In 2014, EkoRural began a third phase of the Community Baskets project with the objective of strengthening local food systems through a multi-actor, urban-rural process based on the ongoing experiences of promoting new city-farmer relationships and establishing new mechanisms ("businesses") that benefit both producers’ and consumers’ priorities. The project’s first five years found that, under certain conditions and at a small scale, these direct mechanisms can be successful. However, while the model can work, there is an urgent need to both grow and refine it, including testing other arrangements where win-win relationships are generated. It is vital to identify incentives that society and local governments/institutions can provide. In terms of agroecological intensification (AEI), the project aims to continue exploring what happens within small farms when they engage in alternative food networks in relation to production, efficiency, flows, and food.
This project's purpose is to expand understanding of how to leverage and strengthen local food systems to further AEI outcomes. By expanding learning from the pilot stage to new cities, the team will consolidate findings to influence policy and society regarding consumption. The ultimate goal of the project is to contribute to robust, thriving local food systems that lead to improvements in the livelihoods of rural and urban families. Specific outputs include encouraging alternative food networks (AFNs) that emphasize local, short circuit, agroecological markets, as well as contributing to the evidence base for this movement. The impacts of AFNs will be compared to other models such as supermarkets, export markets, and traditional wholesalers. Lastly, the connection between AFNs and AEI at the farm level will be studied, specifically farm-level indicators on soil health, agrobiodiversity, and input use will be monitored.