Monday, October 26, 2009

The European Center for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism in Poland and the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside

Location: Poland
1993-2009 and 2001-2009

Jadwiga Lopata

Bornstein, David. How to Change the World. Oxford University Press, 2004. p.153

Former computer programmer Jadwiga Lopata identified two comparative advantages Polish farms have over their European counterparts –their low reliance on pesticide use and thus their subsequent predisposition to convert to organic production, and their ecological diversity which serve as one of the only available habitats for hundred of animal species. With this in mind, in 1993 she founded the European Center for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism in Poland (ECEAT-Poland), a network of farms practicing ecological agriculture and offering tourist opportunities, which after 10 years counted over a hundred participating farms and 13,000 visitors.

Furthering her efforts to protect the sustainable lifestyle of Polish family farms –almost 70% of which are smaller than 20 acres– she partnered up in 2001 with well-known British organic farmer and ecologist Julian Rose to launch the International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC). This first served as a campaign platform for calling the Polish government to protect the nearly 2 million remaining family farms in Poland against the “large-scale, highly mechanized, mono-crop and chemically intensive agriculture” which would prove imminent after the country’s entry into the European Union in 2004. Through intense media exposure, the so-called “Charter 21- Countryside Manifesto for 21st century Poland” gained support from over 460 organizations worldwide. In 2007, the coalition also established a program to promote the return of working horses as a culturally relevant and clean source of transportation in the Polish countryside.

Jadwiga Lopata has been awarded for her work with ECEAT-Poland and ICPPC with two highly respected distinctions: a fellowship offered in 1996 by Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a leading non-profit international organization supporting social entrepreneurs, and the 2002 Goldman Environmental Prize. She has also been featured in books such as David Bornstein’s How to Change the World. Despite this positive international recognition, and although Jadwiga’s venture may to some extent account for the strong increase in the number of organic farms in Poland since the country’s integration into the European Union, the lack of information on the ICPPC’s website makes it quite difficult to assess the coalition’s actual impact on the Polish agricultural landscape.

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