OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Tradition meets modernity: Connecting digital tools with agroecological food production methods to empower Local as sustainable food system

Using today's knowledge and tools to preserve and increase production of a Food With a Taste and ensure Concept of Quality Feeding.

Photo of Marija Joksimović
2 1

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Avala info

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

University of Belgrade - Agriculture faculty; La Via Campesina Europe; Grupa za analizu i kreiranje javnih politika GAJP; A local marketing agency

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.avalainfo.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Belgrade

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Republic of Serbia

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Belgrade

What country is your selected Place located in?

Serbia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

The whole Vision Team is living in Belgrade, and a production of quality food is something that gathered whole team.

We have grown in the rural area of Belgrade (Serbia capital) - villages underneath Avala mountain, and having a healthy, nutritious, a good quality food was like an normal thing to have - to grow it in our own gardens, fields and stables. 

This area (Avala villages) used to be known as a dairy producers for the whole city of Belgrade in 1980's. But it all have changed - we have witnessed extinguishing of most of a local family farms. Most of them couldn't acquire economical values of their small quantity (but good quality) production. It's our neighbors that have sold their animals, stopped to grow plants, and went to the city center to work on a low-paid jobs. Only couple of families (like 10% compared to 1980's) continued to produce their own food, and we knew where could they be found. 

At the same time, with capitalism bringing a mass production to main door, and a major of low-quality food started to occupy market's shelves in Belgrade (a process started in late 1990's and hit big in 2010's) - a request for a food of a better quality started to rise.

We, as a team, decided to try to offer a closed, functional and sustainable Food System to Belgrade. We have put ourselves in a position of middleman: we tried to inform potential customers that there are still working family mini farms with not a big quantity, but with a great quality of various products they produce; and we tried to explain to the farmers that their potential customers are really close if a good system is established.

So we all gathered in the village of Beli Potok 4 years ago, and decided to start a "test". Just a group of enthusiast, with a various knowledge basics&skills. With no coverage from any project - just with a wish to empower our local community. 

And now, we found credible partners and we're thinking it big!



Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Everybody have heard about cheese/sausages or other fine food production in some small villages of France. Truth is that most of Europe has a long tradition of growing of quality products in small quantities in local, mostly rural areas. Same is in some other parts of the world.

Belgrade, a Serbia capital, can be lucky to have both urban, modern city area of more than 1 mil inhabitants, and that at it's outskirts lays huge fields of rural area, waiting to be used wisely.

As a Serbia capital, it's really a vibrant place, with running economy, but also, as an European country, with a long history of agricultural production. Less then 100 years ago, agriculture/farming was a main job for most of Serbians. Our grandfathers and grand mothers used to produce most of their own food. 

In these area (Serbia and surrounding countries), food have always tasted great! It's thing that melts in your mouth. And having an Orthodox church as a main religion, some good things that it promotes - a Family values - made that all family members were hard working people. A production of everyday meals was taken seriously: the work our grandmothers have done can be compared to the work of best restaurant head chefs! We still have a saying that The best food is one made at home. 

If going through these areas, try some of domestic food as local Pita-s, Meze-s, a host's Rakija... U won't forget that taste ever, cause we have it (food production) in our genes.

It was not until we ourselves began to travel the world, that we realized the value of what we had - a great tasty food that was given to us for granted.


People living in rural Belgrade parts, like villages surrounding Avala mountain are still low-educated working class. But it's because our neighbors are hardworking, they managed to save some of the family farms. Although most of the working-age family members are having first (usually low-paid) job somewhere in the city, they are taking care of the animals&fields before&after work/on weekends.

And it's because they produce food for themselves (their family-their kids) those food is not treated with any pesticides/antibiotics/or some other chemical product for increasing production. All tomatoes are different, uneven, cloggy, but with a fabulous taste. I've seen kids eating 4-5 pieces straight from a garden! 

And, of course, with all that tradition in food production, one can just imagine what kinds of local varieties and types of fruits/veggies are growing around our villages. 

We are a bit lucky since mount Avala is already recognized as touristic place/picnic area, so we already have visitors coming here. There is just a job to direct them towards good food producers in villages. On the other hand, neither one of local family farm did try to use that potential in order to grow economically - they are just not aware of a growing need for a products they have and they are not skilled in promoting themselves. 

That was a place we have found ourselves useful to our community. 



