Case Study – Katherine Baird, Ecologistas en Accion
Since I’ve started my work placement I’ve realised that Ecologistas is a really an ecosystem of hundreds of different but complementary ecology and conservation groups and that where you are based has a real impact on your experience. At Ecologistas en Accion in Sevilla the focus is pretty much entirely on organic urban farming, which is great because that’s exactly what I signed up to do!
My daily experience revolves around supporting local communities in the upkeep and operation of their ‘organic microfarms’ (really this is just a term for large allotments run on exclusively organic and permaculture principles), advising them about growing food using organic and permaculture methods. This is very much my background from my experience with the Transition Town movement in the UK.
However, the most interesting part of the work for me is the links between the ‘farmers’ (the people from the local community with organic allotments) and the local food initiatives that Ecologistas are operating and developing. This includes a weekly organic food market in the centre of Seville where the farmers sell their produce and the ‘Comer Local’ initiative to supply organic food from the Ecologistas community to local restaurants. The Comer Local initiative is especially interesting for me as it is still at an early stage so I am able to get involved in project management and marketing ideas for the scheme and often talk (as well as my slowing improving Spanish will allow!) to local restaurant owners and am getting a really good understanding of their needs as businesses that want to buy organic and local but also need to think about the costs and commercial realities.
There are also lots of opportunities to link with other Ecologistas en Accion initiatives in other parts of Spain and it is always really interesting to see what new projects are developing and what we can learn from them.
Ecologistas en Acción is a confederation of more than 300 ecologist groups dispersed over villages and cities. They are a social ecological movement, understanding that the environmental problems are based on the more and more globalized way of production and consumption, which has to be changed if an ecological crisis shall be avoided.
They also work on awareness raising campaigns and public advertisement to raise awareness of environmental issues more specifically related to food production and conservation.
WHERE DO YOU WORK?
Ecologistas is based in the north of Seville, just to the north of the Parque del Alamillo. I often take the bus which takes just a few minutes, but will sometimes walk which takes about 35 minutes or so.
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR LUNCH?
There aren’t any shops around so I take a packed lunch with me. At Ecologistas there’s a place to store food and reheat etc. so it’s ideal. There is plenty of green space around so it’s nice to sit outside and eat lunch amongst colleagues.
WHAT ARE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR COLLEAGUES?
I enjoy working with my colleagues a lot. There’s a really pleasant atmosphere in the organisation with lots of like-minded people trying their best to improve the environment in the ways that they can. We all learn off each other.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID YOU FACE?
At first it was a bit intimidating, I’d never worked in a non-English speaking office and I was concerned about how I’d manage. I speak some Spanish, and so am able to make an effort which I think my colleagues appreciate. They are patient and understanding with me. I’ve not encountered any significant problems.
DO YOU HAVE ANY RECOMMENDATIONS OR TIPS?
Learn as much Spanish as you can before you travel to Spain and always make the effort to try to speak in Spanish at work – it is appreciated and you will get more out of your placement this way!