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Common Agriculture and Food Policy for Radical Ecological Change

Article of URGENCI

URGENCI, the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)1 network and its national members from 12 European countries held an advocacy capacity building session in Brussels. This training session took place on the 14th, 15th, 16th of May. CSA advocates had an unprecedented opportunity to share experience and to refine their key messages.

URGENCI and its members believe it is high time to raise the voices of CSA. In the run up to the European elections, candidates should listen carefully to the voices of this grassroots movements. The specificity of CSA is that it is a concrete step towards a new social contract between producers and the societies they feedexplains Mathias von Mirbach, a CSA farmer from Germany. CSA is one of the most effective tools to help sustainable family farmers and conscious consumers regain control of local and territorial food systems.The CSA model is highly efficient when it comes to fighting food waste, preserving cultivated agro-biodiversity and consolidating local economies and employment. The nutrition provided by fresh, local agroecologically grown fruit and vegetables is now recognised as essential in fighting Non Communicable Disesases (NCDs) such as diabetes, obesity and heart problems and cancer. CSA initiatives therefore make a direct contribution to improving the health of European citizens. Its social and environmental contributions should be more clearly recognised. Direct payments and other measures of direct support should be directed towards producers who sell locally through CSA and other direct schemes.

These voices join the vibrant call for a Common Food Policy: there is a urgent need to repair the lack of coherence between policies implemented by the different DGs of the European Commission. We need to connect agriculture with health and nutrition, social inclusion and the environment. It is vital for thousands of CSA farms across Europe to ensure that agroecology and sustainability are promoted as overarching principles, and are prioritised over industrial agriculture, competition and corporate profits. “As part of the Nyeleni Europe Movement for Food Sovereignty, we in URGENCI are convinced that it is equally essential to ensure small-scale agroecological producers are at the core of this radical change towards a Common Food Policy, and ensure European citizens have access to healthy, nutritious food”, stresses Isabel Alvarez, Vice-President of URGENCI.

Now is the time for radical change. A change that is already well under way in the CSA. movement.

Contact: Jocelyn Parot, +33 6 84 68 52 82, jocelyn.parot@urgenci.net, www.urgenci.net

1Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a direct partnership between people and one or severalproducer(s), whereby the risks, responsibilities and rewards of farming are shared, through a long-term, binding agreement.

Strengthening local agriculture with local currencies
wikipedia

by Gaëlle Bigler (FRACP / URGENCI) & Jean Rossiaud (Monnaie Léman / APRES-GE)

In the last issue of the RIPESS-Europe Newsletter, we proposed to open a regular section / blog on the issue of “local currencies”,  to explain the advantages and challenges of this tool in the service of the social and solidarity economy and the issues that arise both locally and internationally in its development. We also took the risk of longer articles, allowing us to discuss more in depth this new and complex issue. The first article focused on the example of the Leman, the currency of the Franco-Swiss living area around Lake Geneva, its guarantee fund and its mutual credit system, its notes and blockchain.

The idea is to build on our grassroot experience, to imagine how to build, both transnationally and in other ever-changing local geographical contexts, synergies between SSE sectors and local currencies: the local currency can serve as an instrument both for building economic sectors (agriculture, IT, construction, etc.) and for promoting exchanges between SSE sectors, and between them and public authorities.

In this issue, Gaëlle Bigler and Jean Rossiaud co-authored this second article laying the foundations for a reflection on the relevance of the use of complementary currencies in the development of agro-ecological agriculture, starting from their own land, French-speaking Switzerland.

***

As presented in the previous article, like many other local currencies, the Leman was created to respond locally to two contemporary global systemic crises: the financial crisis and the climate crisis. The purpose of citizen money is to give a real territorial identity to the so-called transition economy, a post-extractivist (post-carbon, post-nuclear) and post-speculative economy. It offers an immediate and concrete solution to relocate production and consumption and direct them towards greater sustainability. It promotes the development of a dense network of companies, businesses, consumers and public authorities that share these principles, ethics and ideas of citizenship and commitment. As a Eusko spokesman said: when you take your Eusko note out to pay, it is the “transition identity card” that you display. Consuming healthy food as close as possible to home, from known sources, which we may have contributed to producing or distributing, is an action that benefits from being integrated and articulated in a broader economic and financial perspective.

