This report documents the first international gathering of the Grassroots Innovations Assembly from Oct 18-21 in Gallese, Italy. As food producers confront climate crises, corporate capture, and the new extractive technologies of AG 4.0, smallholders are organizing their own innovation networks for agroecological methods. The work of these networks demonstrates that peasant autonomy is possible through grassroots innovation, knowledge-sharing, research, and collaboration.
The idea for an international grassroots innovations assembly was seeded in 2018 when the organizers of the gathering, a group of established innovation networks like Farm Hack, L’Atelier Paysan, and Schola Campesina, first crossed paths at the UN Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) summit on innovation. This encounter sparked an ongoing conversation that brought to light the potential for deeper global collaboration across the growing number of organizations who are taking action towards technological sovereignty for smallholders.
The need to amplify the global visibility of this work is intensified in the face of AG 4.0, which dominates narratives about the future of agriculture in global forums. AG 4.0 is a new digital phase in a centuries-long feedback loop of emerging technologies driving corporate concentration, higher costs for farmers, and increasingly unsustainable modes of production.
In 2023, the organizers of this gathering received funding to build out an international coalition interested in alternative pathways for technology, including funds for an in-person strategic meeting. In the lead up to the gathering, the organizers began a cartography of the grassroots agricultural innovation landscape, shared a position paper on grassroots innovations, and hosted online meetings for the participants to get to know each other’s work and collaborate with aligned researchers.
Text by Maya Cohen