­ness, La Capra Felice (The Happy Goat), and is look­ing to hire two more peo­ple, who will al­most cer­tainly also be foreigners.

Ital­ians, she said, strug­gle to keep up with the gru­elling work day, in which milk­ing starts at 5am and is fol­lowed by long hikes through the moun­tain pas­tures.

‘‘The refugees fit this job bet­ter, be­cause it is very tir­ing,’’ she said. ‘‘Some­one who has crossed the desert, crossed the sea, has phys­i­cal re­silience and also the mo­ti­va­tion to re­deem them­selves.’’

The se­cret was to try to draw the best out of ev­ery­one.

‘‘Once [mi­grants] are on our ter­ri­tory, we should not con­stantly look to marginalise them. This is neg­a­tive and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive,’’ she said.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Salvini com­plains Italy has taken in too many mi­grants and has ac­cused Euro­pean Union al­lies of do­ing noth­ing to share the bur­den by re­fus­ing to dis­trib­ute asy­lum­seek­ers evenly around the con­ti­nent.

While lo­cals ap­pre­ci­ate Gudeta’s ef­forts, many also sup­port Salvini’s pledge to put Italy first.

‘‘It is right to use an iron fist for a while to wake up the rest of Europe,’’ said lo­cal res­i­dent Diego De­tas­sis. — Reuters

Say cheese . . . (clock­wise from top) Agitu Idea Gudeta takes her goats up the moun­tain at Valle dei Mocheni; she talks on the phone while choos­ing a cheese for a client; owner and goat share a mo­ment.

PHO­TOS: REUTERS

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