Case Study: Dealing with transition to fossil-free food provision and refugees at the same time
PLACE: Sweden. Municipal level
SITUATION: Swedish municipalities are facing several resilience challenges at once. They have to provide shelter and care to the highest influx of refugees and migrants per capita in Europe whilst preparing for the ambitious government-led transition to fossil fuel independence and carbon neutrality by 2050. Food security is at risk too, as Swedish food provision field to plate is fossil-fuel dependent and food waste is high. Sweden is also dependent on food and fodder imports; farmers are struggling to compete with imports from countries that have lower food safety and animal welfare standards, better soil and growing seasons, and lower costs.
FRAMING QUESTION: How can municipalities work towards a de-fossilised food provision system that reduces waste, manages the influx of migrants and refugees whilst ensuring the farming community can live on what it produces?
SOLUTION: A think-tank process involving experts and practitioners in our network came up with a mutual benefit approach whereby refugees are invited to assist in reversing the trend of food insecurity and fossil fuel dependence whilst at the same time receiving the shelter and care afforded to them by international conventions. These self-selected individuals take part in food resilience development projects to create intensive market gardening and aquaponic (fish farming and vegetable growing out of season) installations close to towns. The think tank suggests the solution should be characterised by:
- Focus on intensive food production on small scale where fossil energy needs are replaced by smart spatial planning, effective use of hand-held power tools and more manual labour
- Reversing the trend to larger production units, the think tank envisages finding an optimum size of market garden unit, fruit and berry orchard and aquaponics unit. Optimum from the point of view of reducing transport (and walking) needs, offering sufficient variety and providing education and training.
- Alternative commercial approaches; these are needed to reduce food waste. For instance a subscription system ensures that all produce is pre-ordered and less-perfect produce is accepted.
- Closeness to town is a priority to remove fossil-fuel transport dependency
- Each unit producing a wide variety of produce, to reduce scarcity risks and increase education and training potential.
- Cooperation between residents and refugees to stimulate integration.
Essential Features of the Proposal
- Three separate but cooperating units located on farms close to towns, producing vegetables, fruit and fish/eggs and vegetables outside normal growing season.
- Joint Public Private Partnership to both integrate and train refugees and unemployed people generally whilst building fossil-free food security.
- Commercial system field to plate – experimenting with pre-ordering subscription systems – reduces food waste built-in to system.
- Growth of units based on new units learning from existing ones – copying your neighbour. The picture at the top of the page illustrates how 11 units feeding 100 families each can ensure food security for a small town, dramatically cutting transport demand and food waste.
What is good about the scheme is that existing landowners are not required to set aside much of their land – intensive solutions typically require less than 0,8 of a hectare. Landowners can receive adequate compensation for the land they lease out and indeed be able to work in the project if they want to. Setting up these units is labour intensive and bringing unemployed people together with refugees helps them develop language skills whilst naturally interacting with the local community as the system builds up. As each Unit and sub-unit is separate, it might be possible to start one outside a town and use that to stimulate other units to start with less public money assistance. This creates work as Sweden becomes more self-dependent for food and farms start to deliver more food locally.
A next step would be a pilot project to try out setting up a unit or sub-unit just outside a town.
Further developments could include small-scale animal husbandry to increase meat supply.