SCHOOL OF INFLUENCERS – PARIS, June 2022

By Francesco Bottegal

Introduction

Advocating and campaigning for a fairer and more sustainable food supply chain in Europe and beyond: this is the essence of the OUR FOOD OUR FUTURE project.
In a society where technological progress has deeply changed the way we interact and communicate with one another, how can we use digital tools for campaigning, raising awareness and mobilising the public? What is the role of social media in advocacy, as they represent a space where information spreads instantly and on which everyone can have a say on any topic? Can we still fight effectively for what we believe in? How can we make our voices stand out in an ocean of opinions?
These are only a few questions we tackled during our last School of Influencers (SOI) activity that took place in Paris. After a first session held online at the beginning of May, we organized a presential event in Paris which lasted two days from 18th to 19th of June 2022, and turned out to be such an enriching and inspiring IN PERSON experience, as we were welcomed by our French member organisation, MRJC, in their office.
Together with 20 aspiring campaigners from all over Europe, we learnt and discussed about the EU “Farm to Fork” Strategy (or F2F) and we learnt what its current state of affairs is. After clarifying many thematic aspects of the policy at hand, the participants moved on by improving their understanding of social media campaigning, the opportunities associated with these digital spaces, with the help of our amazing trainers.

WHAT DID WE SAY ABOUT THE F2F STRATEGY?

Drawing from the conclusions attained during the online session of our School of Influencers held in May, we focused our attention on the current debate happening both within and outside the EU institutions. At the time of writing, the main item on this European agenda, that impacts us all, is the discussion on the use of synthetic pesticides in agriculture and the introduction of legally binding reduction targets.
In such a critical moment for the European transition to sustainable food system, agribusiness lobbies and a number of national governments have instrumentally used the war in Ukraine to postpone and undermine EU environmental commitments. Furthermore, this ‘hostile’ front, consisting of several actors, is engaged in fierce lobbying activity sharing partial studies (some funded by the industry itself) and deliberately spreading misleading information against the “Farm to Fork” Strategy.
UPDATE
On 22nd of June 2022, the European Commission proposed a set of new rules, to be included in a Regulation, hence in a legislative tool directly binding for all the Member States, to reduce the use and risk of pesticides in the EU, delivering on the Farm to Fork Strategy.
The main points regard the introduction of legally binding targets to reduce by 50% the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 2030; a ban on the use of all pesticides in sensitive areas and an exceptional EU support for farmers through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

WHAT DID WE SAY ABOUT Campaigning on social media?

The other focal point of our weekend revolved around the notion of campaigning and how our understanding of it has changed due to technological and digital progress.
Social media have revolutionised the way we interact with one another, and how we receive and elaborate information, allowing to each of us to share our opinions and messages with thousandth, millions of people with just one click (by a single click?). The potential reach that these digital spaces offer to their users is one of the most interesting features when it comes to talking about social media as valuable means in awareness-raising and advocating.
Led by our experts, we reviewed and took inspiration from some successful campaigning efforts, such as the Patagonia Sin Ripresas and the Perwez campaigns, aiming at improving our comprehension of social media campaign dynamics. Thanks to this exercise, we appreciated how the social media landscape has provided campaigners, lobbyists and activists with a plethora of platforms that can be key in the effort to raise awareness and advocate. Looking at each platform with its features, we learned what to think of when we start devising our own campaign. We began with the difference between strategy and tactics, to continue with the elements that help us defining our target audience/s and accordingly choosing the most suitable platform to pursue our goals.
These learnings fed in our final activity, that indeed consisted of crafting and preparing a series of social media posts to raise awareness on the matter of the F2F strategy and, more broadly, on the subject of sustainability in the food supply chain, in Europe and beyond.

Conclusion

We are still enthusiastic about this session that brought together so many engaged and inspiring young people. We are going to share soon the outcomes produced by our participants. So, stay tuned and do not miss them and you’ll discover more on what MIJARC Europe and OURFOODOURFUTURE have in store for you!

This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of MIJARC Europe and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

SOURCES

Agribusiness lobby against EU Farm to Fork strategy amplified by Ukraine war | Corporate Europe Observatory
Leak: industrial farm lobbies’ coordinated attack on Farm to Fork targets | Corporate Europe Observatory
Nature and human health cannot afford policy delays | Corporate Europe Observatory
Farm to Fork (europa.eu)
What it is about – Our Food Our Future (ourfood-ourfuture.eu)

Challenging the broken global food system

The Our Food Our Future team have released their manifesto for you to have a look through and read! It is now available to download in English.

It has become evident that our global food system and supply chains have become unjust in every way possible: from worker exploitation to environmental degradation, we are truly facing an arduous challenge. While supermarkets and large food conglomerations are experiencing profits at record levels, smallholders and migrant workers have been left behind to struggle. Not only are they living under precarious and slave-like conditions, but the pandemic has further worsened the situation by enlarging their exposure to risks and increasing the probability of unemployment. Then, of course, we are faced with the ever-growing climate crisis.

