What is the social/environmental problem/issue that this project will address?
Conventional farm production and food transport have high costs to the environment and human health. A switch to ecological food production supplying as locally as possible will have positive implications for climate change, soil and water quality, biodiversity, air pollution, and well-being.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
In a study from the University of Essex and City University, the external environmental costs of farm production in the UK were calculated to be £1.51 billion a year. The study found that the external environmental costs of transporting the goods were a further £2.35 billion a year. The authors found that a switch to organic farming supplying a local market could reduce these costs by a massive 84% to £614 million.
The growth in farm size and mechanisation of agricultural production has resulted in fewer agricultural workers and with this a loss in employment and services in rural areas. Farm labour in the UK declined by 30% between 1990 and 2007 (Eurostat data).
What is your solution?
Small-scale ecological farming maximises yields, protects the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by reducing fossil fuel use. These projects have a crucial role to play in ensuring food and energy security. They provide employment, access to local, sustainable food and crafts and educational opportunities for urban visitors, helping to maintain rural skills and to improve ecological literacy. These small scale enterprises allow residents to be rooted in their rural locality, helping maintain and regenerate rural communities and the services upon which they depend such as local schools and shops. Yet in England and Wales there is a huge shortage of affordable residential small-holdings for small-scale producers wishing to practice ecological agriculture. The Ecological Land Co-operative leases land to people with the skills to manage it ecologically who would otherwise be unable to afford do so.
How will you deliver this?
The project for which we are seeking funding has emerged directly from our work over the last three years and indirectly through the contact this work provides with others in the field of sustainable agriculture in the UK. It will provide invaluable information about ecological agriculture which will help the Cooperative, and supporters and practitioners of ecological agriculture, to advance the growth of this sector.