The scientific community agrees that the current agricultural systems are facing multiple environmental challenges.
A transformative process
A transformative process is crucial on different levels (scientific, economic, social, political), while supporting innovative systems that protect and enhance natural resources to ensure food security. Agroecology is one approach that is capable of strengthening the resilience of farming systems, also referred to by the European Green Deal, Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies as one of the sustainable practices to be promoted and scaled-up. Nevertheless, organic farming has always been at the forefront of this transformative process and should be considered as the vanguard of agroecology transition.
Organic farming has always been at the forefront of this transformative process and should be considered as the vanguard of agroecology transition
Still, the question is, how can this transformation be further mainstreamed in a way to ensure the achievement of the sustainability goals set by the EU. That is where Living Labs can play an important role, since they are initiatives with experiments performed in a real-life context, taking science into the fields. Farmers and other value chain actors, including consumers, are not only users any more, they are involved in the whole process, from proposing ideas, designing experimental solutions, as well as improving and promoting them further.
Acknowledging the added value of the Living Lab approach, the European Commission has proposed a partnership, “Accelerating farming systems transition: agroecology living labs and research infrastructures” to provide funding and support a network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures that will accelerate the transition towards agroecology throughout Europe, with the help of long-term, site-specific, multi-stakeholder and real-life experimentations. To support the development of this ambitious partnership, the EU is currently funding several projects, one of them being ALL-Ready, “The European Agroecology Living Lab and Research Infrastructure Network: Preparation phase”.
To achieve this objective, ALL-Ready is preparing the framework for a future European Network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures. The project is bringing together all stakeholders, from farmers to consumers and from researchers to policy makers across Europe, to collect the knowledge and tools that are necessary for implementing a partnership which has the capacity to support and trigger agroecology transition.
During the preparation phase, ALL-Ready is working with a pilot network of Living Labs and Research Infrastructures, launched in December 2021, which is serving as a test-bed to experiment and give feedback on the tools and recommendations (funding, governance, capacity building, etc.) developed in the frame of the project. Organic farming initiatives are key partners of this pilot network and the ALL-Ready consortium, providing an essential contribution based on a vast experience of the practical application of agroecology principles.
To make this transition happen, scientists, farmers, business actors, policy-makers and consumers need to work together in a co-creative process
The ALL-Ready consortium also applies the concept of agroecology beyond food systems to society as a whole. In such a systems approach, everyone in the farming system (farmers, farm advisors, suppliers) or related to its context (policy makers, agricultural knowledge and innovation system and value chain actors, etc.) should be engaged, if we want to achieve a substantial transformation that can restore our broken food system. To make this transition happen, scientists, farmers, business actors, policy-makers and consumers need to work together in a co-creative process, towards which the organic sector has already paved the way.
Authors: Lisa Haller, Miguel de Porras & Judit Feher, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL
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