3.1. Brief Description of the Community
Caggiano (Figure 1
) is a township with a population of 2780, made up of 1149 families, located in the Campania region of Southern Italy [45
]. Caggiano is part of the Territorial System of Development (Sistema Territoriale di Sviluppo—STS
) AnticaVolcej. Territorial Systems of Development are local land units defined at sub-provincial levels for the implementation of the Campania Region’s Rural Development Plan 2007/2013. To integrate the guidelines set out under its Regional Development Plan (RDP), planning period 2007/2013, the Campania Region has adopted a spatial mapping system of the region based on dividing the entire territory into ‘Territorial Systems of Development STS’.
The territorial systems are designed to prevent potential overlaps and/or conflicts between instruments (and partnerships) for rural development in operation across the region. Two principal variables were considered in identifying the systems: the relationship between utilized agricultural surface (UAS) and total surface area; and the “degree of rurality” calculated on the basis of an adaptation of the methodology proposed by the OECD. Other indicators were added to represent the environment (protected areas, areas vulnerable to nitrates from agricultural sources); the models of agriculture (Gross Standard Income; average UAS of farm); and degree of territorial vocational specialization (indices of agricultural and food processing specialization). Collected data was processed for each STS. Forty-five STS were identified, each of which was defined by its dominant characteristics (i.e., economic, social, and environmental) and where appropriate the STS have been linked to their altitudinal ranges. The STS AnticaVolcej falls into the category ‘rural territories of high landscape, natural, and cultural value’ and includes hilly areas and middle and high mountain areas. The territory is quite well connected through a secondary road network to the highway about 5 km distant. The population structure is typically dominated by elderly people (according to official statistics 24% were over 65 years old while people under 14 years only represented 13% of the total population in 2015 [46
]). Due to recent regeneration of houses in the historical centre of the township, and the proximity of the main urban centre of Salerno, reachable in half an hour, Caggiano has a steady population that is expected to increase in the next few years.
The local economy shares many of the characteristics of inland rural areas: elements of extreme underdevelopment and natural disadvantage are coupled with valuable environmental, productive, and human resources that could drive integrated development processes.
Generally, local economic activities are very poorly diversified. The productive structure is still largely based on farming as industrialization never really took hold in the area, and the tertiary sector cannot be considered a leading force in the local economy. The unemployment rate is the lowest in the area and, although quite high (11%), is far below the STS average (18%) [46
However, the community of Caggiano is perceived as a thriving community by all the other townships within the STS. A series of initiatives that have been implemented since 2011 have made this township into a sort of laboratory of ideas. A description of each of the various initiatives started in the Community follows.
3.2. Description of Projects
The first initiative started in the town of Caggiano, which will also be the principal focus of the paper, saw the school canteen introduce local agricultural produce in the preparation of school meals for local children.
0 km School Meals. The project, started in 2011, promotes the use of local products (potatoes, chickpeas, beans, extra virgin olive oil, and tinned tomatoes) in the local school canteen. The families of the students using the canteen supply the products. Each farmer/family delivers their produce to the school canteen following a schedule set out by the town council. For the processed products, (olive oil and tinned tomatoes), parents use certified local processing facilities that in turn deliver the processed products directly to the school. In 2014, plastic was also banned in the school canteen and replaced by china and glass. A special organic waste disposal unit was also fitted in the canteen for food waste.
In 2015, the school canteen was opened to the public, mainly to supply lunches for students from other towns visiting Caggiano or surrounding areas on school trips. At present, the project is also investigating the possibility of adding meat products to the school menu, although the certification and preservation of these products is proving more complicated.
Parties involved: Town Council, farmers, families, consumers, ASL (Local Health Authority), and the school.
Caggianese Bread. The project, started in 2014, provides bread for the school canteen made using flour produced with local traditional grain, which is particularly suited to be grown locally and produces a top-quality bread. The grain is milled mechanically in a traditional mill with stone grinders that conserve all the taste and health properties of the grain. The project has involved the whole community. The town council buys the grain, grown locally, which is then milled. Thanks to a partnership between the town council and the Association of Bakers of the Province of Salerno, the flour produced is also distributed to local bakers who prepare the bread using traditional methods.
Parties involved: Town Council, farmers, ASL (Local Health Authority), consumers, and bakeries.
“The Water Hut”. Started in 2014, the project funded the installation of a small water distribution centre for all local residents to fill up empty bottles with flat and sparkling water at very low cost. The town Council has estimated that this system of water distribution could save 350,000 plastic water bottles, the equivalent of around 14 tons of plastic, and could reduce atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide by around 15 tons. The water undergoes strict checks by the health authority.
