Agroecology Circular Economy for a new south Milan

Agroecology Circular Economy for a new south Milan

From01 February 2019

to31 January 2022

Context

The territory is located in the southern portion of Milan in the Porto di Mare-Parco Vettabbia area, subject to redevelopment by the Municipality of Milan in terms of urban planning, social development, landscape and agriculture, also thanks to the implementation of important initiatives including the re-launch of the covered market of Piazza Ferrara, the European UIA project “OpenAgri” in which, with the Social Lab team, some realities of the present partnership and of the subjects belonging to the Network are involved.

 

The territory is included in the Valley of the Monks, crossed by the Vettabbia canal, a body of water of  natural origin channeled in Roman times, which starts from the center of the city and runs in a southerly direction. It is an area rich in history and culture where the encounter between urban and rural world represents an opportunity of cultural growth, environmental prosperity, touristic attraction and integration of subjects exposed to marginalization. The localization of the project partners  define a specific portion on the border of the Municipalities 4 and 5 of the city: – Nocetum is located at the entrance of the Vettabbia Park – CasciNet and Deafal represent with their lands a territorial link that starts from the area of via Corelli-via Cavriana and embraces the Vigentino, Porto di Mare and Chiaravalle – Italia Nostra manages the vast area of ​​Porto di Mare. The lands involved in the project, all in the South Milan Agricultural Park, are bordering the Vettabbia Park, an important landscape redevelopment following the construction of the Nosedo Purifier. Municipio 4, in the most peripheral portion where Nocetum and the Bosco di Rogoredo are located in Porto di Mare, presents factors that contribute to generating the phenomena of exclusion and social conflict, of difficult integration, such as the disintegration of families, unemployment, environmental degradation, the social plague of drugs.

 

The Lodi-Corvetto-Rogoredo quadrant is under the attention of the municipal administration for the treatment of complex issues such as the environment, social housing, services, urban regeneration and the improvement of public space. The Municipalities 4 and 5 present a high concentration of fragile persons / families mainly residing in popular housing (blocks of flats) with a population of 52,380 foreigners, equal to 18% of the total, characterized by a low level of education; the foreign population of minors (less than 18 yo)  represents almost 25% of the total number of resident minors. (2017 data, Municipality of Milan – Data Management and Integration Area – Statistical Unit). In this context, the partner organizations want to commit themselves against every linguistic and cultural barrier thanks to the activation of active citizenship initiatives capable of sensitizing the inhabitants to civil commitment, sustainable development and environmental sensitivity. In harmony with the PGT of the Municipality of Milan 2018, the project is part of a city design aimed at increasing well-being, quality of life, strengthening local neighborhood identities, countering the isolation and stigmatization of peripheral urban nuclei, favoring pedestrian space and soft mobility, increasing attractiveness, beauty and liveability of the city, promoting local trade and tourism, security, cohesion and social inclusion. An ancient territory rich in places of faith and history, paths between water and nature, parks and farmhouses, is a fertile ground on which to create a pilot experience in the field of social agriculture, opening up new horizons and perspectives on potential and on environmental resources of southern Milan. Business start-up, enhancement of traditional knowledge and  multicultural integration, make this project an original initiative of extreme actuality.

Info

The project idea lays its foundations in the ability to carry out the task of protecting the territory together with the actions of local economic development, concentrating the commitment in the social sphere on work integration and integration paths aimed at people at a disadvantage. The Porto di Mare area will be able to count on an opening to public use of 65ha thanks to continuous monitoring and environmental requalification to ensure that the territory is the site of virtuous processes and can be read in a perspective of positive transformation, in addition to allow it to be lived with greater security. The work of the partners will make the interested areas a center of valorization of the natural and human capital, thanks to the constitution of the integrated system of agroecological production, which includes the phases of training, professional qualification and work insertion of subjects in disadvantaged conditions; the involvement of the subjects belonging to the Network is a central point. The regeneration of the territory through the cultivations and the environmental requalification will enrich the monotonous character of the city landscape, contributing both to raise the level of naturalness of the area, and to increase the polychromy of the landscape, making a significant contribution to biodiversity.

