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Territorial Bio-districts to boost organic production
Bio-districts in practice

Bio-districts create a local network of natural, cultural, and productive resources, valorised by local policies oriented towards the protection of the environment, traditions and local knowledge. Generally, they result from the needs of organic farmers who are looking for local markets that can appreciate their produce, and the public, who are increasing looking for healthy and environmentally friendly food at fair prices. However, many other actors and organizations play a crucial role in the establishment and management of bio-districts, especially public authorities and schools which, with their increasingly green activities and purchases, can influence consumer habits and local markets. Tourist operators, in turn, are keen to offer new seasonally adjusted products such as eco-routes and rural tourism.
Commitments and advantages for bio-district stakeholders
Farmers are bio-district’s major stakeholders; they adhere to the rules of organic farming and are integrated in the local social and environmental context. The advantage they gain from being part of a bio-district is that they can market most of their produce locally, and are part of multifunctional tourist circuit (bio-farms, bio-routes, bio-educational farms, bio-social farms.) Another advantage is that they can promote their produce in the territorial marketing plans activated by bio-districts. In Italy, moreover, the AIAB Guarantee System (local, 100% Italian, GMO free), gives them even more opportunities to valorise and promote their produce.
Consumers can buy local organic products, preferably through short supply channels (organic markets, farm outlets, direct distribution, and fair trade groups). Thanks to bio-districts, consumers can count on well-socked organic products that are traceable, easier to buy and which safeguard the natural resources of the area in which they live. In addition, citizens can benefit from the environmental quality that organic farming guarantees in production areas, and can establish direct relations of trust and mutual cooperation with the producers.
Public authorities
By being part of a bio-district, local and public authorities are committed to spreading the culture of organic food through a wide range of initiatives which:
  • declare the area to be GMO-free, providing information and valorising the organic farming model in the local area and to a wider public: brochures of local products and services, calendars of bio-district events that valorise the local culture, tourism and typical produce;
  • support green purchases, promoting organic food in the canteens of schools, public offices and health facilities;
  • provide assistance to farms that want to change over to organic production;
  •  implement initiatives to valorise local organic produce: bio-district producers markets, holiday farms that produce and use organic products, organic food catering services, organic restaurants, organic food stores;
  • promote the application of organic principles in other areas, such as public parks management, organic waste management, building regulations, and others;
  •  promote organic farming in state-owned land and collective properties, transforming them into organic farm incubators, with a view also to promoting social agriculture.
The food industry and the agricultural equipment industry can join bio-districts and benefit from the concentration of organic farms in the area, both for the supply of agricultural equipment and for the production of raw materials for food processing (pasta, animal feed). The tourism industry and catering industry can expand and offer new products, such as bio-menus and seasonally adjusted visits to the most significant agricultural realities, so that tourists can experience a mix of culture, education and fun. A multi-faceted product that attracts tourists and encourages them to prolong their stays.
Research and training centres
These organizations support bio-districts by carrying out trials and training initiatives to consolidate and improve the single initiatives of local stakeholders.
Environmental associations, agricultural associations, eco-tourism associations and others are all involved in promoting bio-district activities. In particular AIAB coordinates the activities of members, providing know-how and tools, such as standards and marketing brands, which are necessary for the success of an initiative. The AIAB also promotes agreements with organic food control bodies to simplify certification procedures and launch pilot group certification and participatory guarantee schemes. Tourist associations promote eco-tourism in bio-district areas (bio-routes for walkers, cyclists, and horse riders, rural tourism, self-catering holidays, study visits, summer camps for children, young people and families). Environmental associations work to safeguard the land and valorise its natural resources, which forms the basis of the organic agriculture model.
The stages involved in setting up a bio-district
It is of strategic importance, when setting up a bio-district, to get all potential actors involved from the very beginning. This allows the project to meet local needs, expectations, and interests, avoiding exclusions that could hinder the development of the initiative.
To set up and run a successful bio-district, experience shows that the following stages are required:
  • Creation of a promotion committee to organize public forums to share objectives and establish project roadmaps. The committee conducts an initial analysis of the area’s potential and problems, leading to the drafting of a programmatic document.
  • Once interest in setting up a bio-district has been verified, territorial actors willing to support the process (public authorities, producer associations, etc.) are identified and progressively involved in the project Depending on the actors involved, the perimeter of the bio-district is then defined.
  • The participation of public authorities in the bio-district project and coordination activities should be done through official channels. All levels of local government should preferably be involved (municipalities, provinces, regions, park authorities).
  • The bio-district’s promotion committee then sets up an agreed program of activities to be carried out using existing resources (public and private) and through a communication strategy to find other resources and establish partnerships with local and national actors.
  • Local social farming associations and cooperatives are identified to provide management services for bio-district activities (marketing, promotion, logistics, event management, etc).