Revitalising Crete through the carob flour value chain: A community of practice approach

by | Mar 4, 2024 | MOVING

Authors: Andreas Vavvos and Sofia Triliva (University of Crete)

Editor: Miranda García (AEIDL)

As the conclusion of the MOVING project approaches, our reflections delve into the essence and impact of our community of practice, coupled with a critical look at our foresight analysis efforts.

The mountainous and semi-mountainous villages of Crete are facing a multitude of challenges, from dwindling demographics and ageing populations in need of support services to a reliance on farming subsidies and a monoculture of olives. Moreover, there is an absence of young people and families eager to uphold traditional occupations such as farming. As a result, village communities are fading, risking the loss of traditional community engagements.

Entering the MOVING project has ignited hope to halt this decline. The decision to study the Cretan carob flour value chain was a fortuitous and timely choice.  Just a few months into the project, carob -the “forgotten treasure of Crete”-began to witness a resurgence.

Rising carob prices, along with the renewed interest in its potential, brought together farmers, mill owners, and bakers to actively engage in different activities focused on carob fluor, historically associated with times of famine and war. Although many participants had long-standing acquaintances from their years dedicated to cultivating or processing carob within the region, their interactions had been largely isolated. They did not have the chance to be part of a larger network. Such a network could provide support, act as a platform for voicing concerns, and foster a collective understanding of carob production and processing.

Employing the MOVING community of practice methodology proved to be appropriate, involving not only disempowered citizens (young women and men, farming families, etc.) but also bringing together members with knowledge of the Cretan carob flour value chain alongside experts (agronomists, researchers, governance and agriculture and rural development directorate officials).  The community flourished, attracting a diverse array of participants and fostering enriching dialogue. Together, they shared information regarding sustainable farming practices and knowledge about carob. 

Unfortunately, a sudden decline in carob prices resulted in decreasing interest in participation, dissipating the community’s initial enthusiasm. Foresight analyses yielded visions of further decline and abandonment for Crete’s mountainous communities. This underscores the need for a proactive project management approach, especially in EU-funded projects, advocating for initiatives primarily managed by stakeholders. A long-term strategy must be implemented for the community’s sustainability once the project’s funding expires.