Thanks to the support of the Council of Europe through the European Youth Foundation and The Arkleton Trust Fellowship, MIJARC Europe organized a seminar from the 28th July to the 2nd August 2014 on the topic of sustainable agriculture.

This project is entitled: “Eating, Producing and Deciding: our choice and our voice for the future agriculture in Europe” and it took place in Marconne in the North of France.

Why this topic? 

Agriculture is historically one of the main topics within MIJARC. A few decades ago, in France’s, Germany’s, Belgium’s, Spain’s, and surely in many other countries’ rural areas, some priests have put their faith into action by going to meet the farmers, and especially the young ones, to “improve” their social condition. For many of them, the situation was the same as for many centuries backwards: hard work, small wage and poorness.

Nowadays, the agricultural landscape has totally changed. Not especially in the hard work and the small wage, but in the place it takes: the number of farmers exponentially decreased, merging lot of small farms into few big ones, and thus making it even more difficult – especially for young people – to take over a farm or settle as farmer.

Parallel to this, due to many factors, the work in itself changed: First, the use of chemicals along with the intensification and mechanisation of the cultures brought the consumers into the debate: what do I eat? Is it healthy, hazardous? Is it sustainably produced, environment-friendly speaking?

Besides this, the globalisation of the economy brought the concern to the policy-makers: how can we regulate this world-scaled marketing of food? In Europe, the choice has been done through the long process of creation of the European Union, investing public money into this vital sector (the so-called Common Agricultural Policy – CAP).

This topic is today’s reality of agriculture in Europe.

What was discussed during this seminar?

In this context, we spent the 4 days seminar among a diversity-full European youth group to:

1) observe this context: namely the place of the youth in farming, training facilities, consumption behaviour and taking into account young people’s mind in the process of policy making; (SEE)

2) judge it, through field visits and expertises; (JUDGE)

3) propose actions and remedies to what we will find out (ACT)

During the SEE part the participants worked in two groups:

Group 1: The production and consumption behaviours

Today’s agriculture is part of the global market and at the two endings of the branch, the producers and the consumers, impact on it a lot. By considering the behaviours of these 2 major actors, the group was trying to specify what is the agriculture model of tomorrow. This axe led to three subtopics:

– the production behaviour: what are the possibilities, constraints and challenges for the producer who is at the very start of the chain? How should the agriculture of tomorrow look like to feed the planet by ensuring a sustainable development?

– the consumption behaviour: which choices is the consumer faced with when buying? What are the solutions to deal with the problematic of local food in a global market? We will discuss about the influence of the consumers: by your decisions during the shopping you are able to change things. Also you will learn about new alternative ways of selling agricultural products. We will lastly speak about the advantages and disadvantages of the different forms of selling.

– the food sovereignty: how can a people be at the decision-making of its food-related issues? How should the agriculture of tomorrow be organised at the world level to ensure quality and quantity of food in a sustainable way?

Group 2: The place of Youth in Agriculture

In every sector, in every project, young ideas and new power are essential to avoid conducting to death. But in agriculture, the place of youth doesn’t always go without saying! The group focused on the access to farming for young people, tackling 3 subtopics:

– the image of agriculture among young people (the “psychological barrier” to farming) : especially in the growing Eastern Europe, but also in the rest of the continent, youth are often relating agriculture to dark rurality and absence of horizons in life. But may know that it is something else in fact! How can we change this?

– the access to land for young people (the “financial and social barrier” to farming) : the property of land has become a big challenge, and youth especially suffer from this reality. Because they come from a non-farming family, or because they are at the beginning of their life and do not have enough financial resources to purchase land. Moreover, the farming model of big farms leads to more and more concentration of land and hardly allows someone to start a new farm. Even if this is to ponder for each region, the question is : is it possible to settle as a young farmer today, and if yes what are the factors that lead to a successful settling?

– the training facilities for young people (the “educational barrier” to farming) : lack of facilities for training may also be a obstacle for young people to settle as a farmer. Moreover, the training content is maybe not diversified enough to allow every kind of farming model to develop. How is the situation and how can we move on?

Coordinating Team of the Seminar:

Think Tank (group of volunteers who engaged in research about the topics and facilitation of the working groups):

Severin Kessler (Germany), Marina Grigorova (Bulgaria) , François Bausson (France), Jeroen Decorte (Belgium), Jan Vanwijnsberghe(Belgium), Olivier Dugrain (France).

Publications and outcomes

The Think Tank members and the Secretariat of MIJARC Europe were also responsible for the creation of a complete Report of the seminar, featuring the description of the activities, links to videos, games and presentations and illustrated with photos from the event.

You can find the videos on MIJARC Europe You Tube channel:

News              Access to Land

Each day the participants were asked to describe the activities and share their feelings about them. The MIJARC Europe Secretariat has collected the opinions in the Report written by the participants.

By the end of the seminar the participants have created a Newspaper with press releases on the topics discussed during the seminar.

Daily posts were published on MIJARC Europe Facebook Page.

The participants were encouraged to publish articles in their local/regional/national media. We will post hereby the links as soon as they’ll be available.