[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