Historical context of farming systems in the Czech Republic

Social farming in the Czech Republic has been dynamically developing in recent years, and it little by little restores the social aspects of agriculture that fulfils the paradigm of multifunctionality in farming, despite difficult historical heritage. Since the end of the 19th century until the WW II, Czech agriculture experienced a great wave of solidarity in the form of rural co-operatives. In that time, self-help and neighbourly seasonal aid within the co-operatives facilitated competitiveness toward larger agricultural enterprises and enabled better technical progress as well. The farming sector also played the role of most significant employers in rural areas. After WW II, the expropriation and collectivisation of land into large state co-operatives guided by the Soviet Union policy discontinued solidarity and democratic entrepreneurship within the agricultural area for a long time. The first decades after gaining freedom in 1989 were affected by unclear restructuring and privatisation of co-operatives in the state´s possession. Also, a mainstream economic discourse influenced the situation in the sector where the economic profit is often the only value. In this mainstream economic thinking, the gain is prioritised to people, but it does not adequately answer the needs of rural areas, rural people, and also people in need.

Number of social farms and their origin

Nowadays, there are about forty organisations involