URBAN AGRICULTURE – 50 actors gathered for the MADRE Transnational Working Group

Country: Euromed, Europe
Activity: Agribusiness, Other or not specified

The second transnational working group on farmer’s innovation of the European project MADRE – Metropolitan Agriculture for innovative, sustainable and Responsible Economy took place on 8 et 9 November 2017.

Organised by ANIMA Investment Network, in partnership with AVITEM, the event gathered key actors of the Aix-Marseille Provence Metropolis, as well as stakeholders from 5 others metropolises partaking in the MADRE project. They participated in presentations, workshops and field visits in Marseille and Aubagne. This event was held in the framework of the 1st edition of the Mediterranean Urban Agriculture Days. 


Transnational Working Groups aim at gathering partners and stakeholders from each territory to initiate a transnational cluster on Metropolitan Agriculture. It will also increase the design and implementation of proactive policies supporting farmers.


Each MADRE partner presented its own metropolitan context, while the accompanying stakeholders introduced themselves and their activities related to farmers’ innovation.


During these two days, the MADRE Transnational Working Group, animated by ANIMA and AVITEM focused on 3 common issues for farmers’ innovation in urban and peri-urban areas in the Mediterranean: economic model of enterprises; opportunities for collective organisation, capacity-building and support of current farmers and newcomers. Divided into small groups to invite for more interaction, participants managed to enrich future policy recommendations of the MADRE project.


They were also taken on field visits to meet the farmers of leading urban and peri-urban agriculture projects in the Aix-Marseille Provence Metropolis: the urban farm Terres de Mars in Marseille; the last organic market garden farm of La Destrousse owned by Marie-Helène Di Ruzza; the collective outlet “Chez les Producteurs” in Aubagne; and the presentation of support services to farmers by the Centre d’études techniques agricoles of Pays d’Aubagne. 


After participants shared their concrete experiences, conclusions were reached in order to define common solutions to the needs and constraints of Mediterranean metropolises and to formulate policy recommendations for the development of urban and peri-urban agriculture:


-    Economic model of urban and peri-urban farming businesses and development of added value activities 


Sustainable water and waste management are a prerequisite for the birth of this new economy. Consumers’ buy-in is also essential for the economic development of these initiatives, based on an approach of circular economy, cultural transformation, inter-generational transfer of knowledge and protection of varieties. Outsourcing certain functions and networking farmers are crucial for their economic sustainability.


In order to enable them to demonstrate their full economic potential, they should benefit from an appropriate regulatory framework, access to land at an affordable price, and public support as pilot projects. Beyond their own activity, these businesses make a sustainable contribution to the functioning of Mediterranean metropolises.


-    Collective organisation of farmers to access larger markets and share costs 


Several forms of collective organisation are possible for urban and peri-urban farmers: collective outlets, farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture networks, cooperatives (for the use of farm equipment or other), web distribution platform, etc.


The main factors hindering the collective organisation of farmers are practical (lack of time, remoteness, logistical issues) and behavioural (habits, lack of confidence, conflict between collective and individual interests, etc.). However, they need to pool their costs, to access relevant information and specific training, to benefit from communication resources (marketing and branding strategies), and to be networked. These services require human resources for animation, as well as sustainable financial resources (public and private).


However, urban and peri-urban agriculture initiatives are suffering from a lack of consideration from policy makers and do no benefit from the necessary legal framework, public support, access to land and logistical infrastructure. The administrative burden of procedures can also hamper the collective organisation of producers. Access to public procurement contracts for collective catering should also be facilitated in order to encourage their development.


This would contribute to increasing their visibility with the general public, especially future generations. The development of farmers’ markets supported by local authorities would also be a means of reinforcing the link between farmers and consumers. Finally, farmers’ organisations could play a role in traceability, certification and fight against unfair competition in order to guarantee the quality of products in these local supply chains.


Indeed, the Mediterranean climate offers a diversified production throughout the year, ensuring self-sufficiency of supplies. The matching of supply and demand should therefore be encouraged via material and immaterial distribution channels, such as web and mobile distribution platforms.


-    Capacity building and support services for current farmers and newcomers 


The main constraints to the capacity building for current and new farmers are access to vocational training specific to urban and peri-urban agriculture and lack of governance in this field. These initiatives however require a good understanding of the legal framework and possible statutes, as well as skills in targeted areas (soil pollution, innovative techniques, external factors, etc.).
Among the Mediterranean synergies, participants put forward fertile ecosystems, needs to adapt to climate change (water and soil issues, fire problems…), family culture, the need for experts and mentors to assist farmers in their development, and the lack of legal definition of urban farmers.


The organisation of events, the sharing of knowledge (especially through social networks), as well as the implementation of more extensive trainings on specific topics (climate change, organic farming, permaculture and marketing) and of mentoring schemes, were highlighted as the main solutions for strengthening the skills of current and new farmers. Other innovative ideas for support services to producers were mentioned: DIY testing platforms, locally responsible labels, soil pollution labs, etc.


You will find here the summary report of these 2 days in pictures, with links to the speakers' presentations.

And here the thematic report of this Working Group.  


Until July 2018, the MADRE project will pursue its actions aimed at raising policy recommendations and encouraging the emergence of a Mediterranean network of metropolitan clusters for the development of urban and peri-urban agriculture. 


For more information you can download the project brochure and visit the project website.

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