Democratising Agricultural Research in Europe (DARE)
European Commission – Lifelong Learning Programme: Grundtvig Partnership
Biodiversité, Échanges et Diffusion d’Expériences (France), Fédération romande d’agriculture contractuelle de proximité (Switzerland), Fondazione Italiana per la Ricerca in Agricoltura Biologica e Biodinamica (Italy), Landworkers’ Alliance (United Kingdom)
Democratising Agricultural Research in Europe, or D.A.R.E., is a project that brought together food producers, researchers and activists from Europe to share knowledge on participatory and transdisciplinary approaches to research in agriculture. The project focused specifically on agroecological initiatives in Europe, and explored how research can help to realise the potential of these approaches to enable sustainable and just food systems.
Themes covered by DARE include:
- Deliberative and inclusive methods for establishing strategic research priorities in the natural and social sciences
- Accountability and governance of food and agricultural research, policies and investments in low external input farming
- Innovative models of agroecological production and food processing
- Alternatives in food trade and distribution
- Sustainable rural and urban development.
European exchange visits
Over the course of the project (2013-15) each partner hosted one international exchange visit where participants shared experiences and deliberated on pioneering initiatives in democratising food and agricultural research. In line with the project’s emphasis on participation and transdisciplinarity, the agroecological initiatives we visited integrated local practices as well as experiential, informal knowledge of farmers and food activists with scientific innovation.
Thematically, in Italy partners explored the challenges linked to the governance of global research programmes on agricultural diversity. Here, we also examined farmer-driven innovations in organic production methods for climate change adaptation on peri-urban farms. In turn, our partners in France showcased examples of participatory plant breeding and advocacy strategies around international legislation on farmers’ rights to seeds.
Next, the exchange in Switzerland focused on grassroots innovations in urban agriculture and a popular initiative to integrate Food Sovereignty into Swiss legislation. For our last trip, which took place in the United Kingdom, we visited small-scale farming innovations, ranging from cooperative processing facilities to incubator projects for new entrants in agriculture and collaborative development of small-scale farm machinery.
Statement to democratise agricultural research
Based on insights from collective discussions and visits, DARE partners generated a statement calling for the democratisation of agricultural research in Europe (and beyond). Proposing a two-pronged approach, they advocate both for a radical transformation of formal, public research institutions and a stronger support for farmer and citizen-based knowledge systems. These transformations for democratising agricultural research, they contend, are key factors for enabling sustainable and just food systems that embody the principles of agroecology and food sovereignty.