Greece’s ongoing debt crisis has forced its government to impose severe austerity measures that have deeply impacted on the lives and well-being of its people. But there is a glimmer of hope through the gloom, as a Greek grassroots NGO AgroEcoPolis, is inspiring positive change and championing community driven food production. As a result of its achievements it has scooped a 2018 Lush Spring Prize Young Projects Award, presented to inspirational projects of between one and five years, and with it funding of £10,000 to continue its work focusing on food sovereignty, access to land, and agroecology.
Founded just over a year ago in February 2017, AgroEcoPolis recognises the need to regain control over its nation’s food chain amidst its ongoing financial struggles. Its work involves supporting networking and skill-sharing amongst those who are involved and interested in pursuing agroecology; the science behind sustainable farming, but also participating in research and helping to establish practical land-based projects all over Greece, with the ultimate aim of making self-sustaining communities a reality.
“Every one of us knows at least one person who has committed suicide in the years of the crisis, at least one family that’s had to survive a winter with no heating, and has family members and friends who are struggling to make ends meet. All this creates pressure, anxiety, tension, discomfort, and mental health for many is a huge concern,” says Jenny Gkiougki, AgroEcoPolis’s co-founder and general manager.
“Regeneration is the blueprint for our future. Regeneration of our soil, our communities, our relationships, and ourselves. AgroEcoPolis is about bringing rural and urban together; advocating for a just, sustainable and food sovereign way to live!”
Since its creation AgroEcoPolis has translated, created, and disseminated training material on Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), carried out research including discovering the true extent of the food crisis, organised legal cover to boost CSA schemes and support existing ones, run events to raise the profile of CSA, eased refugee induction and integration, and so much more.
“We need change and we need hope, and we need it now!” Jenny continues. “Movements need to grow and new endeavours need help on many fronts. With limited resources and everyone spread so thin in terms of the money and time they can spare, the work of the grassroots activist becomes more important as we are able to provide this facilitation and coordination to help enable initiatives to grow.”
Looking to the future, the group has hopes of creating an agroecology training centre and to revive the Permaculture Caravan, something Jenny says will be more achievable with the funding from the Young projects award.
“Winning the Lush Spring Prize gives us strength, hope, validation, courage, and the means to go further. We will use it to buy necessary equipment for our participatory video research group, office equipment, and help towards the salary of one person, full time, for one year.”
Other aims for the NGO include raising international awareness on the issues of access to land and land grabbing in Greece, creating a pilot PGS scheme and national Food Policy Council, and training more farmers in CSA. The group will facilitate new initiatives, share information on agroecological practices, and create and adapt training material and e-tools for learning.
In addition to all this, AgroEcoPolis will also be strengthening ties with international and European movements, plus continuing their all important battle to fight for change in government policies.
To watch how AgroEcoPolis develops and fights for change, stayed tuned on their Facebook page.
The Lush Spring Prize, hosted by Lush and co-operative Ethical Consumer Research Association, offers a £200,000 prize fund and other support activities, to help projects around the world that are working towards environmental and social regeneration.
Regeneration illustration by David McMillan.