Agropreneurship: growing social change

The term ‘agropreneurship’ reminds us that even the smallest-scale farmers are business-people. Sometimes, in the context of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) it’s easy to forget  that, because we hear a lot about the differences between the private sector and civil society. 

A wise colleague of mine often says: “well, if you’re not for profit – you’re for loss”. And that’s true; farmers and land workers have to make a living! Entrepreneurship in agriculture is great at making this happen. As Marco Marzano de Marinis, World Farmers Organisation Secretary General said, “Entrepreneurship can create employment and build farmers’ capacity”. But could we take the concept of agropreneurship further – and innovate how we do business in agriculture not just in the economic, but the social sense, too?

Roberto Moncalvo, President of Coldiretti certainly thinks so, as he demonstrated at the side-event focusing on Agropreneurship for Food Security and Nutrition. To me, he got straight to the heart of the matter: what is agriculture for? If we do not define what we want it to do for us, we cannot decide on a system that will work.

“We don’t need to increase, but improve production”, Mr.  Moncalvo said. Personally, I find this a welcome contrast with the status quo in a context where a call for increasing productivity dominates.

What does his call for improvements mean in practice, though? Ultimately, it all comes down to what we see as the end goal of food production. While for some growing crops and rearing livestock is a means to producing commodities, others see its cultural, social and environmental value.

For Mr. Moncalvo, these are the values we should be thinking of when setting up and developing agricultural enterprises. Around the world, many people agree with him, as they view financial income as only one – though important – benefit their businesses can deliver.

Indeed, agriculture and other land-based activities have huge potential and not merely as the means to gain profit. Around the world, an increasing number of agricultural enterprises are being guided not only by a quest for profit, but also a desire to benefit wider society and the environment. Commodity production seems to be losing ground as the be all and end all of agriculture.

Diversification is becoming a buzzword for these alternative farming communities. From care farming in the United Kingdom or agricoltura sociale (literally, social agriculture) in Italy, farmers are starting to recognise that they provide much more to society than ‘just’ food. What is more, diversifying business activities can also ensure income for farmers in difficult times.

However, there is more to agropreneurship than diversification. Mr. Moncalvo flips another dominant narrative: “Technology should not dominate, but be put to the service of values-based agriculture”. Whether that’s infrastructure or smartphones, these are tools to achieve our goals in agriculture; they are not the end goal.

The Coldiretti President’s argument for ethics in agriculture extends to consumers as well. Labeling, for example, is one great way of empowering consumers to make an informed choice about their food purchases. “It should not be a vehicle of nationalism – rather a way of valuing cultural and biological diversity,” he added.

With so much talk of attracting youth to agricultural work at the CFS, perhaps we should stop and consider the benefits of social agropreneurship. Young people’s discontent with the current system is growing. A model of agriculture grounded in social and environmental justice, with people’s rights at its heart could do the trick.  

 

Blogpost by Isabella Coin, #CFS43 Social Reporter – isa.coin@gmail.com

Photo courtesy: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

24/10/2016 14:48

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