Sunday, November 01, 2009

International Newsletter on Sustainable Local Development
Newsletter #63
November 1st 2009


Message from the Editorial Team

Reclaim the Fields
An initiative of the peasant youth of Europe

Changing indicators
A societal debate on development that we want

Inner City Development Cooperative (Manila, Philippines)
A disaster

Message from the Editorial Team

We are presenting two articles written by Judith and Martine in the light of their respective participation in two recent meetings in Europe. Even if both meetings had completely different themes, they dealt head on with alternative approaches to development as we know it.

For their part, young farmers are establishing approaches and strategies for environmentally responsible local agriculture anchored in local communities. On the other hand, we all know that the dominant economic indicator is the calculation of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, this indicator is totally inadequate to measure the well-being of individuals, the true wealth of societies. For example, the recovery and recycling of waste adds more to GDP than the reuse of well-planned products designed to last longer. The theatrical play "Erika’s Paradox” demonstrates how this ecological disaster was transformed into a growth indicator of GDP in France! We could list many other examples. Therefore, it is very important that other indicators be put into place.

Finally, we wish to inform you of the natural disaster that hit the neighbourhood of Tatalon in Manila. We described in Newsletter #44 the inspiring work of the Inner City Development Cooperative. Now everything has to be rebuilt.

We want to express our solidarity with the members of this community.

Editorial Team
Judith Hitchman
Yvon Poirier
Martine Theveniaut

Reclaim the Fields
An initiative of the peasant youth of Europe

Reclaim the Fields held a gathering of about 300 young farmers and landless youth with agricultural projects of various kinds from all over Europe. It took place on a collective farm at Cravirola, near Minerve, in the South West of France, from September 30th to October 4th. It was organised by Reclaim the Fields, a youth movement tightly linked to Via Campesina. It was created in Rostock, Germany at the time of the anti-G8 meeting in May 2007.

The camp was essentially self-organised (camping, collective kitchen, workshops and plenary sessions…). It was aimed at addressing various issues that have become increasingly critical in the current multiple global crises (financial, economic, climate change…). The participants were a mixture of people who had either started up their own projects or who intended or wanted to do so. The key issues discussed were those of access to land and to seeds (especially the traditional rights of farmers to save, exchange and resow their seeds). Some of the discussions also addressed the questions of fair prices for agricultural products and direct sales’ circuits from farms to consumers, the social recognition of farmers, the opposition to the dominant industrial farming model, and the need for fair agricultural policies. Other discussions included ideas on how to achieve self-empowerment and capacity building that is adapted to a non-industrial model, and how to make it possible for those who want to farm to do so. But the most recurrent and central theme was that of access to land, a question which varies according to the law and availability and price in each country.

The importance of local communities and sustainable local development
One of the most central and recurrent questions was the best way to articulate and organise things at local level. Peasant agriculture is probably one of the most effective ways to fight climate change, improve health and maintain a sustainable local economy. Some of the most interesting discussions were those on gaining acceptance within local communities. This concerned not only new arrivals within the communities, but also how to manage change in the case of transmitting the farm within the same family, particularly when the transmission was from father to daughter, and when the new generation wanted to change the way the farm was run (a shift to organic agriculture, or from raising livestock to market gardening for example). Becoming an accepted member of a rural community is one of the key levers to success.

Access to land
The idea of learning to work within local communities, to get support form local authorities and have land set aside for peasant farming and market gardening was often mentioned. This also needs to take the notion of collective property and projects as well as individual land-ownership into account. One idea for the future was to develop an on-line community to inform people of available land that might suit their project. Structures like Terre de Liens and the Nef in France are a help, but are not sufficient. Too much land is lying fallow, and although the first option is always to gain access to land through peaceful, legal means, a deep and total agrarian reform is needed to provide more equitable solutions. The Brazilian MST movement and their practice of occupying unused land is highly effective too… Each country has its own legislation, which can either facilitate or prove to be a major obstacle. Access to land is highly controlled in France, which is often a major obstacle.

Selling produce in direct supply chains
All the existing networks and solutions, such as the CSA (AMAP) were of course mentioned as part of the answer. But maintaining and even developing local farmers’ markets, direct sales on the farms, linking sales to agrotourism and other initiatives also need to be supported. There are also many atypical projects that do not fit into any mould, and that also need to be considered. The move to including organic local suppliers in public tenders in France is a positive thing too. Again, this requires lobbying and communication with local structures.

The urban dimension was also included as an important aspect, both in terms of urban and peri-urbans market gardening, but also in terms of linking up with other social movements to improve living conditions and access to healthy affordable food.

The camp ended with a peaceful sit-in outside the regional offices of the SAFER, the Société d'Amenagément Foncier et d'Establissement Rural, a State body that plays a powerful role in the sale and acquisition of land. This clearly showed the determination of so many young people to gain access to land, to build a European movement of young peasant farmers.

Author: Judith Hitchman
Original article in English and Frenchà-la-safer

Changing indicators
A societal debate on development that we want

Our indicators make us blind! The present crisis we are experiencing goes far beyond a financial and economic crisis. The primary indicator of wealth is gross domestic product and its development, namely economic growth. However, this indicator only takes monetary exchange into account, and ignores the elements that have no "price" as they are often incalculable... Researchers are examining alternative measures of well-being. While GDP growth has served as a reference to progress since World War II, it has become even more necessary to rethink progress in terms of well-being for all people, including future generations. This means reducing disparities, sharing of resources, social cohesion and sustainable development....

In the whole series of recent initiatives and works devoted to this subject, the Stiglitz Commission report has opened the door to this.

