[EXP] Ancient fruit varieties turned economic tonic in French Pyrenees, promoted by RENOVA.
Mobile juice press awakens interest
Rural topic(s): Conservation and management of natural resources, Rural entrepreneurship and diversification of activities
Type: Success story
Date of writing: September 13, 2012
Author(s) of this page: Patrick Chalmers
Organization(s): Les ateliers RENOVA
Ancient orchards in the Pyrenean foothills have come back to life with the help of Renova, an association that revitalises plantations and helps people learn to prune trees, harvest and process their produce.
Fruit growing in the area benefits from the climate-moderating effects of nearby mountains, meaning locals traditionally kept their harvests in an edible condition through into spring, a significant economic and dietary benefit. Commercial plantations begun in the 1950s caused the local fruit economy to collapse and orchards to be abandoned. The area’s sloping hills and variable soils prevented the widespread practice of conventional farming, leaving the orchards undisturbed until a revival of local interest in the 1990s. The result is a wealth of local fruit tree varieties that still remains.
Renova, which operates in both the Ariege and Haute Garonne departments of southwest France, hosts regular trainings in tree husbandry and propagation. It runs open days for schoolchildren and students and works with marginalised members of society. Its collective fruit-and-vegetable processing centre is available both to small-scale farmers and private individuals, saving them the costs of major capital outlay. It also carries a library and inventories of local varieties, examples of which its members propagate at various nursery sites across the two departments. Centre director Francis Michaux says Renova has revitalised 10,000 or so old trees in its time, planted another 10,000 and involved 1,000 people in that work.
Cultivated biodiversity as a support to food system resilience
In a second video report, Francis explains the vital role of cultivated biodiversity, not just of fruit trees but also in traditional animal breeds, cereals and vegetables, for healthy agricultural landscapes. Such variety is under threat from national and European legislators and regulators intent on homogeneity for largely commercial reasons, posing big dangers to the environment and to the resilience of food systems. He suggests that the work of those who husband biodiversity should benefit from consumer labels on their produce acknowledging their effort, on top of existing designations such as organic or regional.
Renova is a thriving association whose work has now spread beyond its original geographical borders. It is helped by the ambassadorial role played by a dozen or so mobile juicing units, which practically demonstrate the strength of its arguments in favour of cultivated biodiversity. They are members of Semences Paysannes.
Source: Author visit on September 10, 2012 that included extended conversation, questioning and video interviews in the context of the Sustainable Mystery Tour 2012.
Francis Michaux, director of the Renova processing centre « Les Plagnes »,
Scale of intervention : Regional
Keywords: Biodiversity, collective approach, Sustainable Mystery Tour 2012, local variety, orchard, biodiversity conservation, local food systems, local food processing, higher added-value products, seeds saving, collective processing plant
Actors: association, inhabitants, farmer
Methods: training workshop, raising awareness