Toward a More Sustainable Agricultural Model: Training a New Generation of Agro-ecological Farmers

Project location: ITALY
Project start date: November 2017 - Project end date: November 2020
Project number: 2017-006
Beneficiary: Terra! Onlus

Conceived and implemented by Terra! Onlus, the Scuola diffusa della Terra - Emilio Sereni ("widespread School of the Earth") is an ecological training project aimed at contributing to the active promotion of a more sustainable and ecological way for agricultural production and farming in Italy. To this end, the project seeks to connect young people and their aptitude to innovation, with traditional local farming practices and scientific institutions and actors of the third sector.

The school provides young aspiring farmers the tools to put into practice an agroecological model that respects the environment, biodiversity and social rights. Through theoretical and practical training and paid internships, it seeks to give concrete response to the many young people who in recent years are asking for help to get closer to agriculture. Through the training program, 90 young people, coming from different regions of Italy, will be provided with experiential, skills-based education in agroecology and sustainable agro-farming management. The educational programme is designed to combine theoretical and practical instruction. Trainees will thus get a unique and intensive introduction to small-scale sustainable farming by running all aspects of a small-scale farm management, learning from expert educators in the classroom and alongside farmers from three different farming companies already implementing sustainable and eco-friendly animal and agro-farming development models in Tuscany, Liguria and Lazio. They will be applying a new ecological and sustainable vision while at the same time, recovering, updating and reusing important local traditions. This specific training approach will allow participants to develop a specific awareness of the ecological implications of the agricultural and farming process, as well as their practical farm skills including agri-multifunctionality techniques; rearing techniques, animal welfare oriented; organic agriculture techniques; biodiversity conservation techniques.

Spanning over four years (2017-2020), the program includes six different training cycles with 15 participants each, consisting of a combination of classroom and hands-on-training in selected local small farms. At the end of each training cycle, paid internships are offered to the three most talented and motivated trainees, to allow for a comprehensive six-month/one-year working experience in each of the three farming companies partners in the project. At the end of the six cycles and four years of the project, a total number of 90 people will have trained and 18 trainees will have benefited of a paid working experience. All stages of the training process are supervised by a project coordinator, a tutor, a scientific committee, and a number of experts from different disciplines.

The Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation awarded a grant to this project. The formative component of the project is flanked by three correlated lines of actions: 1.structural and infrastructural support to the farms partners of the project; 3. development of a network between several stakeholders involved in the project; 4. investigative reports combined with advocacy actions on against intensive livestock farming and industrial agriculture.

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