Two recent meetings placed that focus on indicators for territorial well-being.
Territoires de Coresponsabilité held their first meeting September 25th 2009 in the town of Mulhouse. This town is a recognized pioneer in this process.

In its strategy for social cohesion, the Council of Europe defines the latter as « the ability of society to ensure the well-being of all through the joint responsibility of the various stakeholders (public and private actors, citizens). A link to sustainable development is created by including the well-being of future generations, making the welfare of all generations a goal for societal progress ». With this impetus, several territories have begun to implement this new approach, using this definition as their starting point, and by using a method in which citizens are invited to rethink the organization of the society in which they live, based on the real needs identified in a concerted approach.

The method was first applied in the city of Mulhouse, France in 2005 with the help of Samuel Thirion (Division for the Development of Social Cohesion). This experience helped develop the foundations for this methodology. It is still the most advanced that exists. As a result, applications have also been introduced in the Department of Timisoara in Romania, the Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy and in Paris, Ile-de-France Region. They have led to the introduction of the concept of Territoires de Coresponsabilité.

This method is currently being used nationally in the Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (PLPR) in Cape Verde, co-funded by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) placing it within an institutional framework that links the community, the regional and national levels. A link between the local approach and regional policies is also on track in the Walloon Region (Belgium). Several other territories, regions and/or countries are currently planning to use or take inspiration from this method, including Brittany (France) with the support of the NGO PEKEA (Political and Ethical Knowledge on Economic Activities) and in Gabon.

The implementation of this strategy involves: development of indicators to define and measure the well-being of all; especially with citizens; the collaborative sharing of responsibilities to ensure progress towards the well-being of all, including that of future generations; the follow-up and evaluation of societal progress realized.

For further information :

The ISBET Program (Societal Indicators of Territorial Well-being) presented its first results on October 5th in Rennes (France): "Counting what really matters in a territory" Organized by PEKEA and a Local Governments Club.

PEKEA stands for Political and Ethical Knowledge on Economic Activities. Over 900 people are members. It is recognized as an NGO in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The members of this think tank come from research programs, universities, and especially NGOs; they are all leaders in alternative actions on the field and concerned citizens. Some fifty countries have participants. The network organization and the extensive use of the Internet provide an international dimension to the organization whose global headquarters is located in Rennes. The online texts are published in three languages: French, English and Spanish.

Why is there a Local Governments Club (LGC)? At the initiative of Rennes Métropole, the idea of a club was discussed and worked among some elected local authorities. Formally, three local governments created the club in 2006: Rennes Métropole, Département d’Ille et Vilaine and Région Bretagne, joined in 2007 by the Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The LGC is chaired by Alain Yvergniaux, Regional Council of Bretagne.

The priority for Local Governments is to improve the well-being of the members of their communities. That is to say, these Local Governments need to make decisions and design policies able to improve this well-being, or to increase global societal value. The convergence is clear between this first PEKEA project to give content to the concept of « societal value » and assist Local Governments wishing to have a better understanding of the level of well-being of their local communities for which they are responsible. Attaining this objective will increase the capacity to select appropriate policies that will increase this level of societal well-being.

The project ISBET (Societal Indicators of Territorial Well-being), financed by the Bretagne Region and promoted by PEKEA, follows this perspective. From an analytical point of view, the project is built on three axes:
1. Calculation of a regional IDH (Human Development Index) and its deflection at local level (IDH2, IDH3, IDH4…) ;
2. Construction of territorial indicators of well being with the participation of citizens and stakeholders on two territories in Brittany.
3. Theoretical discussion on procedures for the participatory construction of indicators.

The process of collective construction of indicators for well-being (axis 2 of the project) takes inspiration from the approach promoted by the Council of Europe. It aims to visualize what really counts for the citizens and to formulate proposals that would feed into the elaboration of public policies in domains such as territorial social cohesion, sustainable development, etc. Participation of citizens, stakeholders, associations, economic actors and others in the construction of a shared definition of well-being of all and for all is considered an essential pre-condition when it comes to identifying what really counts for them.
This approach is being piloted in two areas of local communities of peri-urban Rennes: Val d'Ille and Pipriac in the Ille and Vilaine Department.

Contacts : PEKEA, Michel Renault, coordinator of project ISBET with information from Claire Cartieaux

Martine Theveniaut (participant at both meetings)

Inner City Development Cooperative (Manila, Philippines)
A disaster

We introduced the Inner City Development Coop (ICDC) in Newsletter #44, December 1st 2007; Yvon had the opportunity to visit this cooperative in October 2007 at the first Asian Forum on Solidarity Economy.

Now a tragedy has affected the community. Typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines very hard on September 26th. As described in a message from Zeny de Jesus of ICDC, the disaster struck the whole community, including 99% of the cooperative members. And that is not all, since a fire destroyed 600 homes at the same time. The message explains the situation well.

As it often happens, the poorest are most affected when natural disasters strike, especially because the slums are located in areas more conducive to flooding.

Nevertheless, with the tool they have collectively, their cooperative, members immediately took charge of the situation to assure their survival and their community’s.

Having witnessed the strength and the will of the cooperative and its members, I am sure they will succeed in rebuilding their community and renewing their efforts to lift people out of poverty.

Author: Yvon Poirier

Although the following article is in French, the pictures show the extensive damage done.

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Special thanks to:
Évéline Poirier from Canada for the English translation
Brunilda Rafael from France for the Spanish translation
Michel Colin from Brazil for the Portuguese translation

To contact us (for information, feedback, to subscribe or unsubscribe):
Yvon Poirier

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