We, alongside OFOF, will not accept these conditions anymore. We need to start envisioning a more socially just and sustainable food system, and start taking action now.

Want to know what OFOF is all about? Who are the profiteers of injustice? What are our messages and demands to these profiteers? Discover the answers to these questions and more by downloading the OFOF manifesto below!

Thank you so much for organising the youth lab, it was by far the best online event I ever participated in.

A Participant

The rollout of the fourth International Youth Lab (May 22nd–23rd) has come and gone, leaving the MIJARC Europe team thoroughly impressed and inspired by the passion-driven workshops and discussions from both the experts and the attendees alike. With topics ranging from the exploitation of migrant workers to questioning our powers of privilege, we can certainly say that we all left the event feeling more knowledgeable, empowered, and motivated to turn our ideas of action into concrete realities. Now you may be wondering, “What exactly did I miss?” Well, for those of you asking, here are the event’s discussions and exchanges in a nutshell.

Migrant Workers’ Rights in the Agri-Food Sector

The day opened with a talk by our expert on the topic, Gianluca Cesaro, from PICUM, an international network of organisations advocating for the rights of undocumented migrants. In this informative session, Gianluca explained the everyday realities of labourers with neither permits nor recognisable rights. Some of the potential solutions that sprouted from the ensuing discussions were:

  • The importance of problematising all foodstuffs, not just meat products;
  • A call to acknowledge that 1 purchase = 1 vote; and
  • The need to re-label our food products and to question why so few Fair-trade goods are made available in our grocery stores. 

Migrant Workers’ Rights in Almería: Organising the Struggle

The first workshop was conducted by Johanna Moreno, Delia McGarth, and José García Cuevas from SOC-SAT Almería, a union aimed at defending and upholding the rights of rural workers from Andalusia to foster a fairer and democratic society. Here are some key takeaways from this session:

  • The south of Spain exports 85% of its fruits and veggies to Europe, yet consumers are blind to the fact that most of this agricultural produce is being cultivated by Moroccan migrants that have been brought into Spain by a system with racist, sexist, and patriarchal connotations (thus affecting women disproportionately);
  • The label “organic” does not guarantee fairness and equity; and
  • Excessive production has had knock-on effects on the local environment, in particular by drying up the aquifers and damaging national parks.

From East to West: EU Migrant Workers and the EU Protection

Ramona Duminicioiu from EcoRuralis and La Via Campesina facilitated the second workshop that discussed the roots of today’s East-West disparities. In brief, the Cold War period saw the capitalist system of the West overtake the then-Soviet controlled East. This enabled large corporations to take part in labour exploitation and land grabbing practices that led to extreme rightists scaling up the hierarchical ladder while leaving the poor behind. As Eastern governments were powerless and unable to support their local markets and food systems, Eastern workers were gradually becoming marginalised and underrepresented. Such inequalities continue to exist today. The educational talk was then followed by some stimulating questions, such as:

  • If being progressive is not enough, what can we do?
  • Would you say that harmonisation and common standards are problematic for Eastern European countries?
  • How has COVID-19 affected migrant workers in Romania?

Power, Mindfulness, Action!

The following day the participants were greeted by two familiar faces: Sheila and Kinga – our experts in action. During this productive morning, participants got to partake in virtual power exercises to better understand the different forms of power and their applicability in our day-to-day lives. This led to discussions revolving around privilege and how our unconscious usage of power has deepened imbalances and insecurities. This was followed by an intriguing discussion on the mind-body division and the need to recover from stress, trauma, and other invisible side effects that may arise from partaking in physical action (we are, after all, only humans). Questioning the bad rep that wellbeing and self-care frequently receive by the public was highlighted, emphasising that social change needs to happen by compassionate activists that realise that for change to happen, they themselves may need to change too.

A Very Fruitful (and Fun!) Event Indeed

One of course must not forget the usual “get-to-know-one-another” activities and events. The Welcome Evening and the National German Evening (on Friday and Saturday night respectively) truly helped strengthen relationships and nurture familiar and safe environments, serving as a platform to help people connect globally and make new (virtual) friends. At the end of the day, the participants left the Lab not only feeling like they had gained a better understanding of the pressing issues at hand, but were also able to take with them a memorable experience that helped create a supportive and kind community of like-minded and inspirational youths.

“I met a lot of wonderful people and learnt new things that will help me become a better person.”

A Participant

Missed the event? No worries! Check out the recap slideshow below drawn and written by the talented Alejandro Gil (@ale_listens_and_draws), which you can also find on our Youtube and Instagram pages. We also hope to see you in our fifth (and sadly final) International Youth Lab happening on June 26th–27th. Follow us on our social media accounts to keep up with any new updates and future events!