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The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, England
作者:James Beecher, Molly Scott Cato     来源:The Co-operative Model in Practice: International perspectives     日期:2012-10-22  浏览:276

  Introduction

  This essay draws together discussions in two areas that have become the focus of particular interest in recent years: food security and co-operatives. We argue that ensuring food security requires not only relocalising our systems of food production and distribution, but critique and action to address the nature of ownership of our food systems, which have become increasingly driven by profit-seeking. We propose a mutual approach to food systems, driven by the central objectives of provisioning, in contrast to the central objective of profit-making which is presently dominant. This, we argue, is the only way to achieve true food security. We offer these arguments in the context of our local home community of Stroud in Gloucestershire.

  A high-point of concern about food security, an issue that had long been the source of debate in the world's poorer countries, became one of concern in the wealthier nations of the West.1 Four factors were implicated in this 'food crisis'. First, through floods, droughts and other extreme weather events, (anthropogenic) climate change was responsible for reduced yields. Second, partly as a result of (misguided) policies attempting to alleviate human contributions to climate change, the land's role in producing food was challenged by a rise in demand for land to produce fuel crops, especially the US and EU, where favourable tax regimes shifted farmer priorities, and drastically reduced the grain available on global markets and supplied by the US Government as aid. Third, demand for land-intensive crops rose following income growth and the spread of Western diets in many parts of the world, most notably an increase in meat and dairy consumption in China's burgeoning middle class. Finally, following the collapse in values of innovative financial products during the global financial crisis in 2008, investors shifted vast sums to food commodities and derivatives; prices of staple foods hence became divorced from direct demand for them as speculation took hold. Increased prices and volatility in food product markets caused widespread suffering, and implicated in a new wave of civil unrest (‘food riots’), which have since resulted in changes in administration in at least one country (Tunisia)。 Neo-classical economists, neo-liberal think-tanks, and mainstream politicians have continued to defend a free-market, laissez faire approach to the food system and food security. Yet when over a tenth of the world's population is hungry (with millions at the other end of the scale suffering the health impacts of overconsumption), claims about the allocative efficiency and innovation through competition and private sector biotechnology look increasingly insensitive, malevolent and cruel. In addition, fears about declining supplies of cheaply accessible oil and the reliance of our global food system on oil as a key input in both fertiliser and transportation, spread in areas of the world where price fluctuations were mitigated by generally higher incomes. The global food system, which has long been challenged for its excessive use of energy, and failure to provide for all, is now frequently seen to be insecure as well.2In this essay we use the increasingly popular concept of resilience, to frame and organise our argument. We discuss the various meanings of 'resilience' in the following section, before providing an understanding of the term that we suggest helps describe what a genuinely 'secure', or in our terms, 'resilient' food system might look like. In Section 3 we describe a range of local foodbehaviours and enterprises in our case-study area: our hometown of Stroud in Gloucestershire, UK.

  Finally, in Section 4 we explore whether there might be essential connections between local foodresilience and issues of ownership and control. We conclude by offering a sketch of a co-operativefood system, giving attention to the aspects of both production and distribution.

  Resilience: a concept for all seasons

  In general speech the word 'resilience' refers to a capacity to respond positively to shock(s) and notto be overcome by adversity. In recent years, the term has become increasingly popular amongstpolicy-makers, especially in discussions of responses to terrorist attacks and natural disasters,but also in framing discussions about the ecological crisis and how to respond to it. The conceptof resilience – first used in the hard physical sciences, particularly engineering – is now popularacross a range of disciplines, producing considerations of the resilience of financial institutionsand of local communities, as well as materials and ecosystems. In this essay we use the conceptof resilience to frame our discussion of the local co-operative food economy of Stroud. We beginby analysing the way 'resilience' has been used in various fields of study in order to develop anoperational definition. This definition guides the presentation of the food provisioning enterpriseswe go on to describe. We then analyse the resilience of the existing global food system.

  The concept of resilience arises from the field of engineering, where resilience is calculated as theamount of energy that can be elastically stored per unit volume of a material that is deformed.

  In other words, the concept is used to express the amount of stress that can be withstood beforea material will either break or fail to return to its original form. Following Holling,3 ecologistshave extended the concept to inform understanding of how complex and interrelated ecosystemsrespond to external shocks, and in particular to assess how much disturbance they can withstandbefore moving to an adapted state of equilibrium (elsewhere in this literature, ecosystemsare understood as being in permanent disequilibrium rather than diverging and returning toequilibrium conditions)。

