Developed by and for the agricultural community, the L’Atelier Paysan’s USAGES project aims to create a shared encyclopaedia of knowledge specially tailored to the needs of small-scale farmers. Known as a “peasant’s knowledge base,” it brings farmers to an online platform where blueprints for new tools, as well as guidelines for practice, support and training are created and shared in a peer-to-peer model. Instructions for dozens of tools have been produced, and training takes place online and in-person workshops across France.
Results & Impact
The project has approved and tested 17 technical plans, and 23 more are being prototyped.
European Network for Rural Development, The Peasant’s Workshop, FADEUR Research de l’Agriculture Paysanne, Inter Associations de Formation Collective a la Gestion, AgroParis Tech, European Centre for Agricultural Innovation
The initiative emerged from an activist collective who formed a nonprofit and, later, a cooperative company. All plans for equipment and machinery, and materials for training and development, are available on a creative commons platform which participants can contribute to, share and tweak. Peer-to-peer training also takes place in person, through workshops and research tours.
Cost & Value
The program has a budget of $700,000 for three years.
Running since 2011
The most significant hurdle for the cooperative is measuring the effectiveness of the cooperative’s interventions. As its resources are openly shared it is possible to measure reach – the number of downloads, participants or site visits, for example – but the impact is more difficult to quantify.
French farmers have created an independent resource platform that they hope will increase self-sufficiency and productivity in small-scale farming.
L’Atelier Paysan – known in English as a “Peasant’s Knowledge Base for the Commons” – works to develop innovative new farming tools, machinery and methods, produced by and shared with a community of small-scale farmers and agricultural organisations. Through its online open source platform and in-person workshops, participants from all over France contribute to the development of new low-tech tools. The products are carefully tailored to the particular needs of small-scale, organic farmers.
Since its founding in 2011, the project has created a series of articles, tutorials and self-help guides, along with a self-build guide consisting of at least 250 manuscripts. Its most recent project USAGES, funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, aims to create an encyclopaedia of low-tech agricultural solutions. The resources detail plans for 17 tools adapted for organic farming, and 23 further tools are in the prototyping phase. L’Atelier Paysan has produced guidelines for renovating agricultural buildings and negotiating legal and bureaucratic considerations, and has developed a 3-day workshop on innovative territorial strategies.
All material is available online under a creative commons license, with the aim of creating an open source encyclopaedia that all users can freely contribute to and share. The approach creates a toolbox for research and development in farming based on peer-to-peer learning, equipping farmers to improve their practice with resources and strategies they develop themselves.
The project was created by L’Atelier Paysan, a group that recognised farmers as innovators who are constantly adjusting and creating new tools. They wanted to share these techniques and creations, and began documenting and sharing them. Over time, the endeavour grew. Participants in the collective now tour the country with equipment, running training workshops and gathering information about innovations in areas including cattle breeding, wine growing and market gardening.
As well as development opportunities online, the group runs in-person workshops. Over three to five days participant farmers work together to develop a new tool carefully designed to fulfil their own needs. Sessions train participants in metalwork skills, how to read technical drawings and adapt machinery.
By developing their own equipment, farmers achieve a greater level of autonomy and self-sufficiency, and the skills and products created by the workshop support design and systems that are driven by farmers.
Born out an activist network, L’Atelier Paysan was first set up as a nonprofit. In 2014 it restructured as a cooperative company, in order to professionalise its work and make it easier to attract investment. The organisation receives public funding including from the European Union and is a part of the European Network for Rural Development. Other participants include Inter Associations de Formation Collective a la Gestion, AgroParis Tech and the European Centre for Agricultural Innovation.
(Picture credit: Flickr/Renaud Camus)