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CEreal REnaissance in Rural Europe: embedding diversity in organic and low-input food systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CERERE (CEreal REnaissance in Rural Europe: embedding diversity in organic and low-input food systems)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

In the EU, organic and low input cereal food systems are emerging to give an answer to the sustainability crisis of the conventional agri-food sector. These alternative systems are generally short supply chains based on local, decentralized approaches to production and processing, with regard to quality, health, and strong community identities, where agronomic, food manufacturing and marketing diversity are deeply embedded.
The CERERE consortium (Figure 1) aimed at fostering and speeding up these innovations in order to strengthen the economic, social and environmental sustainability of these cereal food systems, to consolidate links between practitioners and researchers, to further enhance the resilience of agro-ecosystems and to make the overall sector better recognized by society. By creating a multi-actor network of researchers and communities of practice, by adopting a bottom-up participatory approach, and by liaising with EIP-AGRI Operational Groups, CERERE contributed to synthesize, share and disseminate existing best practices, research results and co-innovative solutions in organic/low-input cereal food systems, focusing on agro-biodiversity and values of quality and health. Through its activities of networking, training and dissemination, CERERE addressed key issues and the most urgent needs of these systems. For each of these, CERERE identified opportunities to better integrate science and practice, paving the way for more dynamic interactions between communities of practices and researchers.
To achieve stated objectives, the CERERE project was structured in six work packages (figure 2).
The CERERE consortium has achieved several results which were disseminated in public events and with publications of case studies, practice abstracts, research papers, videos and other documents that were targeted at farmers, researchers, and other end users.
A series of events were organized to bring together economic agents working along organic cereal supply chains with two different approaches. The first approach was carried out organising 'classes vertes’ (outdoor classes), while the second approach was carried out organizing National and EU events where different actors (e.g. farmers, bakers, millers, consumers) of sustainable cereal chains were invited to share their experiences from ‘seed to the fork’. From December 2016 to October 2019, CERERE partners have organised 33 meetings involving more than 2,500 in nine EU countries. A specific policy paper to support bottom-up and multi-actor innovation in diversity-based cereal food systems was developed on the basis two EU workshops and presented to stakeholders during the final meeting.
27 case studies selected from European organic and low input systems were produced to highlight the innovative aspects of these short supply chains. These case studies are often characterized by collective actions or led by communities and in many respects show an agroecological rethinking of food systems leading to a series of bottom-up innovations from seed to fork. Furthermore, two systematic reviews were published in Agriculture and Nutrients in 2018. Case studies and research results were further analysed to generate co-innovative solutions and bottlenecks affecting current and future ‘seed to fork’supply chains.
The CERERE consortium has also fostered the creation of EIP operational groups both developing networking activities aimed at analysing existing and prospective OGs in each partner country and organizing two European seminars. These networking activities strongly supported formal and informal groups in the construction of OGs and their mapping in CERERE partners’ countries. A training methodology was produced to help facilitators in the participatory process and validated by several partners and stakeholders. Furthermore, 26 Practice abstracts describing the innovative experiences discovered in the network and the best practices emerging from them were elaborated using both the EIP-AGRI format and the CERERE “practice abstract” format (Figure 3). Practice abstracts contain all the outcomes/recommendations which are ready for practice using direct and easily understandable language and pointing out entrepreneurial elements which are particularly relevant and attractive for practitioners (e.g. related to costs, application methods etc.).
Information about dissemination activities conducted by partners are available on the CERERE website at The production of training and awareness raising materials was ensured by the editorial board and published in four languages (English, French, Italian and Spanish). The following materials were produced ( 1) six booklets; 25 innovation fact-sheets (Figure 4) synthesizing key best practices of cereal food systems as well technical or institutional challenges; 3) a book of 27 case studies; 4) 17 2-minute videos on key aspects of agrobiodiversity, health and quality in organic and low-input cereal food chains and 5) a 25-min high quality video documentary “Cereal - renaissance in the field” to foster citizen engagement with the construction of “alternative” food.
CERERE has contributed to unveiling the vast reservoir of existing scientific and practical knowledge on agronomic, health and rural development areas, contextually improving the exchange of knowledge between scientists and practitioners on agricultural practices within organic cereal crop systems. National and European meetings carried out in different countries have contributed to enhancing, fostering and embedding diversity in cereal chains addressing main issues of sustainability in the agronomic, genetic and technological, seeds, biodiversity areas. Knowledge exchange among stakeholders has been very important to better understanding the context of existing best practices related to embedding diversity in organic and low-input cereal systems with a focus on associated values of food quality and health.
Training and educational materials, as well as videos, distributed at these events and publicly available through the project website and digital channels (Twitter and YouTube) to farmers and other end-users show that these “alternative” agricultural systems can use an optimal level of agricultural biodiversity, through the sustainable use of natural resources based on the cultural identity of each European territory. The CERERE rethinking of agro-ecological food systems has dispersed a series of bottom-up innovations from seed to fork, stemming from a more dynamic and creative use of crop diversity towards the valorisation and reinterpretation of traditional, artisanal food making practices, grounded in values of nutritional quality, culture and identity, to short supply chains based on relationships of trust and collaboration among the economic agents of these new sustainable supply chains.
An example of CERERE Practice Abstract.
An example of CERERE Innovation Factsheet.
CERERE consortium
Components of the CERERE project