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Nurturing social inclusion through urban agriculture: Overview of Erasmus+ NATURE Project

Nurturing social inclusion through urban agriculture: Overview of Erasmus+ NATURE Project

At a recent Teaching, Training and Learning Event held in Bologna, Italy, staff from Teagasc and the BIA Innovator Campus, Athenry, showcased a set of educational modules designed for trainers and workers in the fields of urban agriculture and the green economy.

The modules were developed for NATURE Project, an initiative supported by European Union Erasmus+ Programme, which stands at the forefront of integrating vulnerable adult groups into the green economy through urban agriculture. The project harnesses the therapeutic and educational potential of farming in urban settings to foster social inclusion through sustainable enterprises and provide new vocational pathways. 

The NATURE project not only addresses the immediate educational needs of its participants, but also aims to lay a foundation for long-term environmental and social improvements in urban settings. Through its comprehensive educational framework and collaborative approach, the initiative promises to drive significant change, making a lasting impact on communities and the environment.

Key resources developed for the initiative include: comprehensive case studies; new urban trade sheets; comics; trainers guide; peer-to-peer practical guide; and a digital learning toolbox, all available through the project’s website. These resources provide essential information and tools, making the educational content accessible and applicable for the target audience.

Educational modules

Two educational modules have been developed by Dr. Anita Furey, Teagasc Food Technologist at the BIA Innovator Campus, to aid trainers and workers in the urban agriculture and green economy sphere. The first resource, a Trainers Guide, provides a framework to vulnerable adults who are new to training and who wish to train their peers, furnishing them with the necessary tools to train inclusive sustainable urban agriculture effectively. The second module, a Peer-to-Peer Practical Guide, focuses on the development of practical technical guides to assist adult workers in implementing and managing urban agriculture projects.

Elisabetta Degli Esposti Merli Anita Furey and Shivani Lopez Wadke NATURE project event in Bologna

Elisabetta Degli Esposti Merli, Lai-momo, Anita Furey, Teagasc, and Shivani López Wadke, Jonkoping University, at Erasmus+ 'NATURE' project Learning Teaching & Training event, Bologna, Italy in March 2024.

These innovative open-source educational tools have been tailored for adult educators and professionals active in the field of inclusion. They include a detailed guide on best practices in urban agricultural case studies aimed at equipping trainers with the knowledge to support diverse learner groups.

The ‘Good Practice Guide’ outlines inspiring examples of social inclusion, creating urban value and environmental welfare through dialogue, education, and collaboration. Additionally, the initiative has introduced new urban trade sheets that outline the skills needed for emerging jobs in the sector, enhancing employability in the green economy. 

To make learning engaging and accessible, the project team has crafted a comic book training manual which re-creates stories born from interviews with practitioners featured in the Good Practice Guides. This creative approach helps demystify complex urban agriculture and sustainable concepts in the fringes of European cities and makes learning fun and engaging for adults. Complementing this, a comprehensive digital learning toolbox is available, providing digital resources that support the hands-on training materials. 

A unique aspect of the NATURE Project is its approach to certification. The project offers specialised training courses that culminate in self-certification, acknowledging the competencies gained in urban agriculture. This not only boosts participants' job prospects but also standardises the qualifications in this burgeoning field. 

Anita Furey and Emilia Furey delivering training at the NATURE project in Bologna

Anita Furey, Teagasc, and Emilia Furey, BIA Innovator Campus, delivering training module as part of Erasmus+ 'NATURE' project in Bologna, Italy, March 2024.

The Teaching, Training and Learning Event hosted in Bologna, Italy, in March 2024 was the first dissemination event for the modules produced by BIA Innovator Campus. The Irish contingent consisted of: Anita Furey, Teagasc; Emilia Furey, BIA Innovator Campus; Catriona McCarthy, Edible Landscapes CLG & Mayo IT; Enda McEvoy, Éan Restaurant & Magpie Bakery, Galway; and Erin O'Brien, Cork County Council & Cork Urban Soil Project. The workshops were pivotal in refining the educational resources and strategies used in the training modules. 

Multiplier event

The NATURE Multiplier event was held in Athenry at the BIA Innovator Campus on April 17, 2024.  This initiative sought to disseminate the educational tools to help empower underprivileged migrants and refugees by developing skills in sustainable urban agriculture to foster social and environmental change.

The event highlighted significant partnerships and collaborations which is key to the project’s success and involved multiple partners across Europe including Ireland, France, Italy, Denmark, and Sweden. Project partners include: BIA Innovator Campus; Jonkoping University; European E-Learning Instituted; Halage; Plaine Commune Grand Paris; LeLaba; and Lai-momo. These partnerships leverage local expertise and cultural insights, ensuring that project outputs are culturally relevant and widely applicable.

For more detailed information about the project, its partners, and the innovative resources created, please visit the NATURE Project website. This resource is a gateway to exploring how urban agriculture can play a pivotal role in inclusive education and community building. 

Click here to visit the NATURE Project website.