Specific objectives:

–        Implement an integrated agroforestry and environmental system of 75.5ha capable of strengthening and consolidating sustainable production activity according to the dictates of agroecology and based on the objectives of recycling / re-using the circular economy. An integrated system with high ecological efficiency inspired by local natural ecosystems that will increase local agrobiodiversity; a nursery start-up, the expansion of the fruit and vegetable supply chain, the consolidation of the “from field to table” process will be the strategic assets.

–        Implement paid employment placement paths for at least 14 subjects at a disadvantage, including 3 stable hiring, over the three years of operation. Facilitate the employment of at least 10 other subjects in other companies.

–        Provide approximately 80 disadvantaged beneficiaries of the project with pathways of integration in optimal conditions for learning and vocational training in a context of socialization and inclusion

–        Carry out a protective action aimed at reducing environmental and social risks in the southern Milan area improving and expanding the public accessibility of the territory, making it usable to all citizens

–        Promoting a producer-consumer connection that generates participation, in response to the need for social relations, reconnection with nature, perception of safety in places that are otherwise little frequented and more exposed to degradation, food sovereignty.

–        Guarantee a necessary and constant increase in the economic volume

THE PROJECT : INTERVENTION STRATEGY

 Method of carrying out the intervention

The aim is to transform land under concession into a permanent inclusion area (a place where activities become key to strengthen and expand the reality of the local economy). The guideline that unites every action is based on the application of social and sustainable agriculture in an urban environment: the south of Milan is a valuable area for the enhancement of the metropolitan city, on the edge of the urban area, it’s a combination of built spaces and rural landscapes destined to the productive agriculture. We will use the strategy of the Networks, already well defined in the Valley of the Monks, building a circuit of activities and  information, so that the subjects of the territory can support each other. The project will be carried out following the “Training on the Job” method: a professional practice that is characterized by being the main context in which to acquire specific skills and knowledge. This form appears to be the most functional in the contexts in which the subjects involved highlight difficulties in approaching essentially theoretical learning paths. The choice derives from the direct experience of Nocetum with its mother-child educational community where it is a priority to promote job opportunities along the path of autonomy for female guests. The link between “community and environment” helps in the construction of the Individualized Educational Project (PEI), allowing people to experiment in a territorial context where the environmental dimension is of primary importance and becomes the framework within which to promote and develop paths working. The figure of the tutor (covered by sector experts) will be used as a way to support the disadvantaged during the practical activities.  Monitor the various stages of job placement is considered appropriate and strategic to form a multidisciplinary team. A team that involves both educational figures and technical tutors. It becomes fundamental to give ample space to listening to people’s needs, taking into consideration both the work aspect and personal difficulties; contacts with the sending Authorities will be continued in order to be able to support them by activating a good Networking activity.
In this regard, the figure of the Supervisor who supports the team becomes necessary, in order to put in synergy the different professional skills in support of the individual, promote its inclusion in the social fabric and enhance its capabilities.

ACTION 1: Organization, planning, and control

The project leader and partner have signed a partnership agreement which specifies roles, operational and economic responsibilities for each one of them. In addition to the leader’s claims relating to the control of the entire project, for each Partner the following are specified: activity and relative economic amount of competence with detailed “contribution” and “co-financing”; responsibility regarding the implementation and monitoring of each individual action / activity assigned; responsibility regarding the preparation and delivery of appropriate documentation, to be shared in state-of-the-art meetings and in the reporting phase. In January 2019 a KickOff meeting took place between the Partners for consolidation of all project information; planning of regular meetings (each trimester)  to check work progress and monitor technical and economic operational performance; management of extraordinary events with appropriate procedures. The “Project Committee” will also be set up, consisting of the project leader and partners, which will have a strategic decision-making function concerning the management and project needs. The decisions, which will follow an adequate analysis and comparison between the partners, will always be approved by the majority. This not only responds to the need to find an unimpeachable method of choice, but also to the willingness of the partners to implement, also in the management of the system, that method of cooperation and collaborative management that they want at the base of the system itself.

