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BIOHAZI: Organic farming entrepreneurship demonstration sites
City/Region : Elburgo/Burgelu Local Council , Spain

In 2015, two plots belonging to the local council (one of them zoned as a green area and the other as an urban plot) were turned in organic market gardens with the seal of approval of the Organic Farming Regulatory Board. 

Thanks to the project, each market garden is worked by one person who, with local council support, grows organic produce and sells it at local markets and fairs, and also to consumers in the municipality or nearby ones, with an emphasis on short marketing circuits.

The aim of making these municipal plots available to the public is to provide access to land to people who face significant difficulties to do so, to help them get started in the agri-food sector and create green jobs.

Agendas addressed
BiodiversityGreenfield land and natural spaceSocial inclusion and integration
Pathways followed
  • Nurture a sharing economy
  • Capitalise on local economy and production
  • Create and close local value chains
Context
Biohazi

Elburgo/Burgelu is a municipality of 620 inhabitants with a surface area of 32.1 km2, located 12 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz.

The majority of the population works in the city and the rest is involved in farming, particularly growing cereal. Special mention should also be made of the tourist activity of the Argómaniz Parador Hotel and Hijona rural tourism.

At the end of the 1990s, there was a significant increase in the municipality's population with people moving from the city attracted by the single-family housing. Thus, the Local Council prioritised the objective of facilitating the integration of the new residents. It therefore launched a programme of socio-cultural-environmental and sport activities to generate meeting points to foster and consolidate personal interaction and maintain the rural lifestyle.

This programme of activities is now well established and attracts a high rate of participation.  Thanks to it, environmental projects, such as the Local Agenda 21, an organic educational allotment, the community composting project and, recently, Biohazi have been set up.

In Action

Two 1,000 m2 plots were prepared to implement the Biohazi project and each would support two organic farming schemes for four years. The preliminary stage of the project involved preparing the land, spreading organic fertilizer, erecting a perimeter enclosure and planting sustainable hedges.

Market gardening tools and implements were also supplied to the participants. Each plot was outfitted with irrigation, along with a greenhouse and a hut to store the tools. The hut was built using bio-construction criteria (straw bales, clay, recycled and natural material).

The entrepreneurs were chosen by means of a public call to allocate those plots.

These have been the key factors to drive the project forward:

- Institutional support: all of the local council's department have been involved in the project. Furthermore, working together was fundamental during the ealry stages to develop municipal bylaws to allocate and regulate the use of the plots.

- Positive attitude of the population: the initiative was presented to the local residents as a tool that enhances their territory. Luckily, the majority considered it as an opportunity to create jobs and rural development in accordance with sustainable criteria.

- Educational scope of the project: the municipality's residents have been involved in the scheme, even though they were not directly involved in the project. During the preliminary stage of the project (preparing and transforming the plots), several workshops open to the general public were held on gardening and market gardening (creating sustainable hedgerows, bio-construction workshop, green roof workshop, herbal preparation workshop and organic market gardening workshop).

- Relations with other authorities and municipalities that also support organic farming projects and neighbourhood links with social movements in support of food sovereignty: those contacts and sharing experiences in this area have been fundamental to the success of the project: Red Terrae (Organic Farming Reserve Territories), Slow food, Zadorra Foundation, Maskilu (Zeberio), etc.

- Dissemination in the neighbouring municipalities and supramunicipal district: awareness-raising activities have been organised on the importance of short marketing production and healthy and organic food. Different rural development fairs have been held in the supramunicipal district to which Elburgo belongs and in which we have participated. At these fairs, Biohazi has enjoyed special recognition.

Results

There is currently no land bank, there is no plot assignment to new farmers. It is therefore difficult to increase the supply for generational replacement initiatives for market gardeners. Furthermore, the land under crop is being farmed conventionally and extensively, and there are therefore no relations with the farming sector due to a rejection of organic methods.

This project seeks to change things around and, as far as possible, to contribute to the following goals:

- Generate green job opportunities from an organic farming approach.

- Facilitate the incorporation of people in the agri-food sector.

- Reappraise the notion of the food producer to foster the generational handover.

- Achieve a social and economic return from municipal lands and avoid maintenance costs.

- Increase the biodiversity of crops and foster the use of local varieties.

- Incentivise an alternative land management model to the large-scale single crop as a way of shaping the landscape.

- Be a tool for the stewardship of the territory and the circular economy.

- Encourage cycle closing by using the organic matter composted by the municipality on the proving plots.

- Reduce the environmental impact by supporting short marketing circuits on local markets, consumer groups or zero eco-kilometre food in local restaurants and shops.

- Raise awareness among the general public regarding using seasonal, healthy and locally-sourced food.

The elements that guarantee the transfer and continuity of this transformative action and the keys to keeping local identity are:

- Incorporating these schemes within strategic guidelines of sustainable development, in Local Agenda 21 and the rural development programmes, so that the work is carried out following organic farming criteria within all areas of the local authority.

- Awareness raising about organic farming and encouraging the population  to embrace it in their habits and attitudes and thus support the local producers' marketing processes.

- Establish networking with other projects and authorities working to support organic farming.

Impact

Social impact: 

Access is provided to land in a region (Llanada Alavesa) where extensive crops are dominant and it is difficult to find land for this type of activity.

A transition or intermediate model between family-run horticulture and large-scale agriculture to be able to experiment and limit the economic risks for the entrepreneur.

Economic impact:

During 4 years, two entrepreneurs receive backing and, thanks to the support of the local council, the start-up costs are lower. They also receive an income from selling their produce through short marketing circuits.

Environmental Impacts:

It is an organic farming project with an emphasis on self-sufficiency of inputs, such as compost. Using both what is generated in the composters on the plots and the compost from the municipal sources, the soil is fertilised using the organic waste generated on site in the same area.

Thanks to the mechanisms included in the plots such as drip irrigation systems and perimeter hedges (as wind barriers), there is more sustainable water use and biodiversity is supported by means of the planted vegetation (herbs and fruit trees) that helps to control pests in vegetables crops.

Challenges and lessons learned

The elements that guarantee the transfer and continuity of this transformative action and the keys to keeping local identity are:

  • Incorporating these schemes within strategic guidelines of sustainable development, in Local Agenda 21 and the rural development programmes, so that the work is carried out following organic farming criteria within all areas of the local authority.
  • Awareness raising about organic farming and encouraging the population to embrace it in their habits and attitudes and thus support the local producers' marketing processes.
  • Establish networking with other projects and authorities working to support organic farming. 
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Website: www.sustainablecities.eu

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