Feb 25, 2024

A six-month roadmap for new markets begins in Tricase

The “MAMi — Mediterranean and African Markets Initiative” is a farmers market capacity-building collaboration between the World Farmers Markets Coalition (WorldFMC) and the Mediterranean agronomic institute of Bari in Italy (CIHEAM - Bari). Financial support comes from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. All three organizations are based in Italy. I serve as the WorldFMC President and am excited to provide technical support to this particular initiative. 

We produced a short video that captures the January 2024 training in Tricase. Watch here

Recognizing that many rural inhabitants in the region find it difficult to remain on the land, the MAMi tests the theory that farmers markets are pivotal commercial and civic institutions that chart an alternative path to local self-reliance. The initiative supports leadership in five countries: Albania, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, and Tunisia. Together, we address what is now commonplace all over the planet: large numbers of rural populations driven from land due to the destabilizing effects of climate chaos, war, and political and economic instability. 

Launched in October 2023 at the agricultural festival, the Coldiretti Village in Rome, together with several public authorities, the MAMi Farmers Markets Project aims to create 50 farmers markets that engage more than 1,000 farmers in 24 months. These new institutions will be led by an emerging generation of farmers market professionals from business, government, and civil society. The MAMi technical support team provides support flexible enough to respond to the assets and needs of different territorial contexts. In some cases, markets exist but need technical help to grow into networks. In others, no professionally organized farmers markets exist but the potential is there. Importantly, the leaders in these five countries will rely upon each other to learn and pursue new kinds of investments in agriculture and public health, policy change, and leadership.   


World Farmers Markets Coalition (WorldFMC) General Director Carmelo Troccoli adds: “When trust in agro-economic and social relations and institutions is at a low point, people cut and run to the cities.” Policy experts have pointed out that the nearby city may be only the first stop in a quest for employment and security elsewhere in Europe or even North America. 

Troccoli adds that “while the ultimate destination for migrants may be Italy or beyond, we are investing in the systems that give people a reason to remain at home, on the land, maintaining dignified livelihoods, and preserving their distinct local cultures.” 

This is where farmers markets come in. Though known for their colorful tents and commercial transactions, WorldFMC Head of Strategy and City University of New York Professor, J. Robin Moon describes how this initiative promotes a systems approach in the curriculum she has designed: “Markets represent the first step to grow alternatives that reward entrepreneurism balanced with cooperation.” Since farmers markets forge direct relationships between producers and consumers, their proximity also yields the promotion of local food, biodiversity, and environmental stewardship, and new linkages between town and country. I first had the pleasure to collaborate with Robin in New Orleans during the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery period almost 20 years ago to develop scientific methodologies to evaluate farmers market success in building social cohesion, improving food environments, and affecting regional economies. 

In early January 2024, the first classroom training was held at the prestigious headquarters of CIHEAM in Bari, and in its community development unit in Tricase. Leaders in government, civil society, and agriculture from the five target countries participated in classroom instruction, role-playing, site visits to the Tricase Food4Health Lab, and to Campagna Amica farmers markets in Lecce and Rome. 

The role of the Italian farmers market model, as developed by Campagna Amica, is of particular interest. Not only does its network of 1,200 farmers markets represent the largest national network of its kind, but it also serves as the most visible embodiment of the approach to agriculture that became codified as national public policy in 2001 with the passage of the Modernization of Agriculture Law. Not only does the law simplify unnecessarily complex tax and permitting regimes governing agriculture and marketing, but it also redefines agriculture as more than just the act of production. Instead, it values activities on the land that provide nourishment and dignified livelihoods for the families who own and work the land. This approach has set in motion two decades of experimentation with agritourism, direct marketing, and social farming.  

While the Italian track record is impressive, both CIHEAM and the WorldFMC are committed to contextual development. The Italian farmers market model is as relevant as the ones that have thrived in North America and Australia. However, this challenging work begins with an analysis of the different national and territorial contexts, continuing with the assessment of assets and needs until concrete actions are put in place to lay the foundations for the spread of short supply chain systems with farmers, consumers, and local communities as protagonists. 

I will keep you posted as this initiative takes shape in the coming months. 

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The World Farmers Markets Coalition was introduced in July 2021 at the Pre-Food System Summit in Rome in the presence of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. In June 2022 the nonprofit association was established. On that occasion, it was decided to establish its headquarters in Rome in order to foster an ongoing dialogue with the agencies of the UN agri-food cluster (FAO, IFAD, and WFP).

WorldFMC aims to become the international voice of the local food system based on the direct relationship between farmers and consumers. It is a learning community supported by more than 70 associations in more than 50 countries, representing 20,000 farmers markets around the world.

Founded in 1962, the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) is a Mediterranean intergovernmental organization composed of 13 member countries (Albania, Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey). CIHEAM has a long history of multilateral and regional cooperation and offers education and training, research, technical assistance, and capacity building. It operates through its four institutes based in Bari - CIHEAM Bari - (Italy), Chania - CIHEAM Chania - (Greece), Montpellier - CIHEAM Montpellier - (France), and Zaragoza - CIHEAM Zaragoza - (Spain), and its headquarters - CIHEAM SG, based in Paris.