ACTION  2 : Agro-forestry and environmental Integrated System Plan

beginning, strengthening and expansion of the production chains will be implemented on the basis of an integrated agroforestry System Plan, coordinated by Deafal in collaboration with the partners of the agroforestry and environmental activities of the partners. For the elaboration of the plan, a team of experts in syntropic agriculture and organic regenerative agriculture will be used, coordinated by an expert working for Deafal.

ACTION 3 : Working insertions

Offering a job opportunity to a fragile person who has long been “excluded” from the world of work means giving them the opportunity to get back in the game, being able to express the desire to engage in a new challenge, to regain an economic availability that helps give dignity to his life. The objective is to allow people in a state of disadvantage to be able to experiment with work paths in the agri-food and environmental care sectors that promote work and economic autonomy, support them so that the skills and experience gained become a expendable resource at the end of the apprenticeship period on the labor market. The job placements will follow a process that includes a first training activity, which will be followed, not for all the training participants, by the periods of work experience that will result for some, thanks to the direct evaluation that can be done on the individual subjects, in employment contracts. In every field of work, being Nocetum, CasciNet and Italia Nostra present in the field with its operators, it is possible to generate the same training moments according to the “learning by doing” resulting in a practice that adheres to the reality of work and the techniques normally used.

3.1. Activities: training in agronomics

The training will focus on both general aspects and specific interventions to be implemented for the start-up of the social nursery and for the management of agroforestry activities, so as to provide participants with knowledge that can be used directly and transferred to other potential employment contexts. The methods and contents will be adapted to the specific needs of people at a disadvantage. The following are foreseen:

– 1 cycle of training sessions concerning the techniques of production of biological plants and the nursery, functional for the start-up of the CasciNet social nursery.

– 1 cycle of training meetings on the collection, pruning and maintenance of agroforestry systems functional to the management of the fruit and vegetable activity.

3.2 Activities: training in the agri-food sector

The training will follow a theoretical-practical approach and will provide both general and specific notions of the apiculture chain and bakery products, in order to provide participants with useful and concrete knowledge. The methods and contents will be adapted to the specific needs of people in disadvantaged conditions. The following are foreseen:

–        1 basic course of “Urban Beekeeping” with mandatory HACCP food hygiene and safety;

–        1 series of meetings for practical experiential training in the beekeeping sector, open exclusively to those who have already attended a course based in the sector;

–        1 course “Baked goods and pastries” with mandatory HACCP food safety and hygiene. The issuing of a certificate for the HACCP hours is foreseen by an accredited subject, an indispensable requisite for carrying out work and professional activities in the food sector.

3.3 Activities: training in the agro-environmental field

Italia Nostra Center for Urban Forestry has begun the environmental recovery of the 65ha of the area (ex Port of Sea), finalizing its work not only in a material action, but also by stimulating social activation and the approach to the knowledge of these spaces that cannot be visited now,  for the purpose of providing to citizens a safe and usable area. The goal is to act as a tool to offer vocational training opportunities for users coming from vulnerable groups.

3.4 Activities: Work paths for disadvantaged people

The activation of work inclusion paths aimed at disadvantaged people in the various sectors of the agro-forestry, food and environmental system is envisaged. It is important to have the constant presence of the tutor for the entire duration of the work placement, who supports people in their daily work activities and who can not only be supportive, but also supervise the work done, to ensure that the responsibility is acquired in a gradual way, without living it as a “fear”. To monitor the various phases of job placement, monthly meetings of the multidisciplinary team will be scheduled.