  In the psychological literature resilience takes on a more dynamic meaning, referring to thepotential of the human psyche to 'bounce back' from damaging life experiences. Although theevents may be undesirable, it is a mark of a healthy psychology to be able to respond positively, anaspect of personality that is less an inherited trait and more the result of a developmental process.4This sort of psychological definition has been extended to whole communities, particularly inconsideration by public authorities concerned about potentially destructive responses to externalthreats, especially from terrorism. In this context resilience is about the ability to rapidly rebuildand repair vital social systems following attack or natural hazards.5 In this context David Omand,the UK's Intelligence and Security Co-ordinator defined resilience as 'capacity to absorb shocks andto bounce back into functioning shape, or at the least… to prevent stress fractures or even systemcollapse'.6 This sort of definition has been used explicitly in connection with food security:

  the direct dependence of communities on ecosystems is an influence on their social resilienceand ability to cope with shocks, particularly in the context of food security and coping withhazards. Resilience can be undermined by high variability (or disturbance in ecologicalterms) in the market system or environmental system. Resilience therefore depends on thediversity of the ecosystem as well as the institutional rules which govern the social systems.7Barry8 suggests that resilience will become 'an over-riding virtue and concern of individuals,communities, economies and systems of production and consumption' as we move towards theclimate-changed and carbon-constrained world of the twenty-first century and beyond.' However,this is not a negative response to the failure of current systems but rather an inspiring and positive5. The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, England 57alternative: 'resilience as a capacity has to be a necessary part of what it means to be a healthyhuman and a healthy human community'.9From this very brief consideration of the voluminous literature relating to resilience, severalaspects have demonstrated a particular salience for an exploration of a local food economy. Barryconsiders resilience as a possible response to vulnerability. In terms of a consideration of thetransition to a sustainable society he explores the need to reconsider vulnerability as a threatand rather accept it as an inevitable part of life. Hence the appropriate response to vulnerabilityshould be not invulnerability but rather resilience. Resilience is thus defined as symptomatic of alife lived in acknowledgement, if not quite celebration, of vulnerability: 'To be resilient means, atthe most basic level, to live, to be able to continue living in the face of often negative changes incircumstances and those inevitable and often unpredictable challenges all human beings and allhuman societies face'.10Secondly, we can adopt some of the aspects of the engineering definition of resilience as opposed tofragility: a resilient material will not shatter when it is exposed to shock. This is a property that canusefully be extended to social systems: resilient communities will have characteristics that enablethem to bend rather than break when stressful events occur unexpectedly. In view of the likelihoodof shocks, especially climate-related shocks that will impact strongly on agricultural production,this aspect of withstanding shock is a characteristic of the economy that we might particularlyvalue and that is in contrast to an efficiency-driven approach. It provides a view of provisioning asabout maintenance and stability, particularly during periods of rapid change following an externaldisturbance.11 In this context Chip Ward offers a systemic understanding of resilience: 'A resilientsystem is adaptable and diverse. It has some redundancy built in'.12 As Holling (emphasis added)explains, in the field of ecology, 'a major strategy selected is not one maximising either efficiencyor a particular reward, but one which allows persistence by maintaining flexibility above all else'.13The motive to maximise flexibility creates demand for 'redundancy' or 'slack' within systems,and refers essential to space or capacity set aside to ensure a certain essential level of systemfunctioning is maintained when ideal system functioning is compromised. Though there are clearlyopportunity costs here, popular use of the term resilience has often overlooked the mutuallyexclusivenature of such 'slack' and profit-seeking: 'Under a world-view of short-term profitmaximisation and a predictable or stable future, such costs are seen as unnecessary and easilybecome the target of… efforts to increase short-term efficiency'.14 Barry argues that 'while “suboptimal” from an orthodox economic view of efficiency' decisions to incorporate slack 'need to beviewed rather as necessary “investments”, required to create resilient, sustainable socio-ecologicalsystems'.15 To achieve such investments requires critique and action to address profit-seeking as asocietal objective.

  The third and final feature of resilience that is relevant when thinking about local food systemsrelates to adaptability. This feature is drawn from the psychological literature where, as we saw,authors such as Luthar and Cicchetti have proposed the ability to respond positively to negativelife events as constitutive of resilience in terms of human psychological health. In terms ofprovisioning this may have important implications in terms of food security. 'Resilience describesan active process of self-righting, learned resourcefulness and growth – the ability to functionpsychologically at a level far greater than expected given the individual's capabilities and previousexperiences.'16 Economies are inherently systemic and unpredictable, and agricultural economiesperhaps especially so. In this context it is especially important to focus on the responsive,adaptive aspect of the resilience concept: 'the ability of the system to withstand either market orenvironmental shocks without losing the capacity to allocate resources efficiently'.17So, drawing on the wealth of literature related to resilience we have arrived at a threefold definitionthat we can use in analyzing food provisioning systems. A resilient system would be one thatwas aware of the vulnerability that dependence on nature entails and seeks to create security inawareness of, rather than denial of this fact. A resilient food system would be one that limits itsvulnerability to shocks, and is prepared to include what might be considered 'inefficient' features to enable this flexibility. And thirdly, a resilient food system would be adaptive: when changes come the system would be able to respond in a positive and dynamic way. A food system designed in this way might meet Barry's call for systems of 'creative adaptive management'.

