The Km0 Alentejo initiative’s consortium led by the University of Evora met on the 25th September to review annual progress in developing local value chains that can foster economic development and encourage new forms of sustainable farm businesses in the region. The initiative aims to bring together all actors of the food system through a certified process that guarantees that the distance between the origin of production and the place of consumption doesn’t exceed 50km with the aim of enhancing sustainable short value chains and greener circular economy. Until the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, the short value chain development fostered through the Km0 Alentejo initiative revolved around connecting producers with restaurants and hotels as well as school canteens and a web-based mapping tool was launched to facilitate the spatial identification of actors including producers and their goods. The hiatus in tourism and education services has been a major constraint to scaling the initiative to a greater number of producers and retailers.
The key topics debated by the steering group were how to increase awareness of the Km0 Alentejo initiative to create greater visibility and demand for Km0 certified goods and services which would in turn stimulate the participation of a greater number of actors at each point of the chain. One of the slower segments to engage in the initiative are the restaurants which have been so far more reluctant to invest in certification due to the uncertain economic context and the perception of penalty risks associated. Difficulties in securing certified processed goods and engaging more processing enterprises in the initiative were also raised as important barriers. There was a general agreement that the initiative now needed a strong marketing strategy and to urgently secure funding to do so. While the Alentejo Tourism authority suggested they would mobilise their regional social ambassadors to raise awareness, a key opportunity to bring interest and visibility to the Km0 Alentejo initiative will be the next global forum on sustainable tourism which will take place on the 5th and 6th November 2020 in Evora.