30 Sep 2019

ROBUST regional workshop on cross-sectoral interaction to improve rural-urban relations|Lucca, Italy

On 26 September, 35 stakeholders from municipal governments, agri-food initiatives and networks participated in the ROBUST regional workshop in Lucca. These diverse actors got together to talk about existing initiatives in the province of Lucca that aim to link rural and urban areas around food, culture and environment, as well as to discuss challenges they are facing and possible ways forward.

Luca Menesini, president of the Province of Lucca, opened the meeting emphasising the importance of the ROBUST project for the local economy while also stressing the environmental perspective.

Francesca Galli then introduced the project, which is multi-actor and transdisciplinary featuring 11 Living Labs in European countries. The project focusses on five thematic areas to stimulate more beneficial rural-urban relations. The three focus areas of the Living Lab in Lucca are sustainable food systems, ecosystem services, and cultural connections.

In the followed group discussion with diverse stakeholders several challenges to better linking rural and urban areas were identified. They included insufficient access to land and water, and limited knowledge of opportunities within the existing laws – both expressed by farmers from the province. Another issue concerned ‘neighbouring relations’ between farms and residential areas.

Overall, the workshop participants underscored the great potential of citizen engagement for stronger rural-urban connections. In particular, cultural activities related to food (e.g. ‘la disfida della zuppa’) were recognised as very effective in mobilising citizens. However, stakeholders expressed that the schedule and location of such events should be better communicated to citizens.

Francesca Galli, senior researcher from the University of Pisa, concluded the workshop saying that “local food policy is challenged to develop appropriate governance. One of the reasons is that it currently lacks connections with comparable experiences from other localities. The good news is, however, that public engagement is strong as well as a political will!”.