Work insertions will be activated in the following productive segments:

  • 3 contracts for work experience in environmental requalification and maintenance of urban greenery in the period 2020 – 2021;
  • 1 contract for work experience (2020) for the nursery production of seedlings with the purpose of finalizing 1 hiring in 2021;
  • 2 contracts for work experience in the fruit and vegetable supply chain (cultivation and processing of products) in the March period. – Oct 2019 and 2020 with n. 1 assumption in 2021;
  • 1 contract for work experience in the apiary supply chain (2021);
  • 3 contracts for work experience in the catering / catering sector of which 2 in the kitchen and 1 for the dining room service (periods: May – November 2019; April – October 2020) aimed at 1 recruitment in 2020;
  • 1 contract for work experience in the product sales sector (2021).

3.5 activities: Mapping of agricultural holdings

Deafal with its network of contacts between farmers and agronomic technicians intends to focus on this network to carry out a mapping at the national level of the opportunities for work integration in the agricultural sector of people in fragile conditions involved in the training activities of the project. The intent is to expand the number of work placements with respect to what is foreseen in the partner structures, with consequent possible greater guaranteed insertions. The mapping will be carried out using communication via e-mail with the project presentation sheet, followed by telephone appointments and, where possible, by direct meetings, also evaluating the possibility of interviews with potential beneficiaries. The activity will be entrusted to the Deafal training coordinator. We expect to inform and meet about 8 farms a month for 24 months. For the technical aspects and correct information on the working insertions of the disadvantaged people, Deafal will be supported by the interdisciplinary team.

ACTION 4:  Strengthening and expansion of agri-food supply chains

Starting, strengthening and expanding agricultural production activities will affect 10.5 hectares in five years. All the action moves within the circular economy measures that will contribute to “closing the circle” of the product life cycle, increasing the recycling and reuse of all raw materials, products and waste. On the basis of the integrated agroforestry system plan that is already in progress, it will be strengthened through a growing expansion program over the years that will include all agricultural and related activities such as handling, storage, processing, marketing, catering. Sure to contribute to the revitalization of peri-urban agriculture, favoring its multi-functionality, the action combines the reconstruction of habitats for biodiversity with the economic sustainability of productive activity, environmental degradation, abandonment and improper use of areas to offer services to increase the well-being and quality of life of the citizens of the area on which they insist.

4.1 Activities: expansion of production with Nursery and Agroforestry System activities

The activity on 1,5ha of land consists of:

  • construction and start-up of the Social Nursery for the production of organic seedlings
  • creation and start-up of an agroforestry system for the production of organic fruit and vegetables.

The Social Nursery, co-managed by the CSA, is the place where the processes of creating plant life are harmonized with human ones, generating participation and relational capital. The product of the nursery activity will be calibrated on the internal needs of the CSA and on the request of the project partners, thus drastically reducing the drawbacks typical of nursery activities (waste, difficulties in production planning) and will reduce the costs of raw materials in addition to performing an important function of direct selection of the most suitable species and varieties for the territory. To heat the nursery, the Microbioenergy prototype will be tested in collaboration with the University of Milan: it is a thermocompost that generates heat from the biodegradation of organic materials. The agrosystem that it proposes consists of perennial plants cultivated on tree and shrub strips that coexist in synergy with plants with shorter seasonal cycles, generally cultivated in the interludes of the rows. The arboreal bands perform riparian functions and non-dispersion of nutrients for the benefit of internal crops. Innovative Syntropic Agriculture techniques will be adopted.

4.2 Activities: CSA Agriculture Support Community

The activity stands between action 4 and action 5 due to the dual role played by the Community Supported Agriculture. The CSA, in fact, besides representing an experience of semi-self-organization on a cultivation of 1.5 hectares of fruit and vegetables, will guarantee the preventive purchase of the products, the participatory crop planning, the direct self-collection in the field and the sharing of the risk with the farmer, for example, of lack of production. In order to consolidate the model, structured support by expert facilitators is required. In order to manage operational issues, technical training was carried out.