  To what extent do our existing food supply systems meet these criteria? An analysis of the position of the ports on which seventy-five of the world's trade and 99 per cent of the UK's food imports depend would suggest that they do not.18 Unsurprisingly, they are at sea-level, yet the rise in sea level is one of the least contested changes associated with climate warming. In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted a 0.35m rise in sea levels by the end of the twenty-first century.19 However, since these figures were released the speed of melting of Antarctic and Greenland icecaps has caused scientists to revise their forecasts; in 2009 they declared that sea-level rise was occurring at twice the rate they had estimated just two years earlier.20 Although the adaptability of ports varies, it would be difficult to imagine that this will not have a significant impact on the global trade system, and given the unpredictable nature of climatic events, it might result in sudden shocks rather than gradual and predictable adjustments.21

  The co-operative food economy of Stroud

  The motivation for the creative development of a local food economy in Stroud has been an environmental one, and yet its evolution has followed a co-operative path (a useful brief introduction to agriculture within the District can be found in a report produced for Transition Stroud, the sixth Transition Initiative in the UK)。22 Cutting out the middlemen to ensure maximum value flows back to producers, and reducing food miles, goals important in their own right, and for the economic viability of projects, has required that the pioneering local food projects that have been developed in Stroud have created a co-operative food economy. Stroud's community-supported agriculture and its farmers' market are of national importance, but they are only two examples of a wider system of mutual food production and distribution that could be adopted more widely. In this section we provide thumbnail sketches of some of the most important.

  Stroud Community Agriculture (SCA)

  Two Stroud residents interested in the concept of Community Supported Agriculture held a public meeting attended by around eighty people in November 2001. Through a series of subsequent public meetings this community decided to commit to take on the lease of a local walled garden and pay the wages of a part time vegetable grower from March 2002. SCA is now a thriving social enterprise owned and run by 230 supporter households. SCA employs three full time farmers and growers on fifty acres of land producing vegetables, fruit and meat which are shared out to the support community who pay all the running costs of the farm. SCA makes a small profit each year which the management committee (elected from the supporter households) either invests in capital improvements to the farm or pays as a bonus to the farmers. SCA has created a direct relationship between the farmers and the consumers involved. This gives the farmers important information about what to produce as well as the satisfaction of hearing direct feedback from over eight hundred (mostly) happy customers! This relationship gives the consumers very high quality food at reasonable prices because the supply chain is so short. It also gives the consumers a direct connection to the land and people who have grown their food. This seems particularly important to families with young children. SCA provides monthly farm days where people can come and work with the farmers and growers on farm projects, providing their labour in the spirit of mutual aid, in kind/for free to support the project. The farm is also linked with an olive-oil producing co-operative in southern Spain, which makes olive oil, olives and citrus fruit available to SCA members every January.5. The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, England

  Stroudco Food Hub

  One of the founders of SCA and a more recent member of the SCA management group set up Stroudco in October 2005. Stroudco is an internet-based CIC set up as a co-operative of local food producers and food consumers who jointly own and manage the business. Producer members offer their produce at a price higher than wholesale but lower than retail. Consumers order on-line, the producers are sent a weekly purchase order for exactly the quantities ordered which are then delivered to a school hall in Stroud on a Saturday morning. Producers are paid 92 per cent of the selling price on delivery with Stroudco taking 8 per cent to help cover running costs. Consumers pay a membership fee as their contribution to costs. The main cost being the wages of a manager who works up to two days per week to manage the website and run the Saturday food drops with volunteer support from the consumer community. Stroudco allows producers to trade very small volumes of food and drink. This has encouraged several new food producers to set up on a small scale and supported the growth of small producers to larger-scale businesses; the overall effect being to increase the resilience of the local food economy around Stroud.

  Stroudco producer members offer regular farm days for consumer members to engage with the work of production. This has included fruit picking for a small jam-maker, hop picking for Stroud Brewery and hedge planting for one of the farm members. Stroudco has been funded during its set-up phase and is on target to be generating a small surplus by the end of 2012. Any profits will be invested in building up a pool of equipment for producers to share. The Stroudco software and systems have been developed on an 'open source' basis and have been taken on by over sixty community groups internationally, again in the spirit of a form of mutual aid or gift economy.23

  Community orchards, allotments and shops

  There are a number of community orchards in the Stroud area, including a 'linear orchard' planted with local varieties which runs alongside a popular cycle route and others in the nearby villages of Whiteshill and Horsley. Although fruit is recommended as part of a healthy diet, Britain's domestic fruit supply is woefully limited, at only 5 per cent compared to Germany's 25 per cent. This is largely the result of the colonial hangover preference for bananas rather than apples, hence the role of the community orchard in rebuilding personal and social connections with our local fruit. The orchard provides the setting for annual pruning days, wassail events and other celebrations such as 'blossom day' picnics.

