1st European Charter-writing workshop, Milan, June 6-7

Milano07The objective of this meeting, organised in Milan on June 6-7, 2015, by Urgenci Europe, was to acknowledge the need for a Common Declaration that states our Common Ground. Participants came from many different European countries to facilitate the links between the European Network and the specificities of the Local Network to which they belong.

— Introduction

Community Supported Agriculture initiatives, namely active citizens making a commitment to local farms to share the risks and the bounty of ecological farming are blossoming all over Europe. Even though the forms of the initiatives are very context-dependant, exchange programs and European meetings[1] have proven that there is a shared vision-process in the CSA community in Europe that needs to be expressed in a Common Declaration.

This is the reason why the Urgenci European Kernel[2] launched a “Common Ground for CSA in Europe” project, thanks to a sub-grant from the European NGO platform CONCORD and the support of the FPH Foundation. It represents a major opportunity to launch a maturation process and provides the means to 15 local and national CSA networks to facilitate charter-writing workshops, with an on-going exchange at European level.

> The main objectives of the Common Ground project are to:

  • Prepare the next European CSA meeting to be held in autumn 2016 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. This will be achieved thanks to the consistent and decentralized participatory work on our Common Values. We hope to validate the Draft Declaration in Ostrava.
  • Contribute to the definition of a European CSA movement through capacity building and mapping exercises,
  • Implement a participatory action-research process aimed at gaining deeper insight into the European CSA initiatives. This will be done with the CSA Research Group.[3]

> The aims of this multi-level and multi-stakeholder process are to:

  • Reinforce both the European CSA platform and the local and national networks, fostering critical discussions on what we stand for and how to share it widely.
  • Have a baseline on which we all agree, as it is the best way to take position on behalf of our movement; because if we don’t do it, somebody else will!
  • Ensure there will be a follow-up between these important get-together meetings, as a way to nurture a sustainable movement-building process.

— Uses of a Common Declaration:

Several main topics came out of the discussion, held according to the World Café Method :

what we need

  • Advocacy
  • Common identity for CSA to prevent from corporate capture
  • Presentation to the People and fostering the CSA development / Dissemination

— Advocacy:

We are a group of local Networks, with specific histories, backgrounds and contexts, but we all have a part to play in the global movement. We support the Nyeleni Declaration on Agroecology, and fight for Human Rights: worker’s rights, the right to food … and we state that these rights contribute to building a new vision based on food sovereignty and solidarity economy. A different path exists, but we need support to reclaim our political space (beyond land and markets which are the ‘standard’ prism for viewing things); we also need to change the legal framework to a bottom-up approach and to change the dominant model of industrial agriculture/agribusiness and processing/distribution through hypermarkets.

Local Authorities should be aware of and acknowledge this fact.

As a growing CSA Network, we need, a priori, to define the issues on which we take position more clearly, with a formal framework and representation that defines the scope of what we are/are not, as well as our positions (i.e. on box schemes, Food Assemblies etc). We need to mark “our space”, to avoid capture, while continuing to build alliances and a common ground with our allies.

As a Network, we should create a “rapid response team” to provide support for people in meetings who need to take positions on policy (CSM/CFS/other…). It is important to us to work on connecting small farmers to AFDS and work to introduce policies that are close to the field, the farmers and the villages. We are very aware of the importance of forwarding issues from grassroots level to national level to international level, and still remain rooted in the core work done on the ground.

As a European CSA Network, we should specify our goals for our needs in CAP. As an example, things like “green care” can be used to apply for grants: do we want to be part of pillar 2 of the CAP? Or would we rather fight pillar 1 to try to transform agriculture?

A Common Identity for CSA:

Changing agriculture and the food system, and more generally the community in which we live: create social alternatives to the market. When we talk about changing the food system, we do not only want to focus on the production of food, but also on transportation and distribution models.

As a matter of fact, we do not only offer good food but also something else, a kind of “bonus”, a tool for change, or a political dimension.

We provide good food to the people but are also take into account:

  • The solidarity
  • The environmental friendliness
  • The health component of our different alternatives
  • Food justice.

Thus working on healthy soils to provide healthy food to build healthy communities!