Since 2008, the Fédération Romande des ACP (FRACP) has brought together some thirty initiatives from all over French-speaking Switzerland. Originally “ACP” refers to Local Contractual Agriculture, and by extension, ACP is used for any initiative, association or cooperative that enters into a partnership approach between a group of citizens and local producers for a social, economic and solidarity commitment. This reciprocal commitment allows you to receive, generally every week, the products for which you have signed a contract. It is a system of short circuit sales, without intermediaries between producer and eater.

FRACP’s missions are to bring together, i. e. to strengthen links between ACP; to accompany, i. e. to share knowledge; to support new ACP and those in difficulty; and to promote, i. e. to raise awareness and defend the ACP model among the public as well as public authorities.

For several years now, FRACP has been an active member of the international network Urgenci for citizen-supported agriculture. Indeed, the models developed in Switzerland correspond to the definition developed jointly by the members of some twenty countries: Citizen-supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership based on direct human relations between consumers and one or more producers, where the risks, responsibilities and benefits of agricultural work are shared as part of a long-term mutual commitment.

The Urgenci network itself is very active in the movement for food sovereignty and in the promotion of local and solidarity partnerships, particularly within the Intercontinental Network for the Promotion of the Social and Solidarity Economy.

This commitment to the development of local, ecological, social, solidarity-based and human-scale agriculture to ensure food sovereignty has led FRACP to participate in various events at the local level, such as the day of reflection coordinated by the Feeding the City of Geneva programme, the campaign to add an article on food sovereignty to the Swiss constitution; and at the international level: participation in the drafting of a book on local and solidarity-based agricultural partnerships, as well as the co-writing of the European Declaration on Agriculture supported by citizens, etc.

Among the various work themes, both at local and international level, is the question of the development of sectors. How to integrate bakers, butchers and other artisans working upstream or downstream of agricultural production into the ACP? How can we better integrate eaters, decision-makers and people involved in the food processing into our approach, which means asking ourselves how to strengthen a social and solidarity-based economy in our territory. And this is where the local currency should be considered as a simple and effective tool to answer these questions.

The local currency offers solutions that address ACP concerns:

  • as eaters, we are also citizens and economic actors who have a strong interest in strengthening the coherence of our approach
  • Producers, people involved in the food processing and grocery retailers also have a strong interest in demonstrating their commitment to the agricultural and solidarity transition by accepting local currency. Signing the membership charter allows them to appear on a georeferenced map and thus increase their visibility in the face of a growing audience of responsible consumers.
  • It is in the interest of public authorities to keep agricultural enterpises, artesans or small processing enterprises on their territory, which contribute to social life and collect local taxes.

From a financial point of view, the local currency multiplies your ability to act on the system you are trying to promote and creates more wealth:

  • When you change 100 euros into local currency, your 100 euros will add to the guarantee fund, which is made available for investments in the transition economy. In fact, you have saved 100 euros for projects of collective interest and you have received enough to consume 100 euros in local products, often of much better quality than industrial products.
  • The circulation speed of a local currency is estimated to be 5 to 6 times faster than the circulation speed of a currency; that is, it produces 5 to 6 times more wealth in the real economy.

Secondly, the local currency reduces your involuntary or sometimes unconscious participation in the global economic system that you often find harmful: it is impossible to speculate with euskos, Bristol Pounds or lémans on the financial markets of New York or Hong Kong, while with your money in your bank account, this is what is constantly done. Your banker then takes more risk with your money and contributes, through the constant search for financial return, to the overproduction and overconsumption of the planet, which destroys the planet as much as societies. Everything you seek to thwart by eating local and healthy food.

Moreover, the local currency, because it cannot be exchanged into a foreign currency without costs, requires the search for suppliers and therefore the integration of the production to consumption chains. And that is what is most important. By stimulating the construction of a dense network of local companies, terrirories become very resilient to systemic crises such as the 1929 or 2008 crises. These financial crises do not become economic crises mainly because they dry up credit. Without liquidity, there is no longer any possibility of paying suppliers, no possibility of producing for its customers, and no possibility of meeting a demand that is nevertheless solvent, and serial bankruptcies of entire sectors of the economy. One only has to study the Argentine or Greek crises to be convinced of this.

The local currency when it functions like the Leman in pooled credit allows each company to have permanent credit lines automatically opened in the event of a liquidity crisis. In addition, in the event of excess stock, the same network can be activated for destocking.