  A form of gift economy is also evident in a community allotment, based at the Summer Street Allotments in Stroud, where a desire to share both crop surpluses, skills, tools, infrastructure (a shared shed and greenhouse) and time, and to build community, resulted in several allotment plots being worked together. Similar projects exist in a number of other allotment sites around the UK, and in addition to mitigating issues arising from crop gluts, serve to inculcate a sense of community that can spread such sharing behaviour to other products, as well as helping to overcome the fears of beginner allotmenteers, enable watering and maintenance when individuals are on holiday, and making learning food production skills easier, and more enjoyable for participants. Even among allotmenteers at the Summer Street site not involved in the community plots, and indeed in allotments around the country since their inception, sharing of surpluses, skills, tools, learning (and in the case of Summer Street and doubtless others) a shed are common. Such behaviour again occurs outside the market economy, instead linked both with traditions of common land ownership that persisted before enclosure and industrialisation, and with movement towards a mutual or gifteconomy of the future.Community shops are a vital part of the local food economy in many villages and have grown in popularity in recent years, including the opening of a community shop in BBC Radio Four's fictional village of Ambridge in June 2010. The UK now has 235 community-owned shops with new ones opening on a monthly basis. In 2009 thirty eight community shops opened, while four hundred privately owned village shops closed, meaning that the co-operative approach is managing to save 10 per cent of village shops from closure.24 There are two community shops in the Stroud Valleys: in the villages of Horsley and Ruscombe. Both sell produce grown by village residents, as well as Horsley sausages in the case of the former. While such shops are hence situated within the monetary economy, Ruscombe shop's annual report states that the shop is viable because of the support of many volunteers, further evidence of a mutual or gift economy at work (supporters also donate cash towards the upkeep of the shop building)。 The previous year, 2010-11, was particularly successful due to the sustained cold weather, which meant that villagers were unable to drive to more distant food suppliers, and so realised the value of a local shop. Thus, the importance of such local resources is clear in terms of resilience to extreme weather events. Analogies can easily be drawn with the effects of a sudden rise in oil prices: here too, local resources will enable greater resilience to shock.

  Food Co-operatives

  With such a wealth of local production and distribution initiatives you might wonder about the need for more food co-operatives. But there are items in most people's diet that cannot be grown in the UK climate and, rather than restricting their diets or visiting one of the two local co-operative supermarkets, even if it is part of the consumer-owned Co-operative Group, many local people in Stroud are members of informal food 'co-operatives'; groups of five or six friends who order jointly from a wholefood wholesaler on a monthly basis, enabling them to reach the level of order necessary for free delivery (usually around ?250)。 In Stroud the country's two largest wholefood wholesalers Essential Trading and Suma Wholefoods (itself a fairly radical worker-owned co-operative, which features equal wages, horizontal management, and job rotation in addition to ethical sourcing of products) both deliver to these small food co-operatives, usually to people's homes, although Springhill Co-housing, which houses seventy five people in a range of different living units, also has its own food co-operative to which some residents belong. These co-operatives were originally popular with people who were seeking food that was not available in supermarkets, but even as supermarkets have moved into stocking wholefoods, food co-operatives survive because the extraction of corporate profits results in higher prices, not to mention perceptions of unethical behaviour by large supermarkets that are frequently held by members of informal co-operatives. The absence of any need for advertising relieves both the co-op's members and the local recycling facilities of superfluous packaging and promotional material, further enhancing the environmental benefits of such initiatives.

  Such informal co-operatives are inherently very flexible. One project, which grew out of attempts by a local protest group (Catalyst) to raise funds to support campaigning work against proposals for a McDonald's in the town (a campaign which ultimately failed), has since shed its radical political origins. Following the loss of some founder members, including key organisers, new members have joined in an unplanned and unrestricted way, based on social networks rather than political views, and the co-operative is now 'purely' practical. Nonetheless, in this as in other such informal co-operatives, a mutual or gift economy is once again evident, with work compiling orders, organising bills, and transporting produce from delivery point to homes conducted by 'members' voluntarily and in ways characterised by sharing and mutual aid.255. The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, England

  Stroud Farmers' Market

  Stroud Farmers' Market is one of the most successful in the country, now run every week (following the success of monthly, then fortnightly markets) and with a regular forty-five to sixty stalls at each market. The market is a thriving scene of social activity every Saturday morning, at its purpose-built town-centre venue. Many locals credit the market with a wider renewal of social activity, and shopping, in the town on both market days specifically, and at broader levels. In 2006 a survey of the market estimated an annual income to its stallholders of ?1million.

