The projects I am visiting on my Cycloasis journey are connected to different associations in France. Here you find some background information on the main ones: Terre de Liens, Oasis en Tous Lieux and Kokopelli. Other organisations will be addressed in this blog when visiting the related projects.
Terre de Liens is a civil society organisation created in 2003 to address the difficulties faced by organic and peasant farmers in securing agricultural land. It proposes to change our relationship to land, ‘la terre’, agriculture, food production & consumption, and nature and enhances collective and partnership approaches in the management of the land.
Since 2007, it has acquired farmland, which it holds in perpetuity for the sake of current and future generations. That land is let to farmers who undertake organic of biodynamic farming or peasant farmers committed to respect the environment.
To acquire farmland, Terre de Liens has created two financial tools: la Foncière, a solidarity investment company, and le Fonds, an Endowment Trust that collects investment or donations in cash or kind. The total amount of funds collected mounts to about 22 million Euros and Terre de liens now owns 87 farm estates, amounting to 200 hectares, and 148 farmers installed.
Terre de Liens:
- preserves agricultural heritage and land,
- supports a diversity of rural activities,
- promotes land stewardship and environmental protection,
- helps organic and peasant farmers to install and to boost local economy,
- encourages biological, sustainable and responsible agriculture practices,
- invests in training for (new) farmers,
- involves local partners; ngo’s, consumers, local authorities, etc.
What’s at stake with our land?
- Young generations of farmers do not have access to land anymore due to high land prices and competitive markets (agro-business and land speculation).
- Between 1992 and 2004 France lost 800.000 hectares of farm- or forestland to other forms of use e.g.: individual houses, roads, sports & leisure facilities, industrial zones, or commercial and civil services. Whereby cities increase its surface faster than its population grows! (source: Silence, N° 396, December 2011).
- A whole generation of farmers is growing old, without successors. So, who is going to grow our food in the future?
Terre de Liens addresses fundamental European and global issues concerning our agriculture and land use. Namely, how do we use (fertile) land, protect and create biodiversity, grow healthy food, how do we create responsible practices and more direct links between producers and consumers. And last but not least: who should actually own and take care of the land? This is particularly relevant in the current global trends of land grabbing and financial speculations. Terre de Liens opens perspectives for a reform of rural land management.
This is one of the organisations Pierre Rabhi has created over the years, and inspired me for the title of Cycloasis. In 1997 Pierre Rabhi and friends drafted a ‘Manifeste pour des Oasis en Tous lieux’, which contained the basic spirit and philosophy of the association, such as:
- put humans and nature at the heart of local development,
- use soil and land in a responsible way and with agro-ecological practices,
- create local, communal activities and where solidarity, sharing and cooperation are central,
- rethink access to property, its use and sustainability,
- enhance diversity at all levels,
- stimulate creativity and ownership for activities,
- create place to live and promote ecological housing and food self-sufficiency,
- unite the created Oasis in local, national and international networks
Different Oasis’ have been created over time uniting different generations, fighting against exclusion, up to the developing of different educational models. Meanwhile the association also has become member of and is the French representative for the international movement of transition towns, the Global Ecovillage Network.
The association was created in 1998 and succeeded Terre de Semences and Jardin Botanique de la Mhotte – which were created respectively in 1994 and 1992 by Dominique and Sofy Guillet. Kokopelli is committed to protect food biodiversity and the production of organic seeds. It offers to the gardeners a live collection of more than 2200 varieties of organic heirloom seeds. This is the most extensive in the world (not in the freezers but in the gardens and in the fields).
Meanwhile, as Kokopelli puts it, it also has been 20 years of struggle against the international agro/seed-business, which control the beginning of the food chain – about 5 multinationals control 75% of the vegetable seed supply – and which pollute the biosphere. The last 6 years Kokopelli is in court trials in France and recently in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, to struggle for survival and to struggle for the right to distribute heirloom varieties, which are not registered in the national lists. This basically means, that only certain types of seeds may be commercialised. The variety of fruits, vegetables, etc. we can buy in the supermarkets has diminished tremendously over the years. Not to mention the loss of taste and texture, the presence of pesticides, or the ‘one size fits all’ shapes and colours.
Kokopelli works with local producers of seeds, contributes to greater biodiversity, and supports food autonomy around the world. Kokopelli is also present in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Brasil.