New policies to boost agro-ecological farming and the sale of local produce

The current agro-food system has proved incapable of feeding the entire population. To do that, new policies are needed aimed at food sovereignty and contemplating food as a right, not a business, a nutrient for consumption rather than an object of it. To this end, the municipal government team has proposed the 2016-2019 period as a strategic timescale for the strengthening of agro-ecological production and for backing the sale of local produce.

The strategy to provide a political impetus for Barcelona’s food sector is aimed at policies leading to food sovereignty, responsible consumption, agro-ecological farming, short sales circuits, the presence of organic and local produce in municipal markets and the fight to combat food waste.

According to the Commissioner for the Cooperative, Social and Solidarity Economy, Jordi Via, it’s “imperative” for a sustainable Barcelona to face the question of food not only from a perspective of safety, but also to accomplish the goal of “food sovereignty”. Via explained: “We want to boost eco-farming in the city via urban cultivation sites. Apart from continuing to work on awareness, we want to promote the distribution of green products, which are present in the municipal markets, and strengthen their presence at Mercabarna”. The Commissioner also added that the fight to combat food waste “is one of the keys to fostering responsible consumption”.

Production stage

At the production stage, the plan envisages extending urban cultivation and boosting the production of organic food in the city and its environs. The overall goal is to create a municipal agricultural park and therefore support will be given to initiatives promoting banks of land and facilitating access or exchange for them to be put to agricultural use. Likewise, the idea is to promote seed banks for local varieties, introduce new agro-ecological job profiles into employment and training plans run by Barcelona Activa and also promote urban livestock enterprises in the Collserola Natural Park.

The Area of Urban Ecology also wants to continue to extend urban cultivation plots, building on the increase in the last few years in communal allotments, social and school vegetable patches and other cultivation initiatives in parks, gardens and other sites. The idea is to carry on pushing these types of growing areas as a way of raising awareness and driving home-grown produce within the parameters of food quality and safety.

Distribution stage

At the distribution stage, short sales circuits must be promoted (from the field to the meal table), driving markets for direct sales and farmers’ fairs, as well as helping agro-ecological consumption groups which are common in the city’s neighbourhoods and which need places to meet in and resources to help them consolidate their situation. At the Mercabarna wholesale market for instance, a project is planned for an Eco Hall for the sale of ecological produce.

Work is also being done to improve sales facilities for 30 local producers located at the entrance to the fruit market and to improve the sales area for farming cooperatives. Likewise, at Barcelona’s central market, facilities given over for use by the Food Bank are set to be extended, enhancing hygiene conditions with the Barcelona Public Health Agency and improving the picking zone and fresh produce storage. Similarly, there are plans for the introduction of local, agro-ecological and fair trade products at the vending machines in municipal facilities, as well as catering services.

Consumption stage

At the consumption stage, the plan is to improve public access to local, agro-ecological and fair trade products everywhere, from Mercabarna to municipal markets and school dining halls.

The government measure includes the adoption of measures for the management and prevention of waste via campaigns in schools and other educational, social and professional centres. Likewise, measures are to be put in place to boost awareness and training, such as the publication of a map detailing good agro-ecological practice in the city, and an evaluation of Barcelona’s participation in agro-ecological networks at home and abroad.