  If we dig little deeper, however, questions arise regarding the extent to which the farmers' market can be considered part of the co-operative food economy of Stroud arise. The market is now run under contract to the local authority, Stroud District Council. The council charges a considerable fee to the organisers, who are private individuals, meaning that stall rates have risen significantly over the years (elsewhere, farmer's markets are organised by producer co-operatives, in other words, are true 'farmer's markets' in that they are owned and controlled by the farmers themselves)。 With private rather than co-operative management it is not possible for producers and consumers to know, still less to influence, how the money they pay as rent for space within the market is divided between the market managers, the district council and stallholders, and the small number of market workers who assist with the set-up and take-down of the market, and an accompanying cafe. Shared knowledge, influence, and accountability are essential features of any co-operative activity.

  Simultaneously the distance that producers travel to sell at the market has increased, partly because of the turnover they need to ensure to pay the stall fee. This undermines the ability of the market to contribute to local food resilience, since smaller scale producers are excluded from the market because of the high costs. This, together with the time stallholders need to spend staffing their stalls, was one of the factors that prompted the establishment of the Stroudco Food Hub.

  Make a Meal of It

  Stroud also has several co-operative shared eating groups, although rather as in the case of the local food co-operatives it is hard to evaluate the extent of these. The first group to share preparation and consumption of food on a formal basis was based at Springhill Co-housing, the UK's first new-build co-housing community which, since opening to residents in 2003 requires each of its resident-members to cook and/or to help clean up after cooking once a month. Shared meals are available for three nights each week; they are nutritious organic meals, reasonably priced, and very popular. From this example has sprung the idea of Make A Meal of It, a group which met regularly in a church hall in the nearby community of Uplands to share food together once a week. A further informal (and unnamed) group, made up of five female friends, meets most weeks to share vegan, gluten-free, and non-British recipes, kitchen space and tools, and cooking skills, in line with the dietary requirements of some members, and the cultural backgrounds, and restricted time and budgets of others. Although these are small schemes they do foster the spirit of shared eating, which has declined as family sizes have shrunk and more people live alone. Again, such activity takes place outside the monetary economy, kitchen space is not rented, teachers are not paid a wage, meals do not have a price. Rather, such activity can also be placed within a mutual or gift economy. Further, cooking and eating together is of great social benefit, but also achieves environmental benefits since cooking is responsible for a large proportion of the energy spent on food production and consumption. Such schemes arguably contribute to resilience as they expand member's skills and food preparation repertoires, and develop mutual aid networks that can be called upon in times of shock or need.Productive gardensFinally, the Stroud community features a relatively high proportion of gardens adapted for food production rather than mere aesthetic enjoyment. A recent initiative by Transition Stroud, Stroud's Edible Open Gardens, has seen this further aspect of the informal local food system celebrated and encouraged: 'The gardeners and allotment holders open their gardens for free in the hope that their knowledge and interest will encourage people to grow more of their own fruit and vegetables. There will also be more free workshops over the weekends on chicken keeping, composting, making your own polytunnel and more.' This year, there are plans for thirty five sites to open, including twelve sites which did not open in the first year the event took place.26 A recent article in Permaculture magazine, highlighting work by Jeavons, suggests that 'Britain Can Feed Itself' in terms of potatoes and other vegetables on 16.6 per cent and 21.3 per cent of private garden space respectively (in other words, in less than half - 37.4 per cent - of private garden space in total)。 Similar claims regarding the contributions of allotments and productive gardens were made over one hundred years ago by Kropotkin, in a book outlining his research into, and proposals for a mutual food system:

  In agriculture, as in everything else, associated labour is the only reasonable solution… 200 families, if they consider themselves, say, as tenants of the nation, and treat… 1,000 acres as a common tenancy… would have, economically speaking, from the point of view of the agriculturalist, every chance of succeeding… On an area of 340 acres they could most easily grow all the cereals - wheat, oats, etc. - required for both the thousand inhabitants and their livestock… They could grow on 400 acres, properly cultivated, and irrigated if necessary and possible, all the green crops and fodder required to keep the 30 or 40 milch cows which would supply them with milk and butter, and, let us say, the 300 head of cattle required to supply them with meat. On 20 acres, two of which would be under glass, they would grow more vegetables, fruit and luxuries than they could consume. And supposing that half an acre of land is attached to each house for hobbies and amusement (poultry-keeping, or any fancy culture, flowers, and the like) - they would still have some 140 acres for all sorts of purposes: public gardens, squares, manufactures and so on. The labour that would be required for such an intensive culture would not be the hard labour of the serf or slave. It would be accessible to everyone, strong or weak, town bred or country born; it would also have many charms besides. And its total amount would be far smaller than the amount of labour which every thousand persons, taken from this or from any other nation, have now to spend in getting their present food, much smaller in quantity and of worse quality… The amount of labour required to grow food under such a rational culture is so small, indeed, that our hypothetical inhabitants would be led necessarily to employ their leisure in manufacturing, artistic, scientific and other pursuits.27It is hard to examine how widely such proposals resonated and the reasons for their failure to take root in the UK on a wider scale than represented by the remnants and experiments described above, but the expansion of a market-oriented and profit-seeking food system, aided by state support and power, are undoubtedly contributory factors.

