Agrovélocités : Testimonies from Three Globetrotters
Three students from the Institute for Higher Education in Tropical Agri-food Industry & Rural Development travel Europe by bicycle since seven months to discover the practices of urban agriculture.

It is in the context of their gap year Yoann, Etienne and Simon, all engineering diplomas SAADS students, decided to travel for eight months across Europe to study various urban agriculture, project named Agrovélocités. We met two of them after almost three months of their journey to collect their first impressions. Enthusiastic and enriched by their first meetings, we will find them in the coming year for a presentation of their project as part of the lecture series of Montpellier SupAgro's CultureSciences. Arrival date : the 25th August 2014 at the Champs-Elysees in Paris!

Jacqueline Mejean, sustainable development officer, Montpellier SupAgro, Interviewed Yoann and Etienne.


To undertake such a journey, it requires preparation ahead, especially financial support?

Yoann: Yes, for that we sought aid from several partners. We received 6,500 euros from Europe (European Youth in Action Project), 2.500 euros from Unesco" World Food System" Chair, and various aid from the General Council of Hérault, and participatory financing from cities such as  Saint-Nazaire and Montpellier, Nantes Agglo, etc.., for a total of 12,000 euros.

This is already an important help for your project! You had to argue to get that funding?

Etienne: We have, in fact, defined at first our main goal which is to conduct a study on European urban agriculture diversity, whose specific objectives are to capitalize initiatives, create links between the different actors met and disseminate information when we return.

After almost three months traveling, can you tell us about your first experiences?

Yoann: First, we went through Portugal and Spain, two countries affected by the crisis. We stopped in many cities of different sizes (Porto, Madrid, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Salamanca, Orense ...) where we met many actors involved in urban gardening initiatives. We noticed that some of these initiatives are in line with the current economic situation in these countries.
Etienne: We were also impressed to see that most of these initiatives are supported by citizens groups.

What are these initiatives?

Etienne: We met a number neighborhood groups that had set up into transformed wasteland as educational gardens. These actors in the same neighborhood also organize shows, festivals. They even encounter their government to get a little help and institutional recognition.

As if the crisis had led to a spontaneous grouping both for survival and for social life, even festivity?

Yoann: That is exactly the question we ask. Is it a situation due to a difficult social context that affects only poor or disadvantaged?
Etienne: At the same time, these spontaneous movements that emphasize the social role of urban agriculture seem to engage in a more productive way, really more nourishing.

As if it started all over again?

Yoann: As in Poland, each Polish has its own plot of land, we are curious to know if what we have seen in Spain is a replicate.

About that, what country would you cross in the future?

Etienne: Our journey plans to cross Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium.

And will end when and where?

Yoann: On 25 August 2014 the Champs Elysées!

What media do you use to communicate your adventures?

Etienne: Yes, we have a website dedicated to this experience, which bears the name of our association in which Agrovélocités like a "diary."

At the end of your trip how do you value this experience?

Yoann: Throughout our journey, we photograph what we see and we hope to expose them for the general public, but also for scientific exhibitions. We produce videos in partnership with UMR Innovation, for the coming conferences for: CultureSciences of Montpellier SupAgro, AgroParisTech, and several of our financial partners. We also wish to make a book combining sheets and travel diary of our adventures.

What is your assessment of this first part of the journey?

Etienne: It takes forever to travel by foot! So with a bike, we enjoy the scenery of the country, its culture, its gastronomy, agriculture. We feel a real sense of empowerment and we fit completely in the three pillars of sustainable development: environment, economy and social.

Yoann: This also allows us to build an extensive network which will be useful for our studies and later professionally.

Would you agree that we meet in September to review your journey and better know your scientific approach in this journey?

Yoann and Etienne: Yes of course!

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Last update : 23/07/2014