From eco-activism to Food Sovereignty and beyond…

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

Is Economic Crisis real? How can Greece get over it?

The Problem: 

Political emancipation and turn towards sustainable, agroecological practices are hard to muster

The Solution: 

Agroecology Food Sovereignty Community Supported Agriculture Solidarity and Activism

Channels: 

In my previous article I told the story of the ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ that got me where I am today. Currently, the following is (mainly) what I am busy with:

URGENCI – The Global Network for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Since June 2015 I am a member of the Urgenci kernel -the steering committee for the European part of the movement, and the European Research Group on CSA -with which we conducted the first ever European census on CSA -the report can be found here. Our second major undertaking for 2015-2016 was the creation of a European Declaration on CSA. This involved the research group drafting a first proposal which we had to take back to our respective countries for consultations and then collectivise everything again and come up with a final draft that was formally presented at the third European meeting on CSA (the report on that will be out soon, but here you can find out more about what we did in Ostrava). Here is the declaration and this is footage from the historical moment of its first announcement:

The writing process for the declaration gave me the chance to organise a two-day event where those already working in CSAs in Greece had the chance to meet in person for the first time -a valuable experience. We also held ‘a CSA open day’ where a team of experts (accountant, lawyer, personal growth coach, farmers, CSA coordinators) had the chance to explain various aspects of the CSA idea.

I am also very glad to say I was part in the inaugural meeting for the Mediterranean Network for Local-Based Solidarity Partnerships which we hope will strengthen the ties between our countries and projects.

Action Research through participatory video making

In the capacity of co-facilitator I am working together with Christabel Buchanan -from the Coventry Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience, on ‘Real Food Utopias’: an action research project mapping and tracking alternative food systems and economies in and around Thessaloniki. We made an open call inviting individuals from a variety of formal and informal groups. Through this process we came up collectively with a series of themes to be further explored. We then held training sessions on participatory video-making (from story boarding to collective editing) and then formed working groups for each theme. Then we organise public showings to get feedback and to instigate discussion and hopefully action by community members -like the creation of a Food Policy Council.

Currently the themes we are working on are:

-alternative currencies and food economies;
-a look into peri-urban gardening in terms of autonomy and
-the production cycle of vegetables as opposed to that of chicken farming within the project;
-lessons learnt and struggles of existing projects: a critical view on hindrances to growth; -presentation of a social cooperative enterprise.

The first videos are in the final editing process and will be ready soon. This is an ongoing project and you will be able to find out more about it here as we continue uploading information and new developments.

Refugee Food Journeys

As we all know Greece has been struck the hardest from the influx of refugees in recent years and we felt we needed to include them in our quest for food sovereignty. This part of our research focuses on matters of food consumption and food waste in refugee camps. This is our  first video on this issue:

Solidarity Exports

Together with Antonis Diamantidis, a fellow food sovereignty activist, farmer, and organiser of a CSA group of producers called ‘Corinthian Orchard’ we have just launched this scheme aiming to create direct links between small agroecological producers of Greece and CSAs, food coops etc in other European countries by providing each party with what they need in a fair and respectful way. Our goal is to not compete with the local farmers and thus we will only export produce that is consumed but does not grow in their regions -like citrus fruits and olive oil. Through this we will be actively supporting small Greek farmers, who suffer from land fragmentation and stand...at the bottom of the food chain with respect to the markets and the middlemen. We are also hoping to include ‘ugly fruits’ in this scheme raising even more awareness on food dumping/waste/loss issues. For more information on this please look here or write to antonis@perivolikorinthou.gr

Hellenic Network for Agroecology, Food Sovereignty and Access to Land

Since the crisis begun, it is becoming increasingly difficult to do anything in a formal, legal way. This is one of the main reasons why most groups here operate under the radar -which on the other hand is not necessarily a bad thing. But this means that growth comes in relatively slow steps and is hindered by the lack of access to funds and other resources. For example, setting up an NGO costs around €1000 and has an annual €1000 ‘trade tax’ (literally a levy to allow you to do business) -this applies to social enterprises too. And although this is not as bad as having to prepay 100% of next year’s taxation like with most small businesses (or 50% for farmers) it still might pose a problem for people who want to do exactly that: do something without business profit in mind.

So in this context, I am happy to announce that we are currently in the process of setting up our grass-roots non-profit organisation to to help us with our endeavours in these fields. What we have in mind is summarized in the following fields of action:

  • Assist in the creation of a movement on food sovereignty in Greece; link existing initiatives with each other and with similar projects abroad; and promote FS in all ways possible.

  • In collaboration with other European partners (like La Via Campesina and CAWR) set up (a network of) Agroecological Training centres and knowledge exchange hubs. We need to find ways to make our farmers independent form fertiliser companies (even if organic), seed producers and certifying organisations. We need farmers who can stand on their own feet, be self sufficient and knowledgeable to deal with eventualities by using what nature provides.

  • Save Greek agricultural land from the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund and ensure its utilization through concession or purchase by our group in the context of communal ownership. This will be a major undertaking ensuring the right of small agroecological farmers to have access to land and safeguarding the land’s status as a common good.

  • Increase awareness and offer technical support, training, and tools to create CSA schemes around the country.

  • Promote the creation of Food Policy Councils around the country.

  • Become the official Greek hub for informal groups working on food sovereignty, enabling them to gain access to financial support, tools and other resources.

  • Increase awareness and educate farmers and consumers in order to become more conscious through seminars, campaigns and training sessions about sustainable farming methods and consumption patterns and the agroecological way of life. Also offer tools and training in communication and inner development that are crucial factors for the success of any endeavour (eg non violent communication, social permaculture and inner transition). Needless to say that schools and children will be pivotal in our schemes.

So if all of this sounds interesting, if you feel the urge to get involved, or if you have information and contacts that can help, please contact me to join forces :)

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