Rural Resilience | Diary from the Ground – Summer 2023

“Protect water, precious common good”: Water convoy led by Confédération Paysanne in Orléans, France, 25 August 2023. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

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In phase 2 of the Rural Resilience project we pledged to explore new territories. Over the summer, we set out in search of experiments in resilience in the four corners of France. Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne reports.

Poor regions rich in resilience 

On June 8 we were at the launch of the network of Territorial Food Programmes (PAT) in Occitanie, co-organised by the Occitanie Region and the regional directorates for food, agriculture and forestry (DRAAF). Of some thirty structures attending the launch, ARC2020 represented the connection between the local and European levels. 

The event was facilitated by the regional federation of CIVAM in Occitanie (Centres d’initiatives pour valoriser l’agriculture et le milieu rural – a network of local groups working towards agroecological transition) in the inspiring surrounds of the Narbo Via Museum in Narbonne, historically a bastion of the Roman Empire. 

Workshop on Territorial Food Programmes in the Narbo Via Museum, Narbonne, 8 June 2023. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

Occitanie, in the South of France, is one of France’s leading regions in terms of young farmers entering farming. At the launch, a workshop on the topic of new entrants included contributions from Terre de Liens Languedoc, and the Occitanie Region, which since the 2023-2027 CAP NSP is more broadly involved in issues around young farmers. 

The first morning of our visit to Loos-en-Gohelle. Left: Dominique Hays of the Cocagne national network, at the gardens of the Anges Gardins association. Right: Laurence Duriez, town councillor for rural affairs (centre), pictured with managers of municipal food and agriculture projects. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

Later that month we were in the far north of France to celebrate more than a quarter-century of resilience in the transition town of Loos-en-Gohelle. Located in the poor Pas-de-Calais region, with a population of less than 7,000, the town is leading the way in terms of energy, democracy and ecological transition. Local residents are justifiably proud of this intangible heritage that capitalises on the town’s experience. 

A highlight of the second day in Loos-en-Gohelle: a comprehensive overview of the concept of “transition tourism” and “DDTour” : sustainable development tour. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

On June 28 and 29 we discovered Loos-en-Gohelle’s story of transition during a guided walk around the town and along the green belt, a physical marker of the preservation of agricultural land.

The summit of Mont Aigoual, one of the high points separating two key watersheds: that of the Mediterranean Sea, and of the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne 

Protecting biodiversity, facing climate change

While in Loos-en Gohelle, conversations with Fabrique des Transitions and PETR (Pôle d’Équilibre Territorial Rural Causses et Cévennes) brought to our attention the ongoing debate around the tourism model in Cévennes in the South East of France.

Will Alti-Aigoual still be a ski resort in 10 to 15 years? Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

And so in early August we set off for a two-day visit to the Cévennes mountains.

Ecotourism in the Cévennes mountains at the Lou Rey eco-lodge, a fortified farmhouse dating from the time of the Knights Templar. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

Cévennes is known for its longstanding and successful work on biodiversity restoration. 

Dinner at Lou Rey is prepared with ingredients from the permaculture garden. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

Interestingly, two of its local governments are part of “Avenir Montagne”, a state-run programme for sustainable tourism in mountainous areas, against the backdrop of adaptation to climate change.

Trekking donkeys are welcome at the Lou Rey eco-lodge. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

Water as a common good

Our last trip of the summer was to greet the Water Convoy which wound its way into Orléans on August 25 after a week-long mobilisation against watergrabbing that started near the village of Sainte Soline. The convoy of farmers and citizens, led by the “Bassines Non Merci” collective and Confédération Paysanne, and joined along the way by other farmers and supporters, brought its demand for a moratorium on the construction of “mega-basinsright to the offices of these projects’ main financer: Agence de l’Eau Loire Bretagne. Groups from the various areas affected, spanning from Charente in South-West France to La Clusaz in the Alps (on different water agencies’ perimeter), assembled to call for fairer and more sustainable management of water resources.

Spokespersons Laurence Marandola (Confédération Paysanne) and Julien Leguet (Bassines Non Merci collective) give a midday update on the ongoing consultation with the President of the Loire-Bretagne watershed Committee, Orléans, 25 August 2023. Photo: Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne

All this energy around protecting the common good will help to fuel our forthcoming policy analysis, ‘Restoring water as a common good’, which takes a deep dive into differences in the agricultural insurance system in France and Germany. 

In 2023-2024, the Rural Resilience project embarks on a new phase of joining the policy dots while continuing to nurture what we have built together, and widening the lens from France to Germany and the broader Europe. To learn more, visit the project page, and follow ARC2020 on LinkedInTwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Return to the Rural Resilience project page

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About Marie-Lise Breure-Montagne 26 Articles

As her family name suggests, Marie-Lise was born and raised in a mountainous and harsh region: France’s Massif-Central (Auvergne).
She studied agronomy and ag-economics in the south of France (Sup Agro - Montpellier). She has spent the last two decades working on territorialized public policies (environment, ecological and climate transition, youthness, solidarity, rurality, …), as project manager in local authorities, and as a trainer. Good preparation for the objectives of phase 2 of the Rural Resilience project, focusing in particular on multi-tiered rural policies, for which she served as project coordinator from February 2023 to February 2024.