Manos verdes, an initiative of ASDECOBA

The ASDECOBA initiative aims to support people who are socially excluded, by allowing them to grow food for different groups. The initiative demonstrates how the strong social frame provided by civic collaborative food networks can be used beyond food and agriculture issues, for social inclusion purposes.

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Name of organisation
ASDECOBA
Year established
1994
Website
ASDECOBA
Location
The city of Salamanca and the rural area close to it
Type of organisation
Collaborative Short Food Supply Chain
Key words 
short food supply chains; civic food networks; social justice
Thematic focus

Who is ASDECOBA?

ASDECOBA is among the rare and precious experiences that demonstrate how the strong social frame provided by civic collaborative food networks can be used beyond food and agriculture issues, for social inclusion purposes. This initiative can  replicated in other similar contexts, because the story told is universal: prisoners and ex-prisoners are granted access to a gardening activity and establish a trust-based relationship with the local community.

The main objective of this initiative is to support people who are socially excluded, by allowing them to grow food for different groups. The persons working in the garden are men that have been or still are in prison. They are providing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group that brings together 30 families and are connected to other projects, mainly a small-scale food catering project for elderly people living in rural areas as well as two schools. 

The main actors are people working within ASDECOBA, educators, those working in the garden, families who are members of the CSA group and the other projects they are linked to.

Values / mission / objectives

For the people involved in ASDECOBA, it is important to have an agroecological model for the garden. They are not looking for any “organic label” because they don’t need it: all their produce is sold directly to people or organisations with whom they have built up trust through regular visits to the garden.

Governance structure

Decisions concerning ASDECOBA are taken mainly by the educators and other staff, in agreement with the persons working in the garden. There are people who have been working there for a long time and are more involved, but there is a part of the group whose involvement is fluctuating, because of the special situation they are facing.

For the issues concerning the CSA (), there are assemblies where families and workers jointly take decisions.   

This is quite unique because in other social inclusion projects, the gardeners are often not included in decision-making processes.  

Whom does the ASDECOBA work with and how does it do it?

ASDECOBA is based in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of  Salamanca. The growers are detainees or people who have a past experience with prison. The links to the rural area are very important, through the catering and also with the families who are CSA members.

The CSA group includes people from all walks of life, although the context is impoverished. Those who can pay, pay for the share. Those who cannot pay with money, can compensate with voluntary work for the project. In addition to the CSA group, the garden’s production feeds other people who are sheltered in the church where the initiative is located.  

They collaborate with other CSA and Local Solidarity Partnerships for Agreocology (LSPA) projects, with catering businesses, with the Zambra network and with a network of priests working in prisons.  

There are formal agreements for the catering activities. The initiative is part of the Zambra network and within it they share some projects with groups from other regions in Spain.

The main benefit brought by ASDECOBA is the exchange around the work they do with others and the possibility to learn from each other. In addition, the participation of the people involved in this project, from prison and in social exclusion, in meetings and exchanges with other groups is very enriching. 

Challenges and Obstacles to Collaboration

The main challenge is the difficult situation of those involved in the project. There are people with mental health issues, migrants in illegal situation, and many more without stability or much chance of looking to the future. This often makes their daily work complicated and makes it difficult for them to get involved in some tasks.  

The collaboration of the different actors involved in ASDECOBA happens in a territorial way.

This initiative demonstrates on the one hand a way of having a dignified life for people in situations of social exclusion and, on the other hand, it also shows a viable model of production and consumption, that can serve as a reference for other initiatives.

In 2019, ASDECOBA growers built a space to process food and make preserves with the surplus from their garden, and they are offering this space for other farmers.  

What are ASDECOBA’s main challenges?

The very difficult situation of people that are part of the project makes this project a challenge in itself. One important challenge within this project is to care for the individuals working in ASDECOBA. Initially, ASDECOBA´s participants’ mental and physical health is already fragile and, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the sanitary protocols in prisons didn’t improve their situation.

What are the priorities for ASDECOBA ?

One of the main priorities for this project is to be visible within the territory where it operates and to show that this kind of projects is possible and viable.

Another priority is to build networks with other projects of the region.

ASDECOBA participants don’t want to be “an island” or anything “alternative.” They want to show a possible normal way of life many people could embrace.