Case study - Zomerkamp: lokaal/globaal

Context

Two years ago the Flemish government agreed on a “concrete stop” where grounds that are now specified as building grounds have to be converted to nature zones or agricultural zones. By doing this they aim to save the public space that is left to us which in Flanders, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, is already extremely sparse. A plan like the concrete stop is highly necessary and urgent, the problem is that the “concrete stop” is planned for 2040, a far way ahead. In the meanwhile the Flemish Government keeps granting permits for filling up existing nature and agricultural zones with concrete.

This is what’s also happening at Parkveld in Leuven, the location where we organized our Summer Camp – Fiesta Partigiani. Parkveld is a 34ha green zone which belongs to the OCMW, a branch of the government. They lease a part of it to local farmers, but twenty years ago sold another big part to a project developer, which is waiting for permits to turn it in a business and residential area. During the last twenty years they haven’t done anything with the terrain which by consequence has turned into a young forest. Parkveld in it’s current form makes up a green corridor linking city parks with the surrounding country side of Leuven. When the project development firm gets its permit it will lose this much needed quality.

The city council of Leuven has made a plan called Leuven2030 with which they aim to make the city climate neutral in 2030. If they are serious about their plans they should reconsider filling up a green zone, which now doubles as a green cooling zone and agricultural area highly necessary for short chain food production, with concrete. For this reason we organized our Summer Camp exactly at this location, to show the city council that people want Parkveld to stay.

To get widespread support we wanted to get the locals involved as much as possible. The locals meaning the population of Leuven but more importantly the direct neighbours of Parkveld, and the farmers who have their fields on the site at the moment. Yet we didn’t want to lose the global perspective. Climate change is a global phenomenon and all around the world people and communities are fighting for the protection of nature. We also wanted to focus on this aspect: linking the (extremely local) to the global.

Who was involved

Parkveld blijft:  a local group of activists who have been working around the Parkveld Case for years

Boerenforum: an organization of farmers who work on short chain food production and biological farming

Local volunteers and activists got together with almost 300 participants over the three day weekend

partigiani

Activities linking local to global

During the weekend the participants and visitors could partake in a bunch of workshops, activities, etc, but in this case study we will focus on three which focussed on the local and global aspects.

Local farmer’s raffle

We organized a local farmer’s raffle. This was an easy and accessible way to approach the local farmers working on or near Parkveld and convince them to get involved during the weekend. We asked them to donate a bit of their local produce as prices for a farmer’s raffle. This way they were connected to the weekend, and more eager to come and participate in the activities. We had a large number of local farmers joining the plenary on Sunday afternoon, and part of the turnout was thanks to the participation in the farmers raffle. The other participants got to see through the prizes which produce is being farmed at and around Parkveld.

Open air cinema and debate

Climaxi produced a documentary about the state of the agricultural sector in Belgium and beyond. The film starts in East-flanders and slowly broadens to France, Italy, Greece and even Jordan and Kenya. During the weekend the participants got a sneak preview of the (by then not fully finished) film with live commentary from the director. After the film there was an open debate with the audience, the director and farmers who were shown in the film. This activity also lured a lot of local farmers and members of the boerenforum to the weekend, and related the issues they are having with the issues of farmers in the rest of Europe and beyond.

Pachamama ritual

Another part of the weekend consisted of music. One of the bands performing, los callajeros, has a Mexican frontperson who got us in touch with a Mexican friend of his who specializes in authentic Pachamama rituals. During the show they reserved twenty minutes for this ritual in which participants reflect on what the earth has to offer, and the relationship between men and nature. The ritual was done with among other local produce and on the fields of parkveld. It was a great reminder that the action for the preservation of Parkveld isn’t unique, and that local communities around the world are protecting agriculture and nature in their own local struggles.

The good thing about the ritual was that it wasn’t a separate activity, but formed part of a musical performance. This way it wasn’t a shoehorned activity that was needed to make the link to global struggles, which would have had a lot less participants.

Continuity

The weekend resulted in a bigger core group of people who want to be actively involved in the defense of Parkveld. The local group which sustains a small community garden on Parkveld also grew in numbers. Two months after the weekend we organized a follow-up get together on the terrain where 50 people joined. That night furghter plans were made to renew the weekend next year, which will be important because it’s two months prior to the local elections. It will be a good opportunity to put the issue on the political agenda.

What have we learned?

It isn’t easy getting the local people and farmers involved. By making the participation very accessible and asking for produce instead of their time we were able to get them involved in the organization process.

Organizing open air cinema’s and music shows on a field with no electricity, water, … requires thorough planning  to keep last minute improvisation to a minimum. Weather can also be an issue and for every activity there needs to be a dry alternative, tent available

eu en sofs

Climaxi (Friends of the Earth Flanders) gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of Friends of the Earth Flanders and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information this document contains.