Following an initial impetus from local stakeholders and citizens active in the Cities in Transition movement, the Liège City and province have been successful for nearly 10 years at developing a large-scale project promoting local, sustainable and resilient food production in the Liège ‘Food Land’ belt.
This is an ambitious goal, since it involves the ‘democratisation, relocation and decarbonisation of the food system’ within a single generation: it aims to meet 50% of food demand in Liège locally, in the best possible ecological and social conditions, within the next 25 to 30 years.
The platform has been in constant development since the initiative was launched in 2013, and several structuring projects were built at every level of the food chain, including:
This dynamic plays into a larger strategy of food sovereignty and local sufficiency/resilience, led by a strong commitment from local public authorities, including funding from the Walloon region. Simultaneously, the academic world is contributing to discussions about long-term project planning.
Governance lies at the heart of this dynamic, as it aims to foster relationships between agri-food professionals and consumers and to promote the understanding of their respective needs. As explained by Christian Jonet, Coordinator of the Liège Food Land Belt, and Claire Wiliquet, Permanent member of UniverSud, in this article exploring this fascinating topic, one of the foundational principles behind the Food-Land Belt is ‘creating a city-countryside alliance based on the countryside feeding the city, which in turn supports local agriculture with its consumption, saving and investment choices’.
This strategy was co-constructed over the course of several participatory workshops that gave all stakeholders and citizens an opportunity to identify challenges and key issues (e.g. economic, social, property, etc.) related to the project and to define the main projects to implement and action plans. Strong citizen participation from the inception of the project was essential, as it provided the needed funding to launch the cooperatives.
This dynamic gave the city the opportunity to become aware of possible drivers for local food production and to change its internal organisation. For instance, it created an interdepartmental group to address this question and improved the city’s position as an applicant in Walloon and European calls for projects in order to acquire new funding.
Based on this positive experience, the City of Liège plans to develop a similar model for energy: the ‘Ceinture Energ’Ethique’ (Ethical Energy Belt). Its purpose is to create a new energy production and consumption ecosystem that is also based on urban-rural solidarity. All local stakeholders are involved, with particular attention being given to populations that suffer from energy insecurity (25% of Liège’s population is living under the poverty line). This project aims to give city dwellers (who cannot easily purchase their own renewable energy facilities) the opportunity to invest in collective projects that will be deployed in rural areas and to use this energy through citizen energy communities.
May 11, 2021