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TERRITORIAL BIO-DISTRICTS

This article describes an innovation identified by the IDEASS programme as replicable and sustainable methodologies for social territorial development

The first bio-district was launched in Italy in 2009 by the AIAB (Italian Association for Organic Agriculture) in an area inside the National Park of the Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni. After three years, the Cilento biodistrict now includes 30 municipalities, 400 enterprises, 20 restaurants and 10 tourist establishments that use local organic produce. Today it constitutes a permanent national and international workshop of culturally significant ideas and initiatives aimed at fair trade and local development founded on the organic production model.

Bio-districts can help face challenges in six main areas: mix farming, land access, fairer relations in the supply chain, establishing direct relations between producers and consumers, food sovereignty, simplified organic produce certification systems and organic communication: this must also focus on the ‘short supply chain’, bringing the communicators and recipients closer.

Results of particular note have been achieved by the National Program for the Development and Promotion of Organic and Social Farms, which carried out a census in Italy of organic agricultural and social farms (221 in 2010) and promoted the creation of a national network of organic social farms, to facilitate exchange and joint initiatives to promote social inclusion and employment. In 2013, an information desk was activated in Italy offering social agriculture consultancy and planning, promoted within the European project Leonardo da Vinci MAIE - Multifunctional Agriculture in Europe, in which the AIAB now works with other European partners to set up national social agriculture centres and an online transnational centre.

 Results of the Cilento Bio-District

The Cilento Bio-district is located in the National Park of Cilento, Vallo di Diano and Alburni. It covers an area of 3,196 square kilometres and includes 30 municipalities, 400 organic farms and three major archaeological and cultural sites. The Cilento is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the Network of Biosphere Reserves. In 2004, AIAB started to promote the creation of a bio-district, and in 2009, the Campania Region passed an act establishing the first multi-vocational European bio-district (agriculture, environment, social, eco-tourism, food and wine). In 2011 the non-profit association Bio-distretto Cilento was established, coordinated by AIAB Campania, involving associations, public authorities, farmers and tourist operators, creating a permanent workshop of culturally significant ideas and initiatives for territorial development based on fair trade and the organic model. The Cilento Biodistrict attracted a large number of local actors and produced results that had a great impact on the region.

Future prospects

An assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impact of the biodistrict was encouraging. Demand for organic products is growing, and the overall shortening of the supply chain has generated loyal customers, boosting development in the sector, with more and more farms becoming multifunctional and converting to organic produce. Further impetus is expected from the future application of new simplified organic certification procedures, developed and tested by AIAB as part of a nationwide project. The bio-district has encouraged tourists to try typical local products and explore the local culture, increasing tourist flows throughout the year. From an environmental perspective, a number of initiatives have been implemented to protect and valorise the landscape and natural features of rural areas.

 National & international interest

The Italian Association for Organic Agriculture is committed to the promotion and coordination of biodistricts on a national scale, using the experience of the Cilento Bio-District as a workshop of replicable practices. Already operating are the Grecanico Bio-District in the Calabria Region, the bio-district of Via Amerina e delle Forre in the Lazio Region and the bio-district of Greve in Chianti in Tuscany. Activities are also being carried out to identify initiatives at the national level that help consolidate the practices of organic production. AIAB participates in ministerial organic agriculture committees and regional IFOAM groups (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), which represents organic producers and consumers.

National bio-district marketing activities also aim to get new areas involved in the bio-district scheme. AIAB also launched the establishment of the European Network and Mediterranean Bio-Districts, presented at organic food conferences held in Nuremberg and in the Republic of Korea. Exchanges have been organised, as well as visits to similar initiatives in France, Austria and Germany, and cooperation agreements have been signed with other organic associations operating in Mediterranean countries.

IDEASS is a UN-supported initiative.
More info at www.ideassonline.org
Published on 21-10-2013 10:23 by David Tee. 1362 page views

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