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Territorial Bio-districts to boost organic production
What problem does it help solve?

A territorial bio-district is an innovative solution, in line with the aims agreed at the United Nations World Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, in particular the Action Plan of Agenda 21, which orients the policies of countries towards sustainable development in which local authorities play a central role. Bio-districts are also in line with the Declaration of Nyéléni, Sélingué (Mali 2007), which declares food sovereignty as the right of peoples to have nutritious and culturally appropriate foods, which are accessible and produced in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way, and the right of peoples to decide their own food production systems.
In the framework of these international commitments, promoting the culture of organic food and the territorial approach means orienting development towards the conservation of resources, environmental compatibility, the valorisation of local differences and, thus, the quality of life. In particular, bio-districts help promote the organic model in the framework of rural development and fair trade, valorising natural and typical products of an area and the area itself, contributing to a form of economic development that benefits tourism and is based on the respect and valorisation of local resources.
Organic food strategies are changing and it is no longer a question of getting individual enterprises to adopt an eco-sustainable model but the focus is now whole areas with an organic vocation. The aim, therefore, is to put forward a global model capable of giving concrete answers to: social needs for greater environmental quality, less densely populated rural areas, perennial financial crises, and climate emergencies, by promoting innovations in the field of research, production standards, alternative distribution channels, and in the sphere of certification.
Bio-districts can help face challenges in six main areas:
  • Mix Farming, agriculture that mixes crop production with animal husbandry and the new frontiers of sustainability (energy, water, biodiversity, quality of life and work). This challenge cannot always be met by farms alone, especially when they are small, and so territorial projects and associations, such as bio-districts, should be promoted.
  • Land access, which is increasingly difficult for those who do not have substantial economic resources and in particular for young people who wish to become farmers. Bio-districts can promote a veritable "agricultural renaissance", marking a break with the past and using the organic model as a reference point for agriculture as a whole, such as to give a new lease of life to state-owned land and uncultivated land, making agricultural work once again a respectable and profitable occupation.
  • Fairer relations in the supply chain, establishing direct relations between producers and consumers, adopting alternative distribution channels such as the short supply chain and fair trade groups, and urging public authorities to buy more local produce for canteens in schools, hospitals and other public facilities.
  • Food sovereignty, granting local communities the right to decide for themselves what to produce and how to produce it. Public forums are periodically organised in bio-districts to give farmers, other economic stakeholders, public authorities, and the local community the opportunity to meet as equals, and having the same decision-making power, to define ways of meeting food needs.
  • Simplified organic produce certification system, making it less bureaucratic, more effective and inclusive, making use of "group certification" and “participatory guarantee systems”. Since there is a high concentration of organic farms in bio-districts, control procedures are easier to implement, and often it is the whole community that helps to check and guarantee the proper application of organic production methods. Farmers, in turn, are given much more responsibility and are motivated by the public recognition of the important social role they play within the local community.
  • Organic communication, this must also focus on the "short supply chain", bringing the communicators and recipients closer together to highlight the ethical, social, and environmental values of ??organic production. Organic produce is good for producers and consumers alike, for society and the environment.  
A particularly important qualitative aspect is the AIAB’s work in the field of social agriculture, promoting and supporting cooperatives and farms which, in addition to producing food, perform the social activities of creating employment and offering a therapeutic service for the disadvantaged. Social agriculture has yet to be codified at national, European or international level. The term, though, refers to all the practices used in agriculture and in rural contexts to generate inclusive benefits, such as social inclusion and work placement for the disadvantaged and the marginalized. Social agriculture also involves providing services to people and communities that are "fragile", generating territorial development and making up for the deficiencies of the centralized welfare state. However, although many private social and institutional actors have shown an interest in this scheme, there are many complex and objective difficulties to be surmounted if new social agricultural enterprises are to be created and the idea consolidated. In fact, different competences are involved and close cooperation required among actors and sectors that generally operate completely separately from each other (agriculture, health, social affairs and labour, education, justice.) In this context, bio-districts can foster new integrated forms of social farming.
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 will be 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 works with other European partners to set up national social agriculture centres and an online transnational centre.