English intro to the project
Bajo el Asfalto esta la Huerta-english Version
Under the tarmac lays the Garden
Friday 13 May 2005, by
BAH means Under the tarmac lays the Garden. Is the motto and the name of what we called United Production-Consumption Agroecologic Cooperative.
The project was drafted on 99. In that time BAH was a collective of 12 people based in Madrid and interested on Social Ecology and Agroecology theory, and with different projects to make real those ideas here and now. Those projects were : a review on this issues ( ecology, territory, farming, anticapitalism, social movements..), a group to support rural struggles ( as the struggle against Itoiz dam, eviction of squatted villages…), a group to rebuilt an abandoned village in the Pyrenees for farming and living in community, and a periurban organic food coop.
We soon realised the potential of this last project to work within the limits of the city, and ecological and farming issues in the city . To ruralise the city, destroy it, to avoid the harm of unlimited growth of urban disorder. At the same time we wanted to create an alternative social structure that feed and get fed from a productive activity, which, following the agroecological goals, is economically feasible, socially equal, and environmentally friendly.
In early 2000 we mobilised 300 people to squat public abandoned land 30 km far from Madrid. That action was carefully planned months before, with all little plants grown in different attics all around Madrid, and with consumers groups already committed with the project even before the garden begun to produce.
We get quite a big media attention and political support so we managed to get the first harvest at this land. But finally we had to move because of authorities’ harassment, and rent new land not far away Madrid.
Since then the coop has grown and strength. 150 families are part of the first BAH, and more people wanted to be there. But we wanted to keep an organic size to make possible participation and direct democracy of all members, so we segregated a twin project, another BAH with 100 families.
The structure is an example of the so called CSA: Community Sustained Agriculture.
There are 7 partners that work daily in the garden and get a monthly budget of 550 €.
The rest of the partners are consumers organised by consumption groups in different quarters of Madrid. They go weekly to their place to get the organic vegetables that were harvested the day before, and pay a weekly quote of 7 €. The basket they get changes it the size and variety according to the season, so citizens begun to know more about the agriculture cycles and rhythms.
The entire cooperative is driven horizontally, openly and democratically by the assembly. Each consumer group send a speaker once per month and there are 3 general meetings per year. All costs are faced by the whole cooperative, as machines, vans, seeds, and the finances are autonomous, with no subsidies or government payments. Several economic activities have been made to raise money for special investments, as concerts, dinners, parties, t-shirts, bags…
Political activities are also organised. For example, in 2000, when the IMF summit was taking place in Prague, we together with the neighbourhood squatted an empty lot in the city centre and begun a garden. Each year we organise a Course on Agroecology, and many people is interested on it.
Now we are linked to other three agroecological cooperatives near Madrid, to reinforce each other, share products and work. We have helped other cooperative to beguin creating consumer groups in neighbourhoods. Now, a second edition of the book titled "Do not play with food. Self managed alternatives to capitalist globalisation from agroecology and consumption" will be published. It is available free, but just in Spanish yet, if you search at internet "Con la comida no se juega".
BAH aims to continue creating community and alternative economic spaces that solve needs and are feasible. Throughout this project we want to awake a new consciousness amongst urban consumers towards the countryside, and amongst farmers towards new ways of cooperation and commercialisation. We want to work together with all other alternative farming cooperatives, towards a new agroecological social movement.