That is why local currency is an excellent tool to strengthen mechanical solidarity in the production to consumption chains, from seed to bread,, from barley to pint in our favourite pub

SSE is still too often compartmentalized. Everyone cultivates his/her own garden and collects his/her best practices in well sealed silos. Yet the economy, by definition, is a system. And not every system is good, because it is a system. It is up to us to build an ecological, social and solidarity-based system that allows us to produce more and more healthy products as close as possible to home.

It is in this spirit that the Leman and the FRACP are starting a reflection on collaborations and synergies to be developed between local currencies and sustainable food. Here are the first themes we have identified:

  • reflection in terms of production to consumption chains, for each type of agricultural product: from seed to production, from production to processing, from processing to distribution, from distribution to consumption,
  • reflection within the framework of the “Eating Cities” Programme: starting from neighbourhood territories and municipalities to build short circuits and be part of the transition,
  • reflection to be carried out on the involvement of local authorities both as economic actors in short circuits; and as public authorities, in the context of public policies in the fields of agriculture, economic promotion, food and health (canteens), sustainable development and taxation.
  • role of the multi-currency purse, Biletujo (purse in Esperanto), for the import of products produced in other territories, or the export of products typically produced here.
  • reflection on the importance of networking and anchoring this reflection in the institutional framework of the SSE, and at the international level with RIPESS, but also beyond, by addressing economic actors who do not recognize themselves in the SSE, but who nevertheless share its philosophy by working on the agricultural, energy and economic transition.

We will certainly resume these reflections in a future article. Your comments and questions will guide the contents.

New energies and a new team in the URGENCI International Committee

Press Release, 12 November 2018

Over 300 URGENCI International Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) network delegates representing over 2 million members from all over the world have just spent three days gathered in Thessaloniki (Greece) for the 7th Urgenci International CSA network meeting, as well as the 4th European gathering and the 2nd Mediterranean Network meeting.

The first day was devoted to three international tracks, covering food justice and solidarity economy, advocacy, and practitioners topics.

These tracks were carried over into the second day which included 30 different workshops on the above, as well as dedicated tracks for the Mediterranean network, Community Supported Fisheries, a beginner’s track, experience sharing, network building, training and social justice. The broad alliances and coalitions that URGENCI has built over several years were echoed in many sessions, as was the need for improved communication on all our many achievements and work.

The rich contents and enthusiasm as well as open-mindedness and respect were all reflected in the third day’s work dedicated to URGENCI’s General Assembly, where a new three-year plan was drawn up. This is also a reflection of the coming of age of URGENCI as a globally recognised social movement and of the increasingly democratic and participatory governance.

The General Assembly also considered how to ensure financial stability through a new membership fee structure that will allow the network to withstand the pressures of potential project shortfalls and financial crises that could result from the current project-based model, and build a new approach was adopted to progressively build collective resilience.

The freshly elected International Committee is a good reflection of URGENCI’s will to continue to grow as an even more inclusive and collective effort. It is a younger and more diverse team than ever before, while still reflecting the producer-consumer as well as gender balance that are also part of Urgenci’s core values. It includes Judith Hitchman (Ireland), and Shi Yan (China) as co-presidents, Isa Alvarez (Spain) as vice-president, and Denis Carel (France), Ariel Molina (Brazil), Qiana Mickie (US), Veikko Heinz (Germany), Simon Todzro (Togo), and Shimpei Murakami (Japan). Zsofia Perenyi (Hungary) was re-elected as Special Expert on Education and Training. The spontaneous creation of a new Special Representative for Community Supported Fisheries is the mirror of the strong enthusiasm and determination to build a sister network under the URGENCI banner on this theme. Community Supported Fisheries are already well developed in North America, and are increasingly recognised in Europe! And Elizabeth Henderson (US) will also continue as URGENCI’s Honorary President.

The new work plan includes specific focus on each continent, with key topics that will develop into new project proposals and actions in the course of the next three years.

All this work was made possible by the dedicated Steering Committee and the local team of AGROECOPOLIS led by Jenny Gkiougki. Many side activities were led, ranging from some very beautiful artwork that consisted of printing postcards to be sent to the FAO, customising t-shirts, and a seed mandala-seed swap. The meeting was also supported by a group of 20 volunteer professional interpreters, and the COATI alternative interpretation systems team, who made the communication possible. They are key actors in all major social movement meetings, and help make our work across borders possible!

Thessaloniki, Greece: Community Supported Agriculture beyond borders
Urgenci Thessaloniki

We are local small-scale peasant farmers and eaters engaged in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a direct partnership where the risks, responsibilities and rewards of farming are shared.