  Current work towards such a mutual UK food system is present not only in ostensibly 'friendly' initiatives such as those outlined above, but in radical and confrontational activity. Squatting of land for food production and community building, as at the Grow Heathrow project that forms the heart of the Transition Heathrow initiative for instance28, is arguably a growing phenomenon (despite ongoing attempts to prevent, and indeed criminalise, squatting in the UK)。 The landless poor in the UK, as in the majority world, are beginning to adopt the radical tactics of necessity in order to access land for subsistence, as has become widespread in countries such as Brazil (through the Movimento Sem Terra)。

  5. The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, EnglandWe have not included the Midcounties Co-operative supermarket outlets in this picture, but it does provide the opportunity for Stroud people to ensure that all their food purchasing is made outside the corporate food system. Similarly, a Waitrose supermarket where profits are shared with worker-partners in the form of bonuses, as part of the John Lewis Partnership, is not included in this survey, but again hints at more mainstream alternatives to the prevalent UK food production and distribution system.

  This section has focused on individual co-operatives and community enterprises, but looking at the local food economy as a whole we can begin to see interactions and synergies between them. For example, members of Stroudco food co-operative can join with other members of informal wholefood co-operatives to collect their weekly orders; produce from community allotments can be sold in community shops; the Make a Meal of It shared eating groups order two weekly 'shares' from SCA; and during gluts, food from the community farm that is in excess to that which can be shared between members is sold at local farmers' markets (both Stroud and the next closest market Gloucester)。 Perhaps most importantly, people involved in any of these enterprises begin to think about the way they access their food in a different way. Rather than the thin exchange of money for goods that takes place in a supermarket, they come to expect to make more effort but obtain more reward through playing an active part in their local food economy. Relationships between consumers and producers come to be characterised at least partly by mutual aid and escape the monetary economy. Eating becomes an engaged act of relationship with your local producer and your local soil, and the local environment, rather than a disconnected market activity.

  Co-operation and resilience in local food systems

  In defining what a resilient food system might look like we suggested three indicators: a dynamic responsive approach to vulnerability; an acceptance of the need for flexibility within the productive system; and an ability to adapt. We suggest that these three characteristics are all more likely to be found in co-operative enterprises and are evident in the Stroud local food economy.

  In terms of the meaning of vulnerability, the food economy offers us a useful opportunity to explore this. At present the global food distribution network is tremendously powerful, economically and technologically, yet as already argued it is not resilient and relies on cheap supplies of fossil fuels which will not be available in the long term. Yet against the backdrop of a small semi-rural town within a district of around 110,000 people the massive provision by supermarkets, of which we have the full house (in addition to the Co-operative and Waitrose stores mentioned, a 24-hour Tesco, Sainsburys, Morrisons, and other smaller chains) can appear daunting and unassailable. In spite of the role played by the Ruscombe village shop during the winter of 2010-11, it was actually the supermarkets which remained open, and although their shelves were sometimes empty, their lorries did not stop arriving in the town. However, these centralized distribution systems appear as dinosaurs in the era of climate change and peak oil, indicating precisely how vulnerable our food systems actually are. SCA managed to provide its members with their normal share throughout the winter: the commitment of the farmers to chipping frozen ground away from leeks and parsnips helped to build the relationship with members, who were able to walk to the farm to collect their food during times when many roads were closed.Some of the most resonant questions being asked in this era of economic crisis are about thesharing of value within the economy. The capitalist model enables the extraction of value fromproductive systems by shareholders, who usually have no engagement whatever with the businessthey invest in. In terms of food production this has certainly added to vulnerability, especiallyin terms of the number of local producers. The downward pressure on farm incomes, broughtabout by an increased volume of trade and competition for profits and market share, has meantthat many farmers in the Stroud Valleys no longer actively farm their land, with the production ofvegetables and fruit being much lower than would be necessary for self-sufficiency, as is the caseacross the UK. While there is a considerable amount of accessible farmland, and nearly half of it insmall farms (less than 5 ha), as a result of high labour costs and subsidy incentives, it is mostly leftas grazing land (though the appropriateness of soil does play a part in agricultural decisions)。 Thisis where co-operative food ventures are able to offer a better model: the community-agriculturesystem has enabled the creation of 2.5 average-salary jobs and to provide seasonal vegetablesthroughout the year to nearly two hundred families. This is an indication of how farming doesbecome economically viable once the market model is superseded by a co-operative or mutual-aidmodel.

