Social agriculture is a new and successful stage of development for the primary sector in Italy and Europe. It is an important occasion to develop projects of cultural, social and economic integration that allows the involvement of destitute classes through formative and working experiences.
In the last years many of these experiments succeeded in Italy: we can now say that this first experimental stage is over. The cultural and social debate generated by these experiences stressed the necessity to enlarge the number of people involved in this kind of processes and to create a reference point in the political world to represent and lobby social agriculture.
This political dimension of the movement will be by definition very open (both from the cultural and from the functional point of view) and variegated, able to include the many different spirits that animate the social agriculture community. This will be necessary to give the movement a future. The movement will then be able to transmit and make a collective synthesis of all the different needs that the everyday experience of social farming creates.
At this purpose, this year the Forum produced a statute to list and share all the values that are at the very basis of social farming. This will be a reference point for all the business, social and cultural stakeholders and draws a clear line between social agriculture and other kinds of farming experiences.
The Forum worked in the perspective to open its experience to the rest of Europe, as well. This is in the perspective to circulate knowhow and experiences with other communities.
A great contribution to this experience was given by the inputs from scientific and academic communities; this allowed a reciprocal enrichment in cultural and social terms. As for the future, the plans of the Forum are: exporting this idea across the whole country; tightening the relationships between social farms and local communities and inserting the idea of social agriculture in the EU agricultural policies. Moreover, the Forum is cooperating with the Italian Parliament to design a law regulating social farming in Italy.
Given the success of the initiative, the national Forum is now promoting the creation of regional forums. As a matter of fact, one of the main values promoted by social agriculture is the relationship with local communities, in terms of a modern idea of corporate social responsibility and given the potential of agriculture to promote social, ethical, cultural and environmental values.
The forum rejects the idea of a hierarchical organization and it bases its functioning on the horizontal interaction and knowhow interchange among members. This is because we think this is the only way in which social farming, besides its social and multifunctional role, can play an important role in the innovation of agriculture. Agriculture is in deep crisis, but at the same time it is at the cutting edge in the process of innovation of the development model of the whole society, in the creation of bearable relationships among productive processes and in the formation of sustainable social and environmental processes.
From this preliminary experience we can definitively affirm that the coupling between social agriculture and rural development is an effective answer to the variegated problems of rural areas. As a matter of fact, social farming can be the aggregation point to deliver basic services to people, such as basic healthcare, education and occupation.
In this complex experience the Forum is experiencing a more modern form of direct representation of interests, going over the traditional model of interaction between social dynamics and representative democracy, which is nowadays experiencing a difficult stage of its development.