4.3 Activities: development of the fruit and vegetable supply chain

The nature of the intervention derives from a series of objectives: to widen the environmental redevelopment effect, to provide a further element of landscape attraction and environmental education related to the Vettabbia Park, to increase the biodiversity of the entire area, to encourage the production of food from quality. The cultivation of fruits and  vegetables is aimed at the transformation (jams, preserves, dried, distillates), to the professional kitchen for the catering service, focusing the goal of the short supply chain model, to social recovery through the work paths of citizens in difficulty entrusted to Nocetum also by Social Services of the Municipality of Milan on the basis of agreed projects. To date, the budget consists of 160 young fruit trees (still unproductive), 3000sqm of small fruits and 2000sqm of vegetable garden: biological control using pheromones, respect for seasonal rhythms, drip irrigation method and reduced water requirements thanks to consistent mulching, compost production, herbaceous cultivation in the row of trees, integration of agricultural practices with grazing of goats and donkeys of the City Farm (the animal part is completed by a domestic farmyard with poultry and rabbits, all dedicated to public use) , the presence of hedges with native essences, make this small area a system of high agroecological efficiency.

The rural complex, complete with transformation, catering activities, direct sales in the shop, inspired by ancient cultivation varieties and recipes, is an example of a high quality supply chain “from the ground to the table”. The strengthening of the productive activity will be given by the implementation of the vegetation endowment with new plants of small fruits (replacement of dry and deteriorated plants, widening of the variety) and the insertion of human resources foreseen for the whole chain (action 3). The expansion of production is planned on the grounds of Cascina Gerola, in the Vettabbia Park, with a further 1.5ha of which 1 will be allocated to the orchard and 5000sqm to the garden: the scaled increase, evaluated over a five-year period, is functional to the need to dose economic resources and human resources necessary for this intervention.

4.4 Activities: urban apiculture development

Nocetum beekeeping counts 11 beehives conducted with natural methods and biological control. Also for this supply chain it is possible to enclose on site all the phases, from breeding to the final product, honey. In almost all the countries of the world there is beekeeping activity and, in effect, it represents a multicultural and intergenerational sphere of exchange very suitable for the purposes of social relations. It is known that the intervention of bees on plants and fruit trees through pollination is indispensable both as a productive factor and for the ecological balance of spontaneous flora. In this global view, it is considered appropriate to increase breeding with new hives, 5 each year for the entire duration of the project, in order to form new apiaries to be located in protected areas, in the areas of Porto di Mare and / or Cascina Gerola to capitalize on the great function that bees play for the economy, the environment (bio-indicators) and biodiversity. In addition, a new line of production and sales of bee cores will open. The increase in honey production over time will contribute to the strengthening of the short supply chain sales in the city.

ACTION 5: Marketing plan

The action aims to identify and implement a commercial strategy that allows the economic-financial sustainability of the initiative and a better placement on the market of the food products of the developed supply chains. The possible uses of the available spaces will be defined and evaluated (for catering, for events, organization of educational activities and guided tours for groups, team building initiatives for companies) to improve citizens’ enjoyment and increase the transit of potential consumers for direct sales in Nocetum’s shop and in the CasciNet spaces.

ACTION  6: Communication plan

Communication will be a fundamental element to make known what will be activated with the project and to spread the innovative potential “in the field”. In order to enhance the existing resources and the already operating capacities of the partners in this sector, a coordination activity will be initiated by the Leader which foresees a synergy in the communication strategies.

6.1 Activities: realization of the Agroecology Festival

At the Fabbrica del Vapore, thanks to the collaboration of AceA Onlus which manages the spaces, an exhibition will be set up for a weekend with information material on the project and its intermediate results, with the display and sale of the products of the food supply chains implemented and with moments of presentation of the activities by the protagonists: the managers of the different supply chains, the persons at a disadvantage trained and included in work paths, the members of the CSA. The program will be enriched by moments with product tastings. The representatives of the main sales channels identified through the marketing plan will be invited to the event.

Partners:

CasciNet
Nocetum
Italia Nostra

Donors:

Fondazione Cariplo

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