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Agro-ecology in peri-urban Casablanca: A producer’s network linking urban and rural spheres
Date: 2013-03-25 15:28:45 User: chloenaneix
Among the four pilot projects set up by Urban Agriculture Casablanca (UAC), an action-research consortium comprised by 20 Moroccan and German partners, one pilot project focusing on awareness to and training in Healthy Food Production constitutes a good example of an innovative short food chain in Morocco. Following are some essentials features of the pilot project:

1) Together with the partner organization Terre&Humanisme Maroc, UAC researchers have set up an Educational Farm in a peri-urban village near Dar Bouazza in the outskirts of Casablanca. The neighboring farmers received training in agro-ecological food production and joined forces to produce weekly food baskets delivered to urban families. The customers pay in advance by subscription of 3 months minimum. Initially inspired by the French Amap-system, it is one of the first vegetable box schemes in Morocco. There is now a long waiting list for the baskets as the demand among middle-class households in Casablanca is steadily growing and the farmers have become economically independent just one year after the launch of the initiative, which surpassed initial expectations.

2) In spite of this success, the vegetable box scheme being a cumbersome system in terms of organization and logistics, the producers have sought for alternative distribution channels in Casablanca. They have started selling their seasonal extra-production (herbs, tomatoes, eggs etc.) to a couple of organic shops in Casablanca, and for some time the food baskets were even available on one of the very first e-shopping site called greenstore.ma. In addition produce is sold at the Educational Farm during regular open days and other events.

3) In order to market more broadly and reach professionals (restaurants, school canteens etc.), a special label is currently under study for agro-ecological produce around Casablanca. Called “Bessaha” which literally means “with health” and is generally used for wishing a good appetite, the label is meant to advocate for a safer and healthier nutrition. As organic certification is too costly and not accessible to small farmers, a Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) is now being discussed with other urban and peri-urban producers in Morocco.

4) Other activities within the pilot project include school visits, awareness raising events for urbanites, general introduction to agro-ecology, special trainings (seed breeding, composting etc.), festivals for children of surrounding communities and other artistic events, cooking and transformation workshop for the farmer’s women who now ensure catering at the farm whenever needed.

For more information on the pilot project please visit: http://www.uac-m.org/pilot-projects/pilot-project-4/
Date: 2013-03-27 10:09:26 User: Marielle Dubbel
Thank you for posting this interesting experience. It raises the following questions:

-is diversification of market outlets (vegetable boxes, organic shops, farmers markets etc) essential to make short food chains profitable? We have seen similar market diversification in Rosario -the case described in thepost by Henk Renting.

-and is diversification of activities, combining food production and sale with offering visit and training services another important strategy for enhancing economic profitability?

Please also listen to the discussion at:
http://www.npr.org/2013/03/18/174665719/local-food-may-feel-good-but-it-doesnt-pay which argues that:

"The market for locally-grown food has seen dramatic growth over the last decade. Despite this boost in sales and popularity, evidence suggests that the economics behind the movement still don't favor the farmer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has new programs to try to prop up small-scale operations, but many local farms only survive because they scrape by on below-market wages, or by doing without things like insurance. Many economists say despite the charm of local food, there are relatively few benefits in terms of energy efficiency, quality or cost. They say that we shouldn't knock our system of region specialization and distribution, and that farmers markets, fun though they are, are not good economic models"
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