> We strongly believe in sustainable economic viability, where fair partnerships allow farmers to make a decent living and have a decent income. This sustainable economic viability goes hand in hand with solidarity economy approaches, transparency, open-mindedness and trust between producers and partners in a fair contract-partnership.

As for the use of the term “CSA”, we acknowledge that it is already recognised, it would therefore be a pity not to use it as a kind of “label” to which consumers could relate.

Presentation to the people and fostering the CSA development – dissemination

Our European Declaration should be inspirational, use simple words and infographics, cartoons, sketches, to facilitate translating our ideas and pmessage into so many different languages.

It should reflect the grassroots dimension of CSA: keep the language simple and be inclusive, and focus on farmers as a priority.

We need to learn about the European CSA experiences and models, and use them to document the movement with case-studies.

The contents of the common text should include:

  • Community-building “CSA as a circle”
  • Grassroots dimensions
  • Solidarity: within the group (between farmers and consumers, between farmers, between consumers) and on a larger scale
  • Creativity of the movement / Diversity

Shape:

  • A Declaration – principles, showing the connections with the broader Food sovereignty movements / European level
  • A Charter – rules / national levels
  • A Manual – practical, educational purposes, maybe for internal use and Urgenci-Europe process

Milano05— The Shared experience of Charter writing processes:

Two working groups, led by experienced people discussed how some national charters have been written in different contexts. The questions addressed were: How did you define the scope? How did you define the structure? What were the main obstacles (summarising the input? Collecting the contributions? Ensuring broad participation)? What phases were involved in the process?

The details are to be found below in the appendix 3, and the national groups are available for further information.

Milano06— The scope of our joint work:

Most participants agree that we should stick to a European Declaration on CSA.

With a Preamble that states that we are part of the European Food sovereignty movement / very much connected to other Alternative Food Distribution Systems (Community gardens, farmers’ markets, etc).

> Our needs: Common Ground for CSA, not solidarity-based farming.

Drafting a set of Principles for CSA – whether it is called a Charter or a Declaration, doesn’t matter. We have to decide whether we want Binding Rules or Principles. Everyone agreed that we don’t need more rules, but an inclusive declaration/charter, that can be easily understood (and that producers can reclaim). It should prioritise our principles and draw a clear line: “This is our playing field. Corporations and other schemes have no right to play here.”

> What we are / What we are not / And what we approve and support (as most farmers can not live from CSA alone, we also support farmers’ markets, farmer-driven direct marketing, etc.)

A useful exercise would be to start with words we don’t want to use.

> In terms of constituency: farmers must be present!

 

Templates to collect information for the Berlin 2nd European Meeting, September, 10-12, 2015:

To National/ Local networks information:

1) Charter / Reference document:        

  • Do you have a Charter/ reference document?
  • If yes, explain the process leading to it? Who were the stakeholders?
  • How do you/ do you not use it?

2) What is the goal of your CSA projects/network?

  • Common Goal to achieve through CSA – political vision
  • Core Values/ Principles
  • Operational definition of CSA: modus operandi

A research group is working on gathering more information about the local networks. Please contact Peter Volz for further information on that.

 

Milan group picture— Conclusion —

Our objective is to have a validated draft to present at the 3rd European CSA meeting in Ostrava, CZ. Unfortunately, the Common Ground project only lasts until the end of 2015.

A CSA Research Group has been created, as a follow-up to the first two European CSA meetings. The kick-off meeting is in Freiburg, Germany, on August 26th-27th, 2015. One of the aims of this group is to document the CSA situation in each country, in a complementary way to that of the Declaration / Charter writing group.

Participants can receive a link to participate upon request (morgane.iserte(at)urgenci.net)

 

Appendix 1: List of participants

Appendix 2: Timeframe

Apppendix 3: Shared experiences

 

[1]           Please consult appendix 2 for more information on the on-going process.

[2]           The Kernel is a coordination body that was set at the first European Meeting of CSA movements and other distribution systems for food sovereignty, in October 2012 in Milan. Its role is to monitor the progress of the working groups at the European level and to prepare the next European meetings.

[3]           The CSA Research Group has been created during the 2012 Milano Meeting, clustering researchers from various European Countries, while creating a platform for participatory research on CSA from within the community.