Project 100 steps: history of a project with a long but rich path.
The first challenge of the 100 Steps Project was to be able to bring together actors with common goals and share ideas, but with different paths of implementation, development and promotion.
In 2015, the Contina Cooperative, had already started a feasibility study work on the area of the Bosco dei 100 Passi, so the following year an agreement was signed between the Cooperative, Libera Associazione contro le mafie and the Municipality of Gaggiano. In 2017, Contina submitted a small project to the Ticino Olona Foundation on a piece of land adjoining the Forest to create an “Unusual Orchard” or symbolic orchard related to the fruit species of the Lombard horticultural tradition, with the idea of starting an educational and didactic activity in collaboration with the municipality and the School. The orchard was partially started, but the small amount of funding did not allow its planting and implementation to be completed. In 2018, with the technical help of ASeS and the support of the DiNAMo Cooperative Entrepreneurial and Social Network, a first project(100 steps between agroecology and social inclusion) was submitted in extremis on the Cariplo Foundation’s Coltivare Valore call for proposals. .
The call passed the first stage, but in the second stage it did not achieve sufficient scores to obtain funding. In 2019, again with ASeS as lead partner and DiNAMo’s support for the second edition of the Fondazione Cariplo’s Coltivare Valore call for proposals, the project was approved and funded 100 steps between social inclusion and agroecology and in 2020, with a January 13 communication, the project was funded with €208,000 in grants out of a total cost of €350,000. In January and February, initial practical evaluations were made and training paths for job placement internships were identified. At the end of February, Contina Cooperative was ready but unfortunately had to deal with the terrible COVID 19 pandemic. The start of the internships was therefore blocked by the region, and the Cascina Contina Community, which houses many medically fragile individuals as well, went into preventive isolation. The enhancement of agricultural products in Cascina Contina, which had already begun with the improvement of horticultural crops and the reorganization of processing, could no longer have an outlet in agritourism catering, as was planned in the project. Difficulties on the communication level also emerged in contacts with the municipality, which, like all administrations was in great difficulty at the front-office level.
The first reaction, needless to say, was one of discouragement: considering whether to ask for an extension or scale back the project.It is the same Cariplo Foundation to encourage us to equally ignite the project spark. In the frank and direct dialogue between the project coordinator, Giovanni Molina and the head of the Call in Cariplo Coltivare Valore, Matteo Barbato, the idea of enhancing the Cooperative’s agricultural products through a home delivery system was born. The idea has been taken up by DiNAMo’s network as other companies have taken action and, in the emergency, activated a similar service. However, the difference was immediately obvious: between organizing “one’s own service” and networking over ten different realities “runs a lot of water.” But we were not discouraged, from April until after the summer, work was done and the Contina cooperative offered to provide platform service: from the logistics platform of collecting supplies to order management. A small team working in a “handcrafted” but thorough manner built a real online store by collecting price lists; a mechanism for the operation of the platform was created; and it was decided how the cooperation would build the final price from which the operating costs would be deducted. In September and October, test purchases were made and the payment mechanism was made operational. DiNAMo took charge of the bureaucratic requirements, and on November 3, the commercial SCIA formally launching the “Agricibo Milano” platform was submitted.On November 11, St. Martin’s Day, a web flash inaugurated and kicked off the online store.
Meanwhile, agro-ecological work in Cascina Contina continued. The agritourism has followed a path of improving the structure and growing the organization for both the refreshment kitchen and agricultural production for which it increases processing activities. Much has been improved on the products: from canned goods to bread, which, despite the closure of the pandemic stage refreshment, was also beginning to be known locally through direct delivery, the buying groups that gravitated around the cooperative, and now the Home Delivery Platform.
At the farmhouse, land improvement was carried out on a field through deep tillage, drainage improvement and installation of a hose irrigation system; a tunnel greenhouse was installed to protect field-grown vegetables; and the organization of prose was rationalized. In addition, some lawn areas have been sown with wheat for breadmaking. A good impetus was also given to the purchase of new equipment for work in the countryside, primarily a tractor with a reach mowing bar and PTO-driven flail mower, which will also allow maintenance to be properly carried out both in the Cascina ,and at the 100-step forest.
Today, almost a year after the project’s completion, work on the completion of the unusual orchard as designed at Bosco dei 100 Passi and the educational activity related to the renovation of the classroom remain outstanding.The planned intervention, including the renovation and furnishing of a multifunctional classroom and equipment for outdoor spaces, is in the hands of the City of Gaggiano, which is finalizing the agreement for the transfer of the property where the project drawn up by the technical department will be implemented. In the first seclusion due to the pandemic, the forest and orchard grounds were inaccessible just during the spring period, and during the summer, concentration turned to irrigation and routine maintenance. With autumn and new restrictions, coupled with the difficulty of starting internships, it has not yet been possible to start this project action, which will be in the priorities for next spring.
