As part of the RISE ATTER project, Agroecology Now! staff co-designed1 and delivered a 7-day event at Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset, UK. The main objective of this week-long collective space was to bring together researchers and practitioners from across the world who want to exchange, learn and advance their thinking and practice on agroecological transitions.
The programme for the school was designed around the EU-funded ATTER project, itself a community of practice of researchers and practitioners working on ‘agroecological transitions of territorial agrifood systems .’ Following a competitive application process, the facilitation team selected 24 researchers and practitioners working on agroecological transitions in their territories.
The school was hosted at Monkton Wyld Court, an intentional community with basic and shared accommodations and spaces for collective eating, learning, with opportunities to engage with local agroecology and food sovereignty initiatives. The community, Monkton Wyld Court, was founded 30 years ago and is run and maintained by a resident Workers’ Cooperative with the help of volunteers.
Over the course of the week, participants were led through an intensive programme of workshops, exchanges and hands-on activities intended to support agroecological transitions at the territorial level. The school highlighted the importance of the diversity of knowledges that exists in territorial food systems. It started from the premise that transition processes affect everybody – even if in highly uneven ways – and for that reason that all perspectives are needed to understand, facilitate and effect them with a particular attention on the most marginalised voices. Moreover, it was stressed that how we view ‘transitions’, ‘territories’ or even ‘agroecology’ will be different depending on who we are and where we are coming from.
With this in mind the school explored multiple methods and tools, relevant to a range of scales, that have potential to transcend the subordination of nature and of people along intersectional lines including race, class, caste, disability/ability, sexuality, and gender. Activities included transect mapping, image theatre, debate, group discussions, collective reading and unpacking research dilemma ‘world cafés’. These activities helped to explore the collective experiences and uncertainties of the group, as well as the hopes and dreams for the future. We also visited a local farm – Fivepenny Farm – owned and managed by Landworkers’ Alliance member, Jyoti Fernandes. Jyoti hosted us for a day of activities including a soil health assessment, ‘interview the cow’ technique, apple picking, and a tour of the farm itself.
The week culminated in a day led and programmed by the participants themselves. During this day participants chose to focus on building links post-event, in particular ways to continue supporting each other in a community of practice. Mirroring the event opening, participants also closed proceedings with a ‘mística’, with gifts to symbolise what we were taking away and what we were leaving behind.
The RISE ATTER project will run a further two schools in the coming two years in Italy and France. For more information on this school, those still to come and the ATTER project in general feel free to contact us or see the project website.
1 The school was co-designed by staff from the Centre for Agroecology Water and Resilience (including many from Agroecology Now!), Urgenci (an international CSA Network), Terralim (a local food partnership in France), The Landworkers’ Alliance, and INRAE (l’Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement in France).