Mediterranean exploratory mapping


Mapping the Local and Solidarity-based Partnerships in Mediterranean Basin is an extremely challenging task: it means dealing with a new and rapidly growing field. To date, to the best of our knowledge, there is has been no study that deals specifically with local food systems in the area as a whole. In order to come up with a comprehensive picture of the situation, the project participants decided to divide the area into 2 regions: the Northern Mediterranean shore, and the Southern Mediterranean shore. Note that the Southern Mediterranean shore also includes Turkey, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories.

Here is a first synthesis, you can also read the comprehensive Mapping report (April 2016):

1- Identifying the community in “Community Supported Agriculture” in changing societies

When we think of the Mediterranean today, it brings to mind the many tragic images connected to this region of the world. Most countries on its shores are currently undergoing deep, structural and social change. Among these major changes, the transition from a traditional, rural, agricultural model to a more urban, industrialized society is certainly one of the most important. It is underlined by the demographic dynamics that could accelerate this change (according to the 2014 statistics in Algeria, 28,75% of the population is under 15, in Egypt 32%, in Lebanon 22,5%).

Nevertheless, the countries of the Southern and Eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea are still characterized by a high (although decreasing) level of employment in agriculture: in Egypt, for example, 28% of the population lives from agriculture; in Morocco, about 40% of the population[1].

In most of these countries, the dominant model is still subsistence farming (most of the production is used to feed the farmers’ and their families) or semi-subsistence (less than 50% of the production is sold). In Algeria, the average size of a farm is 5 hectares. Additionally, in these societies there is a high level of expenditure on food per household: 18-22% in Lebanon compared with 14% in France. The low figure in France is of course also connected to the excessively low cost of industrial food, where many costs have been externalised.

This situation can be characterised in the following opposition between two social models: on the Northern shore, there is a low and continuously decreasing number of farms that actively produce, the size of which is therefore constantly increasing. At the same time, there is a massive demand for local, organic produce, and a multiplication of consumers’ groups and organizations. On the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean shores, consumers’ groups are still rare. There is however still an abundance of small-scale traditional family farmers. In the countries of the Southern Mediterranean shore, the city dwellers are closely connected to the rural areas, and most of them have a relative working as a farmer. Through mutual trust-based networks and family links, direct purchasing groups form informally. These groups order food products on an irregular basis. Therefore, before consulting the results of this first mapping, it is important to understand that the absence of formalized CSA does not mean that solidarity-based partnerships do not exist. On the contrary, solidarity within the family or towards people’s original rural communities is a cardinal value.

2- A typology of CSA movements around the Mediterranean

Thanks to the information gathered by our the mapping participants, it seems possible to divide the CSA movements into 4 different types. Please note that this typology includes other types of “Ecological, Solidarity -based Food Partnerships”.

UR_Med CSA map.jpgChart 1- Map on the situation of the CSA movement in the Mediterranean countries.

Type 1: mass movement

Type 2: consolidated movement

Type 3: experimental movement

Type 4: embryonic movement

Type 5: no information

Type 1: mass movements in France and Italy.

Two countries can be considered as being showcase for mass CSA and Ecological, Solidarity-based Food Partnership movements: France and Italy. In certain regions there is up to 20% of the population involved in some form of solidarity/direct purchasing of food. Although the question of whether the Italian Gruppi di acquisto solidale can be considered CSA is still unresolved, it is clear that in these 2 countries, local and solidarity-based partnerships between producers and consumers have been adopted by many hundreds of thousands of consumers. Even if we consider just the 2 French Regions on the Mediterranean coast, the AMAP2 movement is still far ahead of other countries (except Italy) in quantitative terms. In Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, according to a 2015 census, there are 226 registered AMAP groups, with around 570 farms and 40,000 consumers[2].

Type 2: well-established, growing movements in Spain and Croatia.

2 countries seem to have well-established movements, with fast pace growing dynamics. In Spain, there is a large array of short circuit initiatives, CSA being only one model out of many others. The first CSA was established in 2000, and there are today at least 75 groups and 7,500 consumers. A farmers union based on the Atlantic Coast (in the Basque country), called Ehne Biscaye, is increasingly giving impetus to the movement in the whole country. In Croatia, the growth is one of the most exponential, with 20 groups and 4,000 consumers, even if the first partnership was created just 4 years ago (in 2012).

Type 3: recognized experimental initiatives in Turkey, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Greece and Algeria.

