Towards a Mediterranean network of Local and Solidarity-based Partnerships for Agroecology
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> Overall framework: A brief history of the Mediterranean project
Since 2004, the international network URGENCI brings together citizens, small farmers, consumers, activists and concerned political actors at global level through an alternative economic approach called Local and Solidarity-based Partnerships between Producers and Consumers (LSP) as a way to maintain and develop family-scale organic farming and to achieve local food sovereignty for each region and each community worldwide.
There is no fixed way of organising these partnerships, it is a framework to inspire communities to work together with their local farmers, provide mutual benefits and reconnect people to the land where their food is grown. The emergence of Teikei in Japan, Community Supported Agriculture in USA, UK and China, Solidarischelandwirtschaft in Germany and Austria, Association pour le Maintien de l’Agriculture Paysanne in France and of many other initiatives shows how consumers and farmers in various places are responding to the same global pressures. This supports the development of organic family-run farms and local fair food systems.
Méditerranée sans frontières, Sabine Réthoré, 2011.
CSA, as a way to contribute to a greater solidarity between urban and rural communities, is equally empowering for both the community and the farmers and offer solutions to common problems facing producers and consumers worldwide. One of the main roots for the current food crises, as well as for social unrests more generally, is that farmers alone have been shouldering the risks of the increasingly ruthless global market, which has forced millions of them from the land.
CSA offers one of the most hopeful alternatives to this downward spiral, and is the only model of farming in which consumers consciously agree to share the risks and benefits with the farmers. Fair local food systems are an efficient tool to restore local food sovereignty for all regions and communities worldwide.
One of the objectives of Urgenci International network is to identify the many CSA experiences around the world and to help the people to dialogue. This aims to promote this type of partnership as much as possible as one of the most efficient solutions to the deregulation of global production, markets and food distribution. By doing so, Urgenci aims to participate in the efforts made by many civil society organisations to establish food sovereignty and solidarity economy, two of the main pillars of agroecology.
Urgenci carries out many advocacy actions aimed at highlighting the important role that a strong alliance between producers and consumers and CSA can play. Since 2012 the network has been part of the Civil Society Mechanism of the U.N. Committee on Food Security and Nutrition where the network represents the consumer constituency. Urgenci’s members also work with their allies in the International Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) that is the platform for many social movements.
FAO has recently supported Urgenci’s work on an initial pilot project aimed at “supporting the exchange of good practices between already existing alternative food distribution systems and increasing capacity of rural and urban citizens on sustainable food distribution systems in the Mediterranean area”.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the network, as although Urgenci is present on all five continents, and very active in certain regions (especially in Europe and Asia), the current challenge is how to strengthen the dynamic of CSAs in regions where it does not yet have a strong presence. This also corresponds to the FAO desire to increase food security in their priority
> Why the Mediterranean region?
We chose to locate this pilot project around the Mediterranean sea.
Indeed, following a request made by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region in France to take part in the first MedCOP that was held in Marseilles last June, Urgenci, thanks to three of its member networks, the Provence AMAP network (France), the Swani Tiqa (Morocco) and the GAS (Italy) mobilised and took part in the event. The fight against climate change is a natural objective for CSAs, as they are built on co-operation and harmony with nature (they are generally based on low-impact agriculture that uses no chemical inputs as well as local distribution and minimum packaging). By participating in the movement to relocalise the economy, CSAs support the movement to maintain develop agroecology through peasant agriculture and the strong connection with local consumers. They also largely contribute to greater biodiversity, in the interests of future generations.
This opportunity has provided Urgenci with the possibility to strengthen its partnerships with the initiatives around the Mediterranean and establish some exchange of practice, and ultimately will lead to building a proper Local Solidarity Partnership network in the region. Our proposal fits into the heart of the Mediterranean Positive Agenda process, as one of the solutions to issue n°5: Strengthen solidarity between cities and sustainable territories.
Thanks to the support of FAO, it was be possible to hold a first exploratory meeting in Paris on December 7th 2015, during COP21. Urgenci, the Moroccan Network for Agroecological Initiatives and the Mediterranean Basin pole of Terre & Humanisme and the Provence AMAP network all took part in the meeting.
The objective was to prepare the organisation of a first meeting to exchange experiences that will take place from 29th February to 2nd March 2015. The Provence AMAP network will be the hosts.