  In several of the projects profiled above we see evidence of the sort of flexible organisation thatwould be dismissed as redundancy in a market system. For example, community shops would notbe viable without voluntary labour, and often see very low rates of turnover. Yet they play a crucialsocial function in the villages where they are found, as often the only remaining community hub.

  They also provide an outlet for very small-scale local production which would not be considered bylocal shops. Although scale economies make sense within distribution systems focused on profit,the small-scale production of allotments or gardens fits into a co-operative food system. Similarly,the very small-scale production which many of Stroud's food enterprises involve could not be partof a market system, whether we are thinking about the community orchards or Stroud CommunityAgriculture. The local connections, both social and ecological, that these sorts of co-operativefood enterprises foster are the very connections that the globalised, corporate food system hasundermined, with its focus on economies of scale to reduce financial costs while increasing humanand environmental costs. So in moving towards a sustainable and resilient food system these veryqualities, which thrive within co-operative food systems, are going to be essential.

  Perhaps most importantly, increased food price volatility caused by speculation does not affecta co-operative local food economy. Those who grew their own food on community allotmentswere able to significantly mitigate the increase in food prices in 2008, in some cases to entirelycircumvent them. Similarly, the monthly price for a share at SCA did not rise, although it will haveto rise marginally eventually in response to the rise in fuel prices and the need of the farmers tohave higher incomes to cope with rising prices for their energy and water supplies. However, the'food crisis' was an object lesson in how a local food economy – a provisioning system that connectspeople to their local land which provides them with food – is entirely insulated against the vagariesof the global food roller-coaster. The extent to which communities which are not insulated fromsuch impacts respond in ways akin to the 'food riots' in the developing world is an open question.

  With rioters often found looting basic food items, the recent August 2011 riots in the UK wouldsuggest that dismissing such a possibility would be naive. Whether such civil unrest would combinewith radical social movements squatting land as a more constructive solution to their food needs,and lead to the spread of a co-operative food economy through radical grassroots action is a furtheropen question that is beyond the scope of this chapter.

  In calling for local food we should make it clear that we do not ignore problems that exist indistribution; in particular, how to adapt systems in order to meet the needs of the world's poor. Wereject the argument that to solve the problem of poverty it is necessary to encourage more of theworld's subsistence farmers into global trading networks. Evidence from the United Nations' tradebody UNCTAD suggests that the evidence of positive impacts from global trade for the world's5. The resilience of co-operative food networks: a case study from Stroud, England 65poorer countries is mixed at best.29 While there were some benefits in terms of job creation, thesewere undermined by the greater costs local people faced in buying food, which could mean thedisplacement of resilient peasants into insecure employment or unemployment. Lines goes further,arguing that the global trade system is itself causing poverty.30 The terms of trade facing the poorernations, especially those in Africa and those without trading ports, have deteriorated significantlyover recent years. The winners from globalization of food production in these societies have beenthe middle men, exactly those people who would have no place in a co-operative food system.

  So the proposal we are making for local, co-operative food systems applies equally in the world'spoorer countries as it does in the richer ones.

  Nor are we suggesting a diet consisting entirely of indigenous crops; for the proportion of foodthat continues to be traded there is again a co-operative answer: fair trade. It is rural co-operativesaround the world, producing cocoa or coffee, tea or bananas, which put the 'fair' into 'fairtrade'.31 Hence it is no surprise that The Co-operative Group was the supermarket chain that firstpopularised fair trade in the UK, nor that the wholefood co-operatives that deliver to Stroud's localfood co-operatives stock a wide range of fair trade products. So when a local food economy is notenough, there are also co-operative solutions to ensure that environmental and social standardsof provisioning are maintained. It is further clear that environmental forms of long distancetransportation for certain products are entirely feasible: sail power defined global trade until onlyrelatively recently. While this trade was defined by a distinctly non-co-operative model during thecolonial era, there is no reason why new moves in this sphere should not benefit from the sameco-operative models and mutual/gift economy lessons outlined for the initiatives given attentionabove.32

  Conclusion

  In this era of crisis for globalised trade, and with the free-market as the dominant organising modelfor our (global, national, and local) economies, we would suggest that the strength and resilienceof local food systems should be celebrated. More importantly, it should be recognised that inmany cases, whether we are thinking about community farms or farmers' markets, what makesfor successful local food systems is a co-operative form of organisation. At the global level, and forfoods which for reasons of climate it is not possible to produce locally, there is also a co-operativesolution in the form of fair trade. Here, the Co-operative food shops have led the way.

