Developing metropolitan agriculture, the AproTER project

Nicolas Rouget, senior lecturer in geography, coordinated the project " Agriculture and proximity, food governance and territories ", funded by the Hauts-de-France regional council as part of its call for projects Agricultural systems and environment (2017-2021). He presents us with the research questions behind the project conducted between 2018 and 2021, its main findings and the perspectives it opened.

The origins of the AproTER project

This research project, led by the Polytechnic University Hauts-de-France associates two intercommunities (the European Metropolis of Lille and Douaisis agglo) and the association Terres en ville.

In a context characterized by urban sprawl, increasing social demands for nature, the rise of the notion of sustainability, and the questioning of productivist models, recent decades have been marked by the return of agriculture to the city and have sealed a new alliance between nature, the city and agriculture. Agriculture is reintegrating the city and becoming a partner of the city. More than that, agriculture would have become a non-substitutable component of a new urbanity that necessarily passes through the promotion of peri-urban open spaces and the renewal of the proximity food function.

The main issues are those of a change of scale or gear in the dynamics of relocalization of food production, those also of a redefinition of the modalities of marketing. It is a question of going beyond the stage of a proximity agriculture experienced as an alternative to conventional channels to authorize the full development of a metropolitanized agriculture, either structured around a consumption basin and no longer primarily determined in production basins, likely to contribute very directly to the implementation of a global sustainability of the territories' food systems.

The questioning is systemic and therefore involves analyses encompassing all components of agri-food systems, from agricultural strategies to effective social expectations and political representations. The program was largely multi- and trans-disciplinary and mobilized economists, sociologists, and geographers from UPHF (LARSH), the University of Lille (TVES, CLERSE), and the University of Nantes (ESO).

The main results of the project are

The first publications highlight a growing hybridization and/or permeability of agricultural trajectories and invite local planning actors to grasp farmers' intentions in this regard (Nicolas Rouget, Anne Fournier, Ornella Boutry, 2021). They also point out that the coalition of cause, constitutive of governance, around the preservation of agricultural land for food purposes is not an established fact. Indeed, if we note a growing interest and consideration of the land resource in public agricultural and food policies under construction, the weight of different representations in each of the collected discourses tends to reveal divergent interests (Louise de La Haye, Guillaume Schmitt, Christine Margetic, 2021) and raises the question of the adequacy between land policies and food objectives.

Planned extensions

The program has so far resulted in twelve seminar and conference papers, two publications in peer-reviewed journals, and three research reports.

The extensions are twofold.

Due to the health crisis, a number of surveys, publications, analyses and events have been postponed : surveys on the evolution of consumption behaviors (Ornella Boutry, Clersé) and " Sustainability " surveys carried out during the fall of 2020 (Ornella Boutry, Anne Fournier, Nicolas Rouget), as well as the work of observing the ecological knowledge of peri-urban farmers (Christelle Hinnewinkel, TVES) are under analysis.The work done on the game of the actors of mass distribution (Louise de la Haye Saint Hilaire, Nicolas Rouget) will soon be the subject of an article. The Sustainability seminars will resume as soon as the health context allows it. http://www.ajfournier.fr/projets.html#AProTER).

Five GEIs were recruited to the program. Two of them are now pursuing research as part of their geography theses. Louise de La Haye Saint Hilaire, who is hosted at the UPHF, is an INRAE doctoral student (ED ABIES). Her work examines the dynamics of agricultural production systems in relation to the evolution of collection and processing intermediaries in the former Lorraine and Haute-Marne regions. Manon Tassel (Paris-Nanterre) engages in more epistemological work and questions the concept of Agricultural Revolution.

In addition, the work conducted within the framework of the program has led to a CIFRE contract with the Communauté de Communes Sud Artois. Marine Bré-Garnier has thus just started a thesis under the co-direction of M. Poulot (Paris-Nanterre) and N. Rouget (UPHF) entitled "Faire système " in the Sud-Artois: the meeting of inhabitant and agricultural aspirations in arable land. It is a question of taking part in the construction of a Territorial Food Project, which would be distinguished from the standard institutional approach by a solid anchoring in a rural and arable territory. The issue is local (economic, social, environmental), but also general in scope. This type of territory represents the bulk of the national agricultural production potential and is therefore a primary issue in terms of ecological transition and agricultural and food relocalization.