Land: How Polish Grassroots Initiatives Help Farmers and New Entrants

Agro-Perma-Lab was named a case of good practice in the EU Ruralisation project, as part of research on Polish educational initiatives that support agroecological transition. Interviews were conducted among others by Robert Skrzypczyński et al and the full length article “Beyond Supporting Access to Land in Socio-Technical Transions” published in the Land academic journal.

The importance of agri-food systems for global sustainability calls for researching and advancing socio-technical transitions towards environmentally friendly models of farming. These transitions hinge on many prerequisites, one of which is providing access to land for farmers and new entrants who experiment with sustainable farming models. However, for socio-technical transitions in farming to be viable, access to land should be complemented with securing access to “intangible” resources such as skills, knowledge or networks. It seems that increasingly often these resources are being provided by various grassroots initiatives. The goal of this paper is to identify how the strategies employed by grassroots initiatives support farmers and new entrants in transitioning to sustainable farming models. In order to answer that question, we perform case studies of three Polish initiatives—Agro-Perma-Lab, PermaKultura.Edu.PL and the Ecological Folk High School in Grzybów—active in promoting agroecology, permaculture and organic farming. The results show a diversity of strategies employed by these initiatives that reflect the frameworks in which they operate. Considering these strategies from the perspective of transition studies suggests that they can be replicated in other contexts and potentially contribute to advancing socio-technical transitions of agri-food systems. Read more here



What distinguishes Agro-Perma-Lab from the other two practices is the emphasis it places on the political aspects of sustainability transitions of agri-food systems, which is exemplified in particular by their work on the Polish Declaration of Agroecology and a coalition of several existing NGOs and informal networks engaged in running the practice—which reflects the global strategies of actors operating within the agroecology-as-movement framework. Download PDF

4.1. Agro-Perma-Lab

Agro-Perma-Lab (AP-Lab) is an educational project in the fields of agroecology, permaculture and food sovereignty in Poland. The activities conducted in the project can be grouped into 4 domains: (1) organizing training for leaders, educators and activists in agroecology and permaculture, (2) providing tools for self-assessment of how a particular farm’s ecosystem is functioning, (3) coordinating the work on a Polish Declaration of Agroecology and (4) creating a diverse community of people engaged in agroecology, permaculture or the food sovereignty movement that functions as a hub for disseminating knowledge and fostering long-term cooperation between engaged actors. […]

Apart from ‘educating the educators’ in person, AP-Lab also provides a self-assessment tool that can be used by farmers or new entrants to diagnose and design a farm in close connection with the ecosystem in which it is functioning. The self-assessment tool for farms was prepared on the basis of three exemplary farms from Poland studied by the AP-Lab team as well as the knowledge and experience of its members. It is a 32-page document (Figure 1), freely available from the project’s website [47], that explains the methodology of the self-assessment and provides three examples of such an assessment of selected exemplary farms.

The approach of AP-Lab to agroecology is based on the agroecology-as-movement approach. As a result, the curriculum of the training for leaders includes e.g., classes related to political strategies of advancing sustainability transitions in agri-food systems. Moreover, AP-Lab coordinates the work on preparing the Polish Declaration of Agroecology that is going to outline the vision of agroecological farming in Poland. Although this will not be the first document of its type in the world, the AP-Lab intends to adapt it to the context of farming challenges in Poland. The declaration is created in order to promote the holistic character of agroecology that includes not only agricultural and environmental aspects but also political, socio-economic or cultural postulates within the transitions framework.