Mission and Purpose
The Urban Agroecology Network Metropolitana (Rede Urbana de Agroecologia, RUA) is a permanent space of articulation to establish horizontal and collaborative dialogues between the university, civil society organizations, associations of small farmers - men and women - , the public authority and people interested in the subject, with the aim of promoting and strengthening an agroecology agenda in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte - RMBH.
Origins and Development
The creation of RUA Metropolitana began shortly after the "Course for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension” - ATER Agroecology in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte held in October and November 2015 by the research group AUÊ! - Studies in Urban Agriculture (hosted in the Institute of Geosciences of the Federal University of Minas Gerais) in partnership with the NGO Network of Exchange of Alternative Technologies (REDE) and the Technical and Rural Extension Company of the State of Minas Gerais (EMATER MG). This activity took place within the scope of consolidation of the Center for Studies in Agroecology and Organic Production (NEA) from the project "Metropolis in Transition: Implantation of the Nucleus of Studies in Agroecology and Organic Production (NEA / UFMG) in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte" (ORNELAS, 2017).*
The course was offered to rural technical assistance (ATER) employees , both from the public sector and from civil society organizations. Its purpose was to collectively build a general view of agriculture in the RMBH and to guide ATER by the principles of agroecology. Information about the methodology, objectives and educational processes that guided the construction of the course and drove the sharing of the agroecological knowledge were systematized by the members of AUÊ! (ORNELAS et al, 2017).
In that context, those who participated in the course identified the need of a permanent space for meetings and discussions between organizations, social movements, public agencies and researchers so they could continue the discussions and organize collective activities. There were already other processes of articulation of social groups and organizations related to urban agriculture and agroecology in the RMBH, such as the Metropolitan Articulation of Urban Agriculture (AMAU). However, there was a gap regarding the permanent articulation between these initiatives with public managers and researchers.
One of the initiatives that contributed to the construction of RUA Metropolitana was the extension project "Cultivating Another City", funded by Pro-Rectory of Extension (PROEX) of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and carried out by AUÊ! - Studies in Urban Agriculture (IGC / UFMG) during the years 2016 to 2018, which allowed the dedication of scholarship holders to assist in the creation and maintenance of the network, through facilitation, organization and systematization of meetings, reports, documents and photos.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
Currently, the network works through an e-mail group and face-to-face meetings, established according to the conditions and needs. More than 200 people representing various groups, organizations and institutions, especially from the RMBH, are part of the RUA e-mail group.
Networks can be understood as a structure that involves different actors and organizations united from the establishment and maintenance of common goals. The power in the networks is shared and the relations tend to be horizontal, allowing different access to symbolic, material or informational power resources (FLEURY, 2005). The sociotechnical networks are based on the relationship and bond between individuals, who communicate and articulate themselves in the duty of their collective interests. The consistency and conditions of the connections between the actors are decisive for the functioning and objectives of both the individual and the group. The structure of the networks is presented as a way of making the communication and the transfer of information more effective, which strengthens the practices and fosters public policies. In this context, civil society actors cease to be just recipients of public policies, because when they receive important information, they become relevant in the construction of the policies related to quality of life (JESUS et al, 2016).
Specializations, Methods and Tools
Among the actions carried out by RUA Metropolitana are: approaching several actors and organizations from different areas connected by the issues of urban agriculture and agroecology in the RMBH; the exchange of knowledge and experience; collective organization of actions and diverse events on the theme of agriculture and agroecology in the RMBH; social mobilization and partnerships in the construction of projects to access funding opportunities with the objective of strengthening agroecological actions; discussion of laws and draft of laws on agriculture; among others (ORNELAS, 2017)
Major Projects and Events
The events co-held by RUA Metropolitana made it possible to broaden the process of institutional recognition of agricultural activities in the RMBH. For the first time the agricultural issue was the theme of a Metropolitan Conference in 2017. In addition, the network has been constituted as another space to discuss the incorporation of urban agriculture and agroecology in Food Security and Nutrition proposals and territorial restructuring, as well as planning bodies - local groups, public hearings and technical staff.
Currently, RUA debates the creation of an integrated and intersectoral action plan for agroecology in RMBH, based on the construction of the Participative Guarantee System**, called Metropolitan SPG. The proposal is to certify the agroecological and organic production through collective farmers and other local social actors, having as principle the social control and a shared responsibility. According to Radomsky (2009), in addition to a possible certification seal, this Participative Guarantee System (SPG) allows the sharing of knowledge and practices, the exchange of seeds and products in reciprocal relations.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
RUA Metropolitana presents a significant potential for communication, articulation and exchange of information among male and female farmers, their associations and collectives, social movements, civil society organizations, public institutions and subjects that promote urban agriculture and agroecology, making easier the mobilization, organization and participation in the agroecology demands of RMBH.
FLEURY, Sonia. Redes de políticas: novos desafios para a gestão pública. Administração em Diálogo, São Paulo, n. 7, p. 77-89, 2005.
JESUS, Marcelo de Souza de. SIMEÃO, Elmira Luiza Melo Soares Simeão. MARTINS, Wagner de Jesus. Rede Sociotécnica na Governança de Políticas Públicas: o Contexto da Comunicação Extensiva. Revista ACB: Biblioteconomia em Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, v. 21, n. 1, p. 17-26, dez./mar., 2016.
RADOMSKY, Guilherme Francisco Waterloo. Práticas de certificação participativa na agricultura ecológica: rede, selos e processos de inovação. Revista IDeAS - Interfaces em Desenvolvimento, Agricultura e Sociedade. Rio de Janeiro, v. 3, n.1, p. 133-164, jan./jun. 2009.
ORNELAS, Gabriel Mattos et al. Agroecologia na metrópole: construção coletiva de uma agenda de estudos e ações na Região Metropolitana de Belo Horizonte.. Cadernos de Agroecologia, [S.l.], v. 12, n. 1, july 2017. ISSN 2236-7934. Disponível em: <http://revistas.aba-agroecologia.org.br/index.php/cad/article/view/22346>. Acesso em: 19 aug, 2019.
Agroecologia e Regiões Metropolitanas: desafios e possibilidades para a gestão local e regional na RMBH. Monografia. Belo Horizonte; Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 2017.
* The project financed by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply (MAPA), Ministry of Agrarian Development (MDA), Ministry of Education (MEC), Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MPA) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)
** Guarantee mechanisms that are part of the Brazilian Organic Conformity Assessment System (SISORG / MAPA), provided for in Decree No. 6,323, of December 27, 2007, which regulates Law No. 10,831 on organic agriculture.
The first submission of this entry was written by Gabriel Mattos Ornelas.