Farmers and small operators tend to have a weak position on the market. They lack bargaining power, face barriers to accessing markets, and struggle to achieve a fair income. At the same time, due to growing public awareness of the environmental crisis, and the rise of diet-related ill-health, many citizens want to conveniently access high quality, healthy and sustainable foods. In response, many innovative consumer-driven opportunities for farmers to access markets are now available.
In this context, the COACH project facilitates collaboration between farmers, citizens, local governments and other actors to scale out agroecological food initiatives, advance food sovereignty and drive innovation in territorial food systems across Europe and in Central Asia. COACH stands for ‘Collaborative Agri-food Chains: Driving Innovation in Territorial Food Systems and Improving Outcomes for Producers and Consumers‘.
Duration: November 2020 – October 2023
Project website: coachproject.eu
Living library of collaborative food initiatives
COACH will create a ‘living library’ of emblematic food initiatives across 12 countries in Europe and Central Asia. These initiatives will showcase collaborative innovations that enable farmers and small operators (e.g. artisanal bakers) to improve their incomes and rebalance their position in food chains, while also generating benefits for a diversity of consumers.
Under specific innovation spotlights, COACH will foreground, for example, effective techniques for producers to develop and communicate their identity, market positions and unique selling points based on collaborative processes of holistic innovation, combining both social and technological aspects.
Importantly, COACH will showcase ways to foster equity through increased access to healthy, local food by low income consumers as well as by adopting inclusive, intersectional, gender transformative approaches to collaboration in territorial food initiatives.
Next, new forms of governance that drive highly impactful collective action, for example those linking short food chains, sustainable public procurement and civic food networks in territories, constitute another area of special interest. Relatedly, multi-actor dialogues will help strengthen collaboration between these actors.
Recognising the challenges generated by the pandemic, a special COVID-19 response spotlight will focus on approaches, strategies and policies to protect small farmers in the COVID-19 crisis and to secure continued access to healthy, local and affordable food for all consumers.
Guidance on costs and margins
On the practical level, COACH will provide new insights and guidance on the costs and benefits for actors in the supply chain, demonstrating opportunities for improved incomes for farmers and small operators and reduced costs for intermediaries.
Farm-to-fork public procurement toolkit
As yet another practical outcome, our partners will develop a ‘farm-to-fork procurement toolkit’ for public authorities interested in sustainable public catering. The toolkit will help municipalities design appropriate tenders for healthy and fresh food supplied by small-scale, local producers and also to support farmers to know how to access these opportunities.
Strengthening a community of practice
Finally, in order to support peer-to-peer knowledge sharing across collaborative food initiatives, COACH will deliver a range of practical, knowledge-based suite of activities such as coaching and mentoring, as well as trainings on selected spotlight innovations. These events will take place both in person and online, the latter enabled through a Communication, Learning and Innovation Platform (CLIP), designed to help strengthen a wider community of practice beyond the project’s duration.
The project is coordinated by a team at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (UK) and involves leadership from social movements, farmers’ organisations and municipalities committed to sustainability across Europe as well as allied academic groups.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no.101000918.