Smart Agriculture, grassroots initiatives and urban food governance: Case studies in two metropolitan areas in Southern France

Smart Agriculture in urban areas: From grassroots initiatives to urban food governance

In growing urban areas, agriculture is facing specific challenges such as strong competition for land with urban development and is expected to contribute to crucial urban issues such as food supply, social inclusion and environmental protection. The collective behavior necessary to face these challenges and issues extends far beyond the agricultural sector and supposes new types of partnerships between food producers, urban policy makers, city dwellers and communities, market organizations, NGOs, and so on.

The scientific literature on urban food planning highlights the role that micro-initiatives play in the activation of urban food systems (Morgan and Sonnino, 2010; Prove et al., 2015; Prove et al., 2016). A composite landscape of informal and instituted conventional and alternative initiatives exists, some of which are embedded in global movements. Some scholars (Cohen and Illieva, 2015; Banzo et al., 2016) hypothesize that their accumulation and synergies could be the basis for transitioning pathways towards sustainable urban food strategies. According to Wiskerke and Viljoen (2012), the analysis of this food movement as an emerging governance process must link three spheres of action: civil society through grassroots initiatives; public action through planning, regulations and public support; and private actors mainly structured around agri-food markets. Urban food governance can be defined as the coordination process between actors in these three spheres of action. Its emergence will depend on boundary actors, places, projects and procedures with the capacity to connect these spheres at different scales of decision (Perrin and Soulard, 2014).

Focusing on the process - local initiatives for the transformation of the urban food system - rather than on its results - smart benefits - is a way to understand the innovative actions and the new connectivity it might create between places and between actors. To understand how an urban food system is changing, we must look at how new initiatives and projects are introduced.

implemented and completed, and how they evolve towards an increasing institutionalization. The aim is to describe the process of emergence of a territorial governance based on multiple and intersected pathways between a multitude of initiatives.

The objective of this chapter is to characterize the diversity of grassroots initiatives observed in the metropolitan areas of Montpellier and Toulouse, to identify the components of the food system they activate, and to highlight their organizational links with local policy makers. Do these initiatives contribute to a global transformation of the urban food system? What are their contributions to its sustainable transformations and to its governance? Do they remain marginalized actions, disconnected from the main actors of the urban food system?

In this chapter, we first describe the agriculture of the metropolitan areas of Montpellier and Toulouse, and its new links with cities in a context of institutional changes. Second, we present the results of an inventory and an analysis of grassroots initiatives in both case studies. The next section is devoted to the connection existing between the different initiatives and the different kinds of actors. The Toulouse case study focuses on the relationships between public actors and civil society organizations, whereas the Montpellier case study offers a reflection on a collective tool for exchanging knowledge and experiences between stakeholders. Finally, we discuss our results according to the emergence of a metropolitan governance of agriculture and food.

Agriculture in the metropolitan areas of Montpellier and Toulouse: Past and current institutional dynamics

 
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