  It must be apparent that part of the purpose of the local food co-operatives in Stroud is to rebuildconnections between people, and between people and their local land. The five-year project tostimulate and support local food production Making Local Food Work, which is coming to anend in 2012, had as one of its aims 'to reconnect people and land through local food by increasingaccess to fresh, healthy, local food with clear, traceable origins' and several of the strands, includingsupport for collaborative farmers markets and community-supported agriculture linked the mutualorganisation of enterprise with the environmental focus on rebuilding connections with our localsoil. We see the disconnection that the globalisation of food has brought as being one side of thecoin, while the failure to return the value of production to the producers and its extraction in profitshas been the other side. The aim of 'reconnecting people and land' is crucial to thriving local foodeconomies and requires co-operative organisation of productive enterprises as much as it requiresa closer connection of people with their local natural environments.

  Endnotes

  1 Defra, Ensuring the UK's Food Security in a Changing World (London, 2008)。

  2 R. Bickle and M. Cato, 'A Co-operative Path to Food Security in the UK', Journal of Co-operative Studies, 43 (2010), 4-15.

  3 C. S. Holling, 'Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems', Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 4 (1973), 1-23.

  4 S. S. Luthar and D. Cicchetti, 'The Construct of Resilience: Implications for Interventions and Social Policies', Development and Psychopathology, 12 (2010), 857-85.

  5 S. Cutter, Hazards, Vulnerability and Environmental Justice (London, 2006)。

  6 D. Omand 'Developing National Resilience', Royal United Services Institute Journal, 150 (2005), 14-18.

  7 W. N. Adger, 'Social and Ecological Resilience: Are They Related?', Progress in Human Geography, 24 (2000), 347-64, p. 354.

  8 J. Barry, The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate-Changed, Carbon-Constrained World (Oxford and New York, 2012), p. 64.

  9 Barry, The Politics, pp. 64 and 78.

  10 Barry, The Politics, p. 78.

  11 C. Folke, 'Resilience: The Emergence of a Perspective for Social-Ecological Systems Analyses', Global Environmental Change, 16 (2006), 253-67.

  12 C. Ward, Diesel-Driven Bee Slums and Impotent Turkeys: The Case for Resilience (n.p, 2007)。

  13 Holling, 'Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems', p. 18.

  14 J. Norburg, J. Wilson, B. Walker and E. Ostrom, 'Diversity and Resilience of Social-ecological Systems' in J. Norburg and S. Cumming (eds), Complexity Theory for a Sustainable Future (New York, 2008), p. 46.

  15 Barry, The Politics, p. 109.

  16 M. Millar, D. Paton and D. Johnston, 'Community Vulnerability to Volcanic Hazard Consequences', Disaster Prevention and Management, 8 (1999), 255-60.

  17 C. A. Perrings, 'Resilience and Sustainable Development', Environment and Development Economics, 11 (2006), 417-27, p. 418.

  18 Defra (Food Chain Analysis Group), Food Security and the UK: An Evidence and Analysis Paper (London, 2006)。

  19 IPCC Working Group I, the Physical Science Basis, available here: www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch11s11-9-4.html (downloaded 22 February 2012)。

  20 M. McCarthy, 'Sea levels rising twice as fast as predicted', The Independent, 11 Mar 2009.

  21 A. Becker, M. Fischer, B. Schwegler and S. Inoue (2011), 'Considering Climate Change: A Survey of Global Seaport Administrators', Centre for Integrated Facility Engineering, Working Paper 128 (Stanford, 2011)。

  22 F. Macmillan and D. Cockcroft, Food Availability in Stroud District: Considered in the context of climate change and peak oil (Stroud, 2008)。

  23 For more details on adapting Stroudco to other communities contact nick@stroudco.org.uk.

  24 M. Perry and J. Alcock, 'Community Owned Village Shops: A Better Form of Business', Journal of Co-operative Studies, 43 (2010), 37-45.

  25 For more information on this co-operative, contact member James Beecher jabeecher@cardiffmet.ac.uk.

  26 For more information see: http://edibleopengardens.org.uk/.

  27 P. Kropotkin, Communism and Anarchy (1901)。

  28 For more information see: http://www.transitionheathrow.com/grow-heathrow/.

  29 D. Tussie and C. Aggio, 'Economic and Social Impacts of Trade Liberalization', UNCTAD report available here: http://www.unctad.info/upload/TAB/docs/TechCooperation/fullreport-version14nov-p106-119.pdf (downloaded 27 February 2012)。

  30 T. Lines, Making Poverty: A History (London, 2008)。

  31 A. Bibby and L. Shaw (eds), Making a Difference: Co-operative Solutions to Global Poverty (Manchester, 2005)。

  32 http://svtreshombres.homestead.com/ and http://www.fairtransport.eu/.

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