The entities that are part of the partnership of the “100 steps between social inclusion and agroecology” project are 4:
- ASeS, Lead Association with many social cooperation projects to its credit,
- Contina Cooperativa Sociale, the central reality of the project, linked to the Welcoming Community located at the Contina farmstead of the same name in the municipality of Rosate (MI),
- Association 100 Cascine, a social and cultural reality that promotes the recovery of the rural heritage of the farmsteads of our Plain, and the City of Gaggiano,
- Public administration to which land confiscated from the Mafia in Frazione San Vito north of the main town was entrusted.
On the partnership side, a very important role is played by the social support network aggregated around the DiNAMo Consortium Cooperative.
ASeS (Farmers Solidarity and Development) is an association that has long been involved in international cooperation and for the past few years has been increasing projects in the area of social agriculture at the local level, especially directed at the employment of disadvantaged people. His role has been crucial in gathering input from project partners and in difficult coordination and direction.
Cascina Contina is located on the extreme western outskirts of the Parco Agricolo Sud Milano (South Milan Agricultural Park) and a few hundred meters from the Parco del Ticino (Ticino Park), thus in a position that acts as a hinge between the two main land protection entities in Lombardy.
Contina is also a very active and territorially present reality in the educational and environmental field (Punto Parco Sud since 2007) as well as, of course, social as an assistance reality strongly active in the territory of Southwest Milan, Welcoming Community and Work Cooperative.
The Municipality of Gaggiano, is a public guarantor of the management of the Bosco dei 100 passi, a property confiscated from the Mafia in the hamlet of San Vito where Ersaf has created a forest with funding from the Province of Milan.
The forest is the subject of enhancement, albeit partial, in the project “100 Steps Between Social Inclusion and Agroecology,” here the municipality, with funding from the project, will build a classroom for educational and outreach purposes on agroecology issues.
The role of the Administration is central in the operationalization of this part of the project starting with the provision of a small shed at the edge of the forest where the Classroom will be equipped and renovated.
The 100 Cascine Association, a nonprofit organization that deals with the protection and enhancement of rural heritage, has put its experience in the field of Communication and social promotion, as well as its expertise and care in the creation of photo reports in the field of social cooperation, at the service of the project.
Finally, DiNAMo (Distretto Neorulare delle tre Acque di Milano) is a consortium of agricultural enterprises with the aim of promoting new applied forms of agroecology and safeguarding the rural territory and landscape of a strip of land underlying the blue triangle formed by the Ticino River and the canals derived from it: the Grande and Villoresi to the north, and the Pavese to the southeast.
The great help of Fondazione Cariplo
Fondazione Cariplo is a banking foundation that for years, in the Milan metropolitan area, has supported the third sector and nonprofit organizations engaged in environmental sustainability projects.Since 2018, it has combined social and environmental sustainability in the call for proposals “Coltivare Valore, “ which finances social agriculture projects with an agroecological approach.
In 2019 ASeS (Farmers Solidarity and Development) presented with. Contina Cooperative and 100 farmsteads association, a project to improve the agroecological productions of the Cascina Contina Community and rehabilitation of an area of the Bosco dei 100 Passi (property confiscated from the Mafia) handed over by the Municipality of Gaggiano in agreement to Contina Cooperative.The project “100 steps between social inclusion and agroecology” provided for the enhancement of products in Agritourism catering and the initiation of job placement internships for frail individuals. Approved and funded in January 2020, it was taking its first formal steps, but the Pandemic threatened to stall the whole course, both in terms of the inability to start internships and the forced closure of the restaurant business and thus the Cascina Contina farmhouse. This was coupled with the fragility of the Cascina Shelter Community where many fragile individuals potentially very vulnerable to Coronavirus reside, so cautionary outward attention was immediately strict.
This discouraging picture was precisely from the stimulus and encouragement from FC to bring to life the idea of converting the agritourism enhancement route into a home delivery platform project.The support of the social network around the project and in particular the DiNAMo Consortium Cooperative completed the work. DiNAMo has worked to involve its companies so as to complete and concretize a Territory Basket, already of great potential interest, but still unexpressed. Contina set out for the home delivery service to become a service for the local area, and this second wave of contagiousness is confirming its importance at a critical stage. Thus Agricibo was born. Not only from funding on a rigorous path of design evaluation, but also from human and intelligent understanding of human frailty and its immense potential for creativity, capable of drawing solutions even from the intricate jumbles.
THANKS TO CARIPLO FOUNDATION!