Parties involved: Town Council, ASL (Local Health Authority), and consumers.
Recycling Projects. Since 2013, there has been a drive to improve the recycling system already in place in the town. This has included attempts to reduce the amount of plastic consumed (through the projects “The Water Hut” and “0 km school meals”) and a drive to promote home compost bins to reduce the amount of organic waste entering the system and to promote the spreading of organic compost on local land.
Parties involved: Town Council, farmers, families, and schools.
Local shop (Ortofru project). The shop was opened in 2014 in an attempt to better integrate residents with disabilities by giving them employment. From very humble beginnings, the project, funded by a regional law, slowly grew into a strong business with the shop suppling local products to the community and beyond. This initiative, and many others, has benefited from the recent improvements to the road infrastructure and, in particular, the motorway exit which is only 4 km away from the town centre.
Parties involved: Town Council, farmers, families, and consumers.
Local Processing House. In 2015 Caggiano was the only township to apply for funding under the Local Action Group for the creation of an advanced local processing unit. The unit, equipped with the latest technologies in food processing, which are able to process any type of agricultural produce from fruit and vegetables to top quality meat, is open to the entire local community and outside residents too. The town council has also made technicians available who can assist local farmers in using the equipment. The project aims to reduce food waste significantly by allowing famers to conserve their produce, thereby creating a virtuous cycle of ecological and socio-economic sustainability.
Parties involved: Council, farmers, families, consumers, and the Local Health Authority (ASL).
High quality restaurants. Caggiano has been famous for its cuisine since ancient times. Recently, several new business initiatives in the gastronomical sector have revived its culinary tradition and have put Caggiano firmly on the map for even the most discerning foodies. The opening of a new restaurant in the historical centre in 2010 spurred other restaurant openings, which have helped foster a return to traditional local cuisine and increased consumption of locally grown produce.
Parties Involved: Restaurant owners, farmers, and consumers.
Food Festivals. At various times in the year, the town organizes four local food festivals (sagre). The festivals typically last several days and involve the participation of the whole community. Each of the festivals is linked to a local religious festival. Increased interest in the food festivals from outside consumers is helping turn them into important dates in the calendar for the wider territory.
Parties Involved: Council, community, farmers, consumers, and the Local Health Authority (ASL).
Public Winery. In 2013, a town council initiative saw the opening of a public winery. The same year, the council took over the running of a local vineyard to meet two principal aims. These are the conservation of the biodiversity of local grapevines (the vineyard contains 50 different varieties taken locally from specialized research institutes) and the conservation of the traditional landscape, especially important given the vineyard is located in the town’s historical centre.
Parties Involved: Council, farmers, and the Local Health Authority (ASL).
Mums on Board the School bus. In 2015, the Council started an initiative that encourages mothers of children who use the school bus to ride along with the children on the school run to keep an eye on the youngest students. This initiative is amongst the social initiatives intended to promote “social solidarity” in the community.
Parties involved: Council and families.
A broad range of data was collected. Multi-method studies, also referred to as mixed methods, allow for the generation of data from different sources to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding of the research question [47
Primary qualitative data was collected at community level through a stakeholder forum attended by stakeholders involved in the school meals project and the other projects developed at the community level. The forum involved all the 120 families with children attending Caggiano schools (pre-school, elementary, and middle schools), the local health authority, local processors, local administrators, and civil society. The collection of primary data was conducted in 2015, starting at the beginning of the school year (September to December).
During the forum, a brief questionnaire was given to the parents of the children involved in the project.
Following the forum, 11 semi-structured interviews were carried out. The interviewees were: mayor; town councillor; school canteen worker; teacher; doctor ASL; two parents (one mother, one father); farmers; processor from food/wine sector; member of the tourism sector (restaurant manager); and member of the Pro-Loco (Organization for the Promotion of the Local territory).
The interviews were designed to take the form of a conversation guided by the researchers [48
]. Although the interviews were semi-structured, the respondents were encouraged to talk freely on the prepared discussion points. These included questions about interviewees’ level of involvement in the projects and a discussion of perceived strengths and weaknesses. All the interviews were carried out at the homes of the local residents in the winter of 2015 and lasted from an hour and a half to two and a half hours. An audio recording of the interviews was made and immediately transcribed after the interview. The interview transcripts were then thematically categorized.
This primary data was further supplemented with quantitative and qualitative data from secondary sources, including existing statistical data, to contextualise local-level findings (Census data, published statistical data, historical records, newspapers, and municipality internet site). Triangulation with other sources of data was conducted to ensure adequate representation from multiple viewpoints, complementing the information provided by both questionnaires and interviews.