In these five countries, there are from 1 (in Algeria) to 10 functioning groups (in Turkey). Some have a long experience of a CSA -like model, like the Sharaka group in Palestine, which was established in 2000. Most however have been recently created and are slowly disseminating. In Morocco, the first groups were formed in 2008-2009, and there are now 5 CSA initiatives in the country. According to the RIAM, the Network of Agroecological Initiatives in Morocco, which is the coordinating organization in the country and is able to provide a thorough assessment of the situation, there would be around 20 more ecological solidarity-based partnerships beside these 5 CSA[3]. Torba, in the suburbs of Algiers, created in 2015, is now accompanying the creation of 2 more initiatives. The atmosphere in these initiatives, as described in the country reports, is dominated by the feeling that the model appropriate to the local context still needs to be developed. There is a will to focus on consolidating sound initiatives rather than multiplying unbalanced partnerships, as this could in the end prove detrimental to the whole movement. These experimental initiatives are almost all unique: some are based on a written contract, others are not; some work with upfront payment, others have no contractual agreement, but are trust -based; some are order -based, others work with the same share for everyone…

Type 4: embryonic movements in Egypt, Tunisia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

In these three countries, the informants were unable to identify any existing CSA. However, this does not imply that there are no the dynamics of a local, organic food movement: organic festivals for small farmers in FYROM have been very successful, while at the same time, an NGO called Nawaya has been instrumental in multiplying farmers’ markets and farm visits in Cairo, Egypt. The concept of CSA is known in all these countries, and there are some field actors who have been planning its implementation, but the spark to initiate the practical dynamics of implementation has been missing until now.

UR_Med CSA ChartChart 2- Number of identified CSA initiatives the Mediterranean countries.

3- Common values

There is a common ground to all these initiatives, whatever the context where they are growing might be. First of all, they all support farmers who have consciously adopted agroecological practices as defined by the 2015 Nyeleni Declaration:

The production practices of agroecology (such as intercropping, traditional fishing and mobile pastoralism, integrating crops, trees, livestock and fish, manuring, compost, local   seeds and animal breeds, etc.) are based on ecological principles like building life in the   soil, recycling nutrients, the dynamic management of biodiversity and energy conservation at all scales.  Agroecology drastically reduces our use of externally-purchased inputs that must be bought from industry.  There is no use of agrotoxics, artificial hormones, GMOs or other dangerous new technologies in agroecology”[4].

The protection of traditional, heirloom seeds is a top priority concern to all these movements, as well as the principle of caring for the soil and the nature. The dimension of solidarity is also present in all initiatives, as is the concern for a way of life that preserves humans and planet.

Secondly, the feeling of solidarity towards the farmers, and the belief that the farmers’ economic position needs to be prioritised and consolidated within the food chain, is also shared by all these movements. There is a common will to “help smallholders”. The direct relationship, the fact of being in direct contact with the producer are perceived as major assets of this model in the group members’ eyes. This is expressed in some of the countries through supporting the concept of Food Sovereignty, as it also includes all these issues.

Thirdly, there is a common principle of repairing broken social links and reconnecting people with food production. In some countries (Lebanon, Greece, Algeria), the commitment to the CSA model is closely related to a commitment to support the most fragile sectors of society including the refugees.

4- Challenges

There are many factors that challenge the development of CSA and other ecological solidarity-based food partnerships. If we consider the two sides of the producers-consumers partnership, they are facing slightly different issues: there is a lack of training on the producers’ side, both in terms of production and in terms of communicating with a consumer group; on the consumers’ side, there is a lack of information and commitment. The information that there is an alternative to the traditional market places (souks) dominated by middlemen, an alternative that is beneficial for farmers, is still not public knowledge in most of the countries (except France and Italy). There is a further challenge of raising awareness of the full meaning of Agroecology.

The cost of local organic products can also be an obstacle. It is important to raise awareness on the additional cost of agriculture that does not externalise costs, and is based on natural methods. Yet, more thorough studies on prices could result in interesting surprises.

Finally, another obstacle is the reduced access to healthy, unpolluted Commons and natural resources: seeds, soil, water are all scarce resources all around the Mediterranean Sea. They are increasingly grabbed by large-scale corporate actors, whereas they should remain at the disposal of small holders, who are the most able to use them in a sustainable way.

5- Actions to overcome these challenges

The most immediate way to overcome these challenges is to multiply experience sharing programs, to learn from others’ initiatives. These kind of programs have been conducted by Urgenci in Europe on a large scale during the last 5 years and have probably contributed to the growth of the movement in the Northern Mediterranean shore countries.

Longer and more permanent mentoring and training activities in agroecology, permaculture, but also CSA group training (Urgenci has now a substantial experience in this field), would be very beneficial. Field actors are even calling for the creation of farm incubators, alongside participatory Open Source learning programs.

Thanks to their influence, international organizations (like the FAO) could play a key role in raising the awareness at the level of local public authorities and convincing them to communicate about the social and economic benefits of food partnerships. Furthermore, they could support further the collection of in-depth information about the CSA movements in the region. In particular, the questionnaire used for the European census could be used for all the existing CSA groups around the Mediterranean Sea, in order to provide homogenous data.

Apart from supporting CSA information campaigns, local public authorities should also support the creation of local CSA networks. In a longer term perspective, public authorities should reconsider public procurement strategies and promote local food platforms in order to valorize local food in schools, public administrations and hospitals.


[1]    Ministère de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche maritime, L’agriculture marocaine en chiffres, 2014.

[2]    Census conducted by the Miramap in 2014, published in 2015.

[3]    The RIAM provided a very detailed assessment of the situation in Morocco. The document is available full-length in the annexes and could serve as a basis for further assessments.

[4]    International Forum on Agroecology, Final Declaration, 2015.