The Association Terre et Humanisme, through its international solidarity section and Mediterranean Basin activities, is happy to partner with the Urgenci network in the context of of their general objectives of “relocalising the economy at territorial level and in equitable exchange”. The CSA model in particular and short circuits in general are the alternatives promoted by Terre et Humanisme. The association has been supporting agroecological gardens and initiatives close to CSA principles for many years, especially those of their partners in Morocco and Burkina Faso.
Terre et Humanisme, together with other actors involved in agroecology around the Mediterranean Basin, wishes to encourage all initiatives that strengthen links, exchanges, synergies and that capitalise on experience-sharing between local actors. The association is helping a Mediterranean network of Local Solidarity Partnerships to emerge through the pilot project led by Urgenci in the favourable context of “the development of peasant agrological agriculture that respects humankind and the environment”, which is an aspect of the core mission of Terre et Humanisme.
The Moroccan Network of Agroecologial Initiatives (RIAM) has the statutory objective of establishing and facilitating a network by communicating, working with and supporting agroecological initiatives and permaculture in Morocco. Organising meetings between agroecological actors and people involved in permaculture, raising awareness of civil society in general, in both rural and urban populations, developing advocacy for an ethical approach and overall ecological transition and strengthening cooperation at national and international level.
The RIAM, together with Urgenci, through one of its members, the Swani Tiqa, that is involved in the heart of networking and the desire to work efficiently, has agreed to participate in the pilot project « Towards a Mediterranean network of Local Solidarity Partnerships ». Urgenci is the project leader. MedCOP21 and COP22 will be held in Morocco in 2016. This provides the RIAM with a unequalled opportunity to develop networks of actors who do not usually work together in Morocco as well as around the Mediterranean Basin, and even at global level. It also provides an opening to build unique partnerships that encourage co-operative synergies between the North and the South as well as between countries of the South. This will provide a dynamic force for positive change for humanity and the planet, especially in the context of both food sovereignty and food security.
The association Alliance Provence (renamed Les AMAP de Provence, regional network of Miramap on 14th November 2014) was created in Provence (France) in 2001, at the time of the creation of the firsts CSAs in France. The objective was to support dissemination of the CSA model in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and beyond. The AMAPs (Association to Maintain Peasant Agriculture: French CSAs) have continued to be highly successful and remain an important dimension of citizens’ commitment to support local organic peasant agriculture in an economically viable way that respects people, animals and the environment.
The PACA Region, an historical partner of the regional network Les AMAPs de Provence requested the association to participate in local solidarity initiatives from around the Mediterranean Basin that were recognised as solutions that contribute to fighting climate change last June. The Italian GAS and RIAM network, represented by the Swani Tiqa together with the AMAPs de Provence came together during the MEdCOP21 meeting last June to this effect.
It is an obvious next step for the AMAPs de Provence network to participate in the pilot project of creating a Mediterranean network of Local Solidarity Partnerships led by Urgenci, and to support the project by hosting the first meeting of actors from around the Mediterranean Basin.
 The CSM was created top-down by the FAO in 2009, to enable the social movements of the food sector to have a place to allow their voice to be heard. This is a very new initiative within the UN institutional framework. And most importantly, it is for us to make it a bottom-up space where the food sovereignty movement as a whole can express their opinions and work towards global policies that protect small-scale farmers’ and consumers’ interests alike.
 This event was aimed at gathering actors from all over the Mediterranean area to build up a shared vision (called Positive Agenda) on what are the local and regional solutions to climate change in the lead up to the COP21 held in Paris. The next MedCOP will happen in Tangiers (Morocco) in May 2016.
 Urgenci’s activities in the Mediterranean led up to three outcomes so far:
- First, peer-based solidarity is a key to sound dissemination: CSA-like initiatives have blossomed as a consequence to experience-sharing activities, like in Morocco (since 2009, Swani Tiqa = the “Trustworthy Market gardens”); in Croatia a network of 15 Local and solidarity-based partnerships, with 9 farms and a thousands consumers since 2012 and in Greece where fair local food initiatives expand in the context of the intensifying t
- Second, fledgling CSA experiences are getting stronger and networking. In October 2014, a conference we organised during the IFOAM World Organic Congress with our partners brought up together 175 participants and highlighted the work done by a Turkish NGO to promote and federate LSP. Since 2011, Swani Tiqa actors organised exchanges with Tunisian and Egyptian peers.
- Last but not least, they have also led to the strengthening of experienced CSA networks or (like in AMAP in France, GAS in Italy and many groups in Spain) and opened up their activities to cooperation with fledgling initiatives.