Local Food Movement in Belgium

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* Article: The local food movement in Belgium: from prefigurative activism to social innovations. By Geoffrey Pleyers. Interface: a journal for and about social movements. Volume 9 (1): 123 – 139 (2017)

URL = http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Interface-9-1-Pleyers.pdf


"This article provides an analysis of the action logics and challenges that underline the evolution of the local food sector in Belgium and the challenges that these actors face in a new stage of the movement for local, organic and fair food.

Since 2000, disparate local movements have spread all over Belgium, in the wave of the alter-globalization movements, critical consumerism and prefigurative and concrete actions against neoliberalism.

Regional networks of those groups have progressively emerged, and have become socio-political actors. While prefigurative activism and the original critical stances towards markets and mainstream economics remain present in many groups, a rising part of the local food activists now draw on a confluence of critical consumption, ecological transition, the social economy and solidarity and local development." (http://www.interfacejournal.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Interface-9-1-Pleyers.pdf)


On the political origins of the movement

"The current renewal of local food networks in Western Europe, and notably in France (Zimmer, 2011), Italy (Toscano, 2011) and French-speaking Belgium finds its roots in the alter-globalization movement in the early 2000. In France, the new local food network setting, AMAP2, was launched in 2001 by small peasants and a local section of the alter-globalization network ATTAC and was directly inspired by the US groups for “Community Supported Agriculture”.

In Liège, two social and cultural centres particularly active in the local alterglobalization movement were also among the first ones to start direct purchase groups for local food. The “Beau Mur” hosts both the local section of ATTAC and one of the larger group of local food consumers in town. It gathers over 80 families every Tuesday. A frontrunner of the local alter-globalization movement and the heart of the "Social Forum in Liège" in mid-2000s, the autonomous social and cultural centre "Barricade3" launched its “GAC” as early as 1999. It organizes a dozen talks a year about food, denouncing the hold of transnational corporation over food and pointing to concrete alternatives. In 2013, Barricade was again the main initiator of a new model of local food network: the “Liège Food-Earth Belt” (“Ceinture Aliment-Terre Liégeoise”, see below). It involves dozens of actors from different sectors and promotes the production and local food consumption.

As I have showed elsewhere (Pleyers, 2010: 35-105) Barricade and most of the local food initiatives emerged in a specific part of the alter-globalization movement, bathed in a culture of activism4 that focuses on prefigurative activism, personal subjectivity and a concept of change rooted in everyday life."

Scaling through swarming

"Rather than enlarging its various groups, many groups thus opt for “emulation” (Tarde, 2001) and “swarming” rather than a growing organization (Pleyers, 2010: 93): “We don’t seek to build a big organization but many, many small organizations, each maintaining its specificities.” By doing so, they hope to maintain convivial and participatory group dynamics and to counter the trend towards institutionalization that usually characterizes civil society organizations and solidarity economy projects. When a group grows, the interpersonal dimension progressively gets lost and the separation between the project entrepreneurs and the more passive “consumers” widens. These actors lead us to reconsider the importance of local level in a globalized world."

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