What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1035

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

1375000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Situation in 2020

The biggest challenge that food system in Belgrade faces is access to quality and healthy food produced by farmers. Local green markets are dominated by vendors, while retail sector is dominated by big agribusiness.

On the other hand, small family farms, once pillars of the supply of local food systems are slowly vanishing. In terms of national food production system, family farms constitute around 70% of the national food production system. But, in the last 30 years, almost 300 000 small family farms have vanished in Serbia due to economic unviability of their activities As much as it is a national problem generally, it is primarily a major problem for food supply of locally grown quality food for local communities.

During the history, small producers were the pillars of national food system. Today, we are facing the slow extinction of small producers because of various political and economic problems. Among many problems, there are two main issues for small producers in Serbia. First one is the market conditions which are unfavourable for small producers. Price dumping and inadequate financial support system by the state are the main issues regarding the market conditions.

Second problem is the market competition with the big agribusiness which has lower production costs and dominance in the retail sector As an effect of mentioned negative trends, small producers are facing slow “shut down” process due to economic unviability of their production activities.

Situation in 2050

Consequences for society are devastating. Loss of jobs, population loss in the rural areas, loss of cultural and traditional heritage, and finally, the loss of healthy ecosystems for sustainable food production.

By the 2050, the mass industrialisation of the food systems has expanded on the whole food system. Big agribusiness and retail chains are dominating on the market. Most of food products are industrially processed and have low nutritional values. Due to major loss of small family farms and rural population stagnation, urban population is struggling with malnutrition, and health problems which derive from inadequate diets based on industrialised processed food. There is ever-growing lack of quality nutritious food available. On the other hand, nutritional, healthy food is expensive and available only to wealthy people.

Outcome of the climate changes will be unpredictable hydrological regimes which will cause the risk of flooding in the autumn and spring time, and droughts during the summer cause of temperature increase of 2 degrees by Celzius.

Ecosystems are devastated due to overabuse of chemical products in big agribusiness, like fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides. Soil health and underground water resources are devastated. Local seeds and varieties are replaced by GMO seeds and various hybrids ending up with monoculture production of food and high loss of biodiversity

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

First step to begin with is to execute an in-depth terrain mapping of all producers. We will cover our local food system to identify all the small food producers in the area. After the terrain mapping is done, an extensive database with detailed info about every producer will be established and information about producers will be uploaded on Google Maps.

Second step is performed by Faculty of Agriculture of Belgrade. Their part in vision realization is based on individual assessment of each producer: what type of product, in which quantities, which quality indicators, in which conditions the product is made. After assessment, education will be provided to small producers with knowledge about legal requirements, best practice/technology in use, and basic requirement for food safety for every specific product they make. In this step an academia knowledge is put in a service of small family farms.

Education on agroecology will be provided by our partners from La Via Campesina Europe and facilitated by our team. Experts from La Via Campesina will provide to a group of farmers an in depth knowledge on agroecology during the intensive training. Through horizontal dialogue, educator-learners and a “knowledge exchange” between farmers, scientists and activists, the training will develop participants’ knowledge and provide tools for knowledge capitalization and sharing.

After the assessment and training on agroecology, next step is to engage small producers to educate themselves in digital marketing tools. First step is to present the benefits of digital marketing to small producers during the series of presentation in the local area. On the presentations, producers will be motivated to join the digital marketing course provide by our team. Mentors will follow their progress and provide advice to producers when they start to develop their online business.

Each step of the vision process will be coordinated and facilitated by Avala Info team. We will be in charge of facilitating communication through our website, communication channels. Avala Info will take care of media coverage to further disseminate the project vision in society and attract new farmers to collaborate with us in vision development.

Finally, with the education modules and cooperative philosophy, our vision will strive to engage and transform livelihoods of small producers and their capacity to adapt to climate change conditions through agroecology methods in creating a resilient and regenerative ecosystems for sustainable local food systems.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our vision will improve critical issues regarding the food production system and population needs in our area. First one is improved economic sustainability of small producers. The biggest impact for the small producers will be improvement of their market and material conditions which will allow them to engage whole family and dedicate them exclusively to food production.

Improved livelihoods will result in more potential for education of the children coming from the family farms. In long term, this will enable the small family farms to further develop their business due to knowledge transfer which will happen though farm succession, from parents to kids

Improved skills on digital tools will enable farmers an improved access to information and better understanding of possibilities of digital technologies for improvement of their business.

