Can we live on agriculture in small-scale spaces?

Filippo Dattola had worked in in IT in Bologna (Italy) for 10 years. He landed in Brussels nearly 8 years ago, where he developed an interest in soil, became a fan of urban agriculture and began to look for answers to the question: ‘Can we live on agriculture in small-scale spaces?’.

After some research he realised that the only possible way to answer to this question could be found by creating projects, examples that could speak more than thousands of words. Action was needed, an example of which is one of the greatest drivers of change. In 2012 he launched his first project via an association: a biological garden on the rooftop of the Belgian National Library, 50 metres above land and at the very heart of Brussels (see picture). Produce never made people wait too long: 500kg of vegetables in 500 bags, each with a depth of +/- 30 cm and full of earthworms. After only 2 years, he was able to make do without the public subsidies allocated to the project, and he was able to pay his volunteers with the direct sales of the vegetable production. This shows that soil can even be generous in “precarious” situations: where there is earth, there is life! Continua a leggere “Can we live on agriculture in small-scale spaces?”

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The first Agroecology Europe Forum

In 2014, the FAO in Rome hosted the first International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition . In the wake of the symposium, several follow-up meetings were organised, also at the FAO’s initiative, on several continents. In Europe, the meeting was held in Lyon (France) on 25-27 October 2017, within the prestigious Isara University. Over 300 guests, representing farmers, technicians, researchers, students, national and international public institutions, civil society and NGOs attended this first Agroecology Europe Forum.

As a reminder, agroecology is understood as the implementation of ecological principles to agriculture, whether to produce food or other products, all of which is based on the management of agrosystems. This word encapsulates an agricultural concept whereby the scientific and social components of the ecosystem are taken into account. In other words, it is about creating a sustainable way of farming, able to feed the growing world population without jeopardising the environment and its natural resources. Naturally, it must also bring about economic viability to the farmers. The fundamental binding factor here is the soil. Continua a leggere “The first Agroecology Europe Forum”

Social Soil (Romania)

Nowadays, when we think of the word “farmer”, we often think of subsistence agriculture, picturing a farmer working the soil with much backbreaking toil. Yet, this word has a very strong semantic value. When translated from the French word “paysan”, it is associated with the landscape (“paysage”), and therefore with the land or country (“pays”) and there is no village or landscape without its farmer. Therefore it is only legitimate to not only take into account the economic and productive value of farming, but also its social and cultural value.

With regard to soil and land, a farmer must make sure his natural resources are safeguarded, he cannot simply exploit them, or they would not regenerate. For this reason, many organisations over Europe seek to defend land and fight to preserve it. These fights can focus on defending and maintaining farming land or for their change of use, against overbuilding, deforestation or the use of pollutants…and the list goes on. Continua a leggere “Social Soil (Romania)”

A guide to social agriculture in the Lazio region (Italy)

The article on social agriculture in the previous newsletter caught some of our readers’ eye. We were forwarded a book published by the Lazio region, which contains important information on social agricultural communities in Lazio, starting with the famous Capodarco. The new version of the “Guide to Social Agriculture – Lazio” dates from 2015 and shows how much this practice has increased compared to 2011. Starting from 36 in the previous version, the current version presents a total of 96 established communities (not counting an extra 50 or so, who did not respond to the questionnaire). This shows that many young people have returned to agriculture. People who, perhaps due to the economic recession, make social agriculture into an occupation and at the same time are motivated to protect soil, land and values of a human and supportive society. Continua a leggere “A guide to social agriculture in the Lazio region (Italy)”

When farmers are supermarket owners (France)

When we enter a supermarket, we become the final ring of a chain, which starts from the farmer, works its way through other commercial actors, and ends on the counter in front of our very eyes. The first “ring”, the farmer is in the least favourable position. His or her production must be approved by market law… technically by those who control commercial networks and sales. It is not a coincidence that the mafia have taken control of this “space” in the commercial chain which ensures high revenue, and at the same time gains agricultural land in order to speculate on recycling capital. Continua a leggere “When farmers are supermarket owners (France)”

Mondeggi – turning the “soil, common good” concept into reality

Those of you who have read Marco Cappato’s recent book entitled “Credere, disobbedire, combattere” (Believe, disobey, fight) you will have seen examples which reflect the saying “obedience is no longer a virtue”[1]. Our current society, one steered towards profit, needs to develop courage to prove that “another world is possible”. Putting ideas that are seen as idealistic or visionary and aimed at preserving human dignity into practice, is the real challenge we must face, and that future generations must solve.

“Soil, a common good” is one of these concepts: it is abstract on the outside, however it sums up its crucial impact on our lives. It indicates how a sustainable use of soil is a matter of urgency. If we want a society, which can be economically viable in the short run and sustainable in the long run, biophysical and socio-economic factors must inevitably go hand in hand. Human beings have full responsibility for this approach, as future soil degradation as well as its protection both depend on it. Continua a leggere “Mondeggi – turning the “soil, common good” concept into reality”

Soil is Life! – World Soil Day in Brussels

Soil has always been regarded as a specialists’ matter. Its “World Day” sees a series of initiatives in which only those who “work in the area” tend to participate.

The SIP Forum together through its Soil Europe Group opted for a different approach this year. They presented soil to those who do not know anything about it, by using simple language and clear means of communication.

Thanks to the availability and support of the Italian Institute of Culture (IIC) in Brussels, an event based on storytelling, videos, music and experiences took place. Professional and amateur actors, researchers, volunteers: a group of over 10 people took the floor of the IIC theatre. Spectators were encouraged to take part in the performances. The idea was to communicate via discussion and laughter, by exploring possible solutions and not constantly sharing catastrophic numbers on the soil’s condition. The event was therefore divided in two main parts: describing problems related to soil; and considering possible solutions and practical examples, some of which exist already and are not very well-known. This latter part was led by a series of youngsters who practice highly sustainable agriculture.

Further details: https://goo.gl/kfNsF4

Event Videos: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC1LOG1_txKvqwqSc05LxG8T5VQvDztib

Special issue on soil by the National Rural Network

The National Rural Network programme is a tool for development projects of the European Union for the rural world. In Italy it is cofounded by the European Commission, via its European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policies. The national rural network (Rete Rurale Nazionale – RRN in Italian) is present in every Italian region. Its work also involves publishing a magazine that, from 1 September, has a new name and typeset: it is no longer Pianeta PSR (in English: Planet PSR) but RRN Magazine. Published on a quarterly basis, its topics are related to rural development policies.

We are drawing your attention to it because the first number of this new edition is entirely devoted to soil. It analyses many different aspects and different viewpoints, international perspectives, saline soils, etc. It does not aim to point out solutions from an academic point of view: it pragmatically shows reflections and potential aspects to be developed further. It is a tool which deals with issues related to soil and rural development: the magazine is around 60 pages long.

This can be downloaded for free from the link to be found at the bottom of the RRN website .