CSA is part of our daily experience of creating a genuine alternative to the current economic system, where the decision-making power of food production and distribution is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few financial investors. But we believe even more is at stake.

We believe CSA is a prefiguration of the new social contract between food producers and the communities they are feeding. The European Declaration of CSA, adopted at the last European meeting in September 2016 is a decisive step forward in sharing our proposals. It is a roadmap.

The European CSA movement has come a long way, but much work still remains to be done. Where do we stand when we look at our initial promises? Saving farms, fostering local economies and jobs that cannot be relocated, healing social and environmental wounds, repairing the broken links between different communities, rebuilding social cohesion: what are our achievements? What are our remaining and new key challenges?

The meeting is scheduled to take place 9-11 November 2018 in Thessaloniki.

More information at : https://thessaloniki.urgenci.net/about/

Be part of CSA!
December 16, 2016
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Be part of a CSA booklet

The “Be part of CSA!” project – a European Participatory Training Programme for Community Supported Agriculture – has been designed to spread widely CSA initiatives by providing knowledge, skills and competences to local communities in Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania, and disseminates its outcomes at the European level.  The Booklet is here to introduce the fundamentals; the Trainers’ Guide is intended as supplementing material for trainers, multipliers and facilitators to organise the agenda of each training session, providing them with educational materials and training techniques not always directly connected to CSA, but that partners thought relevant to the project.

More info and download the guide (in English) here.

The European CSA Declaration adopted in Ostrava!
October 7, 2016
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Ostrava (CZ) - 3rd European CSA meeting

150 participants and volunteers from 25 countries gathered from Sept 16th -18th in Provoz Hlubina (Ostrava, CZ) for the 3rd European meeting on CSA.

The gathering took place in a former coal mine and steel works that has been reconverted into a conference and cultural centre. It provides an interesting background for non-profit activities and cultural events for those who are interested in actively changing society in a post-industrial era! Ostrava and its region is actually the area in the Czech Republic with the second highest number of CSAs.

Read more

China’s rural future: regenerating farming and the economy
December 20, 2015
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[by Jason Nardi, Solidarius / RIPESS Europe]

Something extraordinary has been taking place in China in the last 10-15 years, a sort of new cultural revolution, not led by the central government but by a new generation of young (and less young) peasants and scholars. Collaborative and cooperative small-scale Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms and hybrid forms of collective vegetable gardens for “weekend farmers” and urban Farmers’ Markets are at the basis of this movement, which is sprouting rapidly and looks very promising.

In mid November 2015, the 7th Chinese national CSA conference took place together with the 6th Urgenci International Symposium, in the Shunyi district, in the periphery of Beijing, proposed as a ‘Slow Living’ region of China. Under the banner of “New Rural Regeneration”, the focus was on re-connecting rural and urban dwellers, short supply chains, “fair trade” and the “CSA‘s potential in mitigating both climate issues and food insecurity”.

The new Rural Regeneration is attracting young, highly qualified urban dwellers back to the land, bringing new energy and inspiration to rural areas that have been abandoned and depressed. The new farmers are inspired by the ecological and social innovation of this movement that combines producing healthy, organic food with a real economic alternative to the dominant agro-chemical industrial system. As explained by the organisers, “Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a movement that has taken hold independently in many countries around the world and shows how consumers and farmers in various places are responding to the same global pressures. CSA offers one of the most hopeful alternatives to the downward spiral, and is the only model of farming in which consumers accept to share the risks and benefits with farmers. It provides mutual benefits and reconnects people to the land where their food is grown”.

In the last 5 years, more than 800 CSA initiatives have sprung to life around China, thanks to the work of a growing network of young, new farmers. The International Conference was organised by Dr. Shi Yan, a founder of the CSAs movement in China and vice-President of URGENCI network, and her team from the “Shared Harvest” CSA farms, in conjunction with the Tsinghua University and the support of the municipal government of Shunyi District. Some 66 foreign guests from 28 different countries participated, as well as more than 600 Chinese, mostly young attendees. URGENCI is the international network of these CSA movements (which have different names in different regions), seeking to unite the farmers and consumers whose actions on a local level are benefiting the global community and ecosystems. The network also introduces the principles of the CSA model to communities where it has not yet taken hold, and builds alliances with grassroots partners with whom we share the ambition of achieving local Food Sovereignty, preserving biodiversity and working towards food justice. Urgenci held its General Assembly on Sunday 22 November, with a live and vibrant participation, a growing young network with 36 different countries represented at the GA. Read more

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