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Territorial Bio-districts to boost organic production
Results of the Cilento Bio-District

The Cilento Bio-district, the first in Italy, highlights the impact that can be created by this innovative solution.
The Cilento Biodistrict 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 (Paestum, Padula and Elea-Velia). The Cilento is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and by the Network of Biosphere Reserves. It was in the Cilento that Ancel Keys conducted his studies on the Mediterranean diet, which was later recognized by UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity. In this land, farmers, citizens and public administrators have formed a pact for the sustainable management of local resources.
In 2004, AIAB started to promote the creation of a bio-district, organising a number of forums and public meetings with agricultural associations, municipalities and other local actors interested in starting a new roadmap to sustainable resource management. In 2009, the Campania Region passed an act establishing the 1st multi-vocational European bio-district (agriculture, environment, social, eco-tourism, food and wine). In 2011 the non-profit association Bio-distretto Cilento was established, the concrete result of the great amount of work done over the years, coordinated by AIAB Campania and 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.
Initial activities focused on creating a network of organic farms, producer associations, bio-city organizations, caterers, eco-tourism operators, and consumers, through short supply chain initiatives. In three years, the Cilento Bio-district had attracted a large number of local actors and produced results that had a great impact on the region. 
Organic farms
The major stakeholders who promoted the creation of the bio-district were the local organic farmers, in search of markets that could appreciate their produce. About 400 organic farms took part (23% of the region’s organic farms). Most are small farms, with an average agricultural area of five hectares. All together the usable agricultural area comes to approximately 2,000 acres, consisting of fruit trees (32%), seed crops/vegetables (22%), grassland (46%). The main tree crops are olives, widespread in all areas, vines, fruit and figs, common in hilly areas. Livestock farms are very small: cattle (on average 14 animals per farm), sheep (25 animals), goats (9), and pigs (3). The exception is buffalo, with farms having about 85 animals on average.
The 400 organic farms are controlled, certified and registered in the Registro Regionale degli Operatori dell’Agricoltura Biologica (regional organic farm register). By joining the Patto per il Bio-distretto (bio-district pact), they guarantee that their produce is typical of the area, organic and GMO free, in accordance with the ethical and social principles on which organic agriculture is based.
The average turnover (including organic markets, fairs, and summer promotions in seaside resorts) has increased in the last two years by 20%. Today the entire produce, and not just a part, as before, is marketed as organic.
The participation of public authorities
The Cilento Bio-district includes 30 municipalities: Ascea, Auletta, Caggiano, Casal Velino, Castellabate, Castelnuovo Cilento, Castel San Lorenzo, Centola, Ceraso, Controne, Cuccaro Vetere, Gioi, Monte San Giacomo, Novi Velia, Orria, Pisciotta, Pollica, Prignano Cilento, Rofrano, Rutino, Salento, San Pietro al Tanagro, Sanza, Sassano, Sessa Cilento, Sicignano degli Alburni, Stella Cilento, Stio, Torraca, Vallo della Lucania. They play a fundamental role by providing information, promoting organic farming and environmental protection, undertaking educational activities on proper nutrition in schools, as well as activating organic canteens and other green purchase initiatives. The Province of Salerno and the Campania Region also take part in the Bio-District’s activities, providing funds and directing their own programs. Many other municipalities in the area, impressed by the results, have applied to join the initiative.
The municipality of Ceraso is the capital and headquarters of the Cilento Bio-District, a local, national and international rallying point for organic food, welcoming visitors and experts from around the world.
AIAB Campania coordinates all the activities of the Cilento Bio-District and the non-profit association responsible for managing it.
Tourist facilities
The bio-district has created a network of 20 restaurants and 10 bathing establishments, committed to promoting the produce of farms and farming associations. In this way, organic farming not only plays an important role in the protection and preservation of biodiversity and typical products but can also rely on a local market that can appreciate the excellence of the area’s organic produce. Thanks to these short supply chain initiatives, the consumers can be sure of the origin of the produce and can establish direct relations with the farms that are part of the Bio-district Pact.
The short supply chain
In July 2009, with the participation of the Campania Region Councillor for Agriculture and the Province of Salerno Councillor, the bio-district’s first Gruppo di Acquisto Solidale, GAS, (fair trade group) ( and several organic markets were inaugurated in coastal and inland tourists areas. The GAS is a consumer group that buys directly from local producers, and is committed to promoting fair trade centred on people and relations.
The shopping basket
The best organic farm products in the Cilento are added to a shopping basket which includes Controne beans, Cicerale chickpeas, Cilento white figs, chestnuts, olive oil, mozzarella, honey, Gioi soppressata, Cilento DOC wine, goat cheese, Silane cheese, Pertosa white artichokes, Paestum round artichokes and many other excellent seasonal organic products.
These eco-tourist routes take you to farms, holiday farms, bio-cities, organic state-owned land, environmental sites important for their biodiversity and local traditions), linking inland rural areas and coastal tourist areas. All sites along the bio-routes are classified by AIAB Campania on the basis of the Carta dei principi per un turismo sostenibile nelle aree rurali (charter of principles for sustainable tourism in rural areas), which selects tourism activities that are ecologically sustainable in the long term, economically viable and acceptable from the ethical and social points of view.
The beautiful beaches of the Cilento, which attract tourists from all over the world, are an ideal place to promote rural areas and local organic produce. With the collaboration of bathing establishments and coastal municipalities, territorial marketing initiatives are carried out on the beaches to present the best organic products and bio-routes; the website, also helps to create widespread consensus among producers and consumers. As of 2009, the Bio-District also organises boat trips to explore other beaches. Specially trained personnel promote organic products – Bio-lifeguards and Bio-recreation workers - who set up stands to give bathers a taste of local food, an activity that has proved successful beyond all expectations.
Technical assistance and funding
AIAB Campania provides all organic farms in the Bio-District with free technical support, if requested, thanks to projects funded by the Campania Region. Many enterprises, driven also by the increase in demand for local produce, have presented structural modernization projects to the Campania Region to: reduce costs, raise quality by converting to organic agricultural production, promote diversification (processing agricultural products), protect and improve the natural environment, strengthen the contractual capacity of the primary sector, create greater added value, develop and disseminate advanced farming technology. All bio-district actors participate in a round table to identify sources of available funds for annually programmed activities.
Future prospects
An assessment of the socio - economic and environmental impact of the bio-district shows that prospects are very 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 and not just in the summer months.
Many state-owned lands have switched to organic farming. From an environmental perspective, a number of initiatives have been implemented to protect and valorise the landscape and natural features of rural areas. The conversion of new agricultural enterprises to organic farming will also help reduce the negative impacts of production on the environment.