Ed. note: This article first appeared on ARC2020.eu. ARC2020 is a platform for agri-food and rural actors working towards better food, farming, and rural policies for Europe.

ARC2020 is launching a new project in France to build rural resilience from the ground up. It’s called “Nos Campagnes En Résilience”. The goal is to empower rural communities to realise their own fair and socio-ecological transitions, by connecting and supporting the many exciting initiatives that are emerging on the ground. Why France? And why now? Hannes Lorenzen explains.

Covid is the latest in a series of crises

This time last year we already faced multiple challenges: climate change, biodiversity loss, vulnerable and unsustainable food systems, concentration of land and resources in the hands of a few owners, and more.

Now with Covid-19 our lives have changed fundamentally, in the rural regions of France and across Europe. Our cultural, social and political interactions have been restricted.

We are concerned that rural regions – and especially rural people, who were already disadvantaged and marginalised – may be further left behind.

Rural regions and economies have been undergoing profound changes for several decades now. The move from small scale to industrialised and intensive agriculture has in some regions gradually transformed the countryside into empty open fields. Farm animals live in increasingly restricted spaces. Ecosystems lose resilience, biodiversity collapses in farming systems. The rural exodus has accelerated, villages lose their social fabric and infrastructure. Productivist policies have broken a fair and sound relationship between people and nature. The picture may seem bleak and even inescapable. But we believe we have a chance to reverse the trends.

We want to connect communities that are making rural life fairer and more sustainable on the ground, and empower them to realise their own socio-ecological and fair transitions. Photo : Jeanine SOCHAS

Local solutions

Nos Campagnes En Résilience is a new project to build rural resilience in France, coordinated by ARC2020. It’s about rural communities finding ways to live and grow with respect for people and nature. We want to connect communities that are making rural life fairer and more sustainable on the ground, and empower them to realise their own socio-ecological and fair transitions.

We believe in cooperation. There is very rich collective intelligence everywhere to organise socio-ecological transition now. In France and across Europe, rural movements are getting increasingly organised and new forms of rural-urban cooperation are emerging. Farmers are experimenting with new forms of sustainable practices, more resilient and sovereign in a local dynamic: methods regenerating soil life, biodiversity, supporting climate, biodiversity and people at the same time. In France, new direct relations between producers and consumers are being established with Community Supported Agriculture (AMAPs), cooperatives and solidarity grocery shops. In many ways nature is no longer seen as a colony to be exploited or to be dominated but as something to be cared for and cooperated with. Although these initiatives are not yet sufficiently valued by the general public and politicians, they are essential to ensure a more humane future, offering optimistic prospects for future generations in times of multiple crises.

The COVID crisis we are currently experiencing has highlighted the inconsistencies and limitations of the globalized system. It has highlighted the importance of turning to more local solutions and reconnecting people with their environment. Mobilising people for food security in rural and urban communities is essential.

Farm visit with David and Sonia of GAEC du Roubillon, March 2021

A collective adventure

Nos Campagnes En Résilience has been designed to leave a large space for actors in the field – social, cultural, agro-ecological. Because many partners have been involved from the outset, this new project will be a collective adventure belonging to all.

To begin with, ARC2020 is getting the lie of the land in France: meeting people, identifying partners and identifying everyone’s expectations. We are reaching out to individual farmers and local initiatives as well as Terre de LiensForum Synergies, the AMAP network, and myvillages.

The project will bring together local initiatives to influence public policies, so that decisions take into account new bottom-up forms of organisation and development.

We will help the different movements and initiatives to learn from one another. We expect to facilitate information, exchange of practices, networking and later also cooperation at the European level.

By initiating this project, ARC2020 wishes to contribute to making European rural territories more inclusive, more resilient and more respectful of nature. We want to help communities around Europe to find inspiration in the exciting initiatives happening on the ground in France.

Thanks to the financial support of the Porticus Foundation, the project officially launches today.

If you would like to get involved, contact our project coordinator Valérie Geslin, or follow along on InstagramLinkedIn and Facebook.

Visit the project page here.


Teaser photo credit: Project coordinator Valérie listens to Fanny, a farmer at Ferme de l’Auberge, Divajeu, March 2021