Through agroecology education, small producers will obtain deeper knowledge on methods and tools which will build their capacities to increase levels of sustainability of their agricultural production. Result of their traditional production methods and further education in sustainable food production will be revitalised ecosystems and enhanced ability of ecosystems to regenerate.

In order to achieve greater level of sustainability in every aspect of our local food system, interdisciplinary educational hub should be established, to provide courses in sustainable methods of agricultural production, business course, courses on digital marketing and branding, cooperative economy, circular economy etc.

Major change from the aspect of the consumers is more information and better access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food. More customers buying the local food will provide a great boost for the local producers and local economy in general.

Better relationships between local community will enhance social ties and revalorisation of value of locally grown food and reinforce the positive perception of local tradition and culture

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our vision of regenerative and nourishing food future vision for 2050 is to establish food system of our area which is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. Main tool for achieving our vision is agroecological method of food production which encompasses the ecologically, economically and socially principles in the food system

Two relatively recent reports (IAASTD 2009; de Schutter 2010) argue that, to provide sustenance for another billion of people—as the world’s population is predicted to grow by 2050—it is necessary to adopt as efficient farming systems as possible. The reports recommend a radical shift to agroecology as a way to ameliorate the food production system and improve material conditions of the poorest strata of population.

The solution to the upcoming challenge of feeding the global population lies in the use of socially responsible methods and technologies that respect the principles of environmental conservation. In a world where the arable land is on decline, where fossil fuels become more scarce and more expensive, where the amounts of water are ever decreasing, with drastic climate change accompanied by social unrest and economic insecurity, the only food system that will be able to tackle the challenges of the future is the one with a high level of diversity, productivity and efficiency

Agroecological initiatives aim to transform industrial agriculture through the transition from fossil-based production that serves the interests of agribusiness, to production based on alter-native agricultural paradigms that develop local and national production systems rooted in local innovations, resources and solar energy. This means to make arable land, seeds, irrigation systems, loans and local markets available to farmers and create incentive economic policies, financial subsidies and market opportunities.

The basics of sustainable management of agricultural systems which will be achieved in the 2050 vision of our local food system are:

- Sustained growth of productivity of local agricultural farms

- Continued risk mitigation and improved system resilience in the local area

- Enhanced public opinion on values of ecologic sustainability, social equality and cultural diversity on the local level

- Preserved natural resources, increased biodiversity and optimisation of local ecosystem functions

- Terminated process of degradation of soil and of the environment

The agriculture needs radical transformation, which must be guided by the idea that the changes in agricultural thematic cannot occur without corresponding changes in the social, political, cultural and economic context.

 In other words, a change is needed that leads to a more just social and economic environment, which would make possible the development of sustainable agriculture for humans and the environment.

The agroecological vision of our local food system consists of creating balanced and harmonious system between nature, food producers and people from our community.

To underline the vision, we are aware that our vision requires all the actors of the food system, especially policy-makers in the government, to support agroecological transition of local and national food systems in Serbia and to adopt this new way of thinking. Climate changes are already creating serious economic losses and difficulties in agricultural planning taking its toll on the most vulnerable ones, the small family farms. There is a urgent need to inform, enable and create models of climate/change resilient food systems according to agroecological principles. Our vision wants to ignite the spark of inspiration that such food systems are possible to create when there is a synergy of all the actors in the food system.

Finally, our vision will continue to raise awareness of small producers of necessity to embrace agroecology in order to maintain a viable agricultural production and healthy ecosystems which are the backbone of our food systems. Our vision’s focus is engaged in localized food system which strengthen the inter-connections between agro-ecosystems and socio-cultural systems to ensure a regenerative and nourishing food future accessible for all strata of population in our area. Our vision is to revalorise the traditional knowledge of food systems and connect it with the modern way of distribution through technology.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • sent to me by a friend

2 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Spam
Photo of Constanza Castano
Team

Hi Marija Joksimovi─ç . Welcome to the Food System Vision Prize Community!

Thank you for sharing your social responsibility approach with us. Please make sure you have reviewed your final submission through the Pocket Guide to support you through the final hours of wrapping up your submission. This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision.

Here is the link to the pocket guide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o8WGMus6-V8GywWdlNwmCpk7I1fMVzcQ/view

All the very best for the Prize!

Warm regards,

Constanza

Spam
Photo of Marija Joksimović
Team

Hello Constanza Castano !
We were going through Guide, but will do it once again!

Best of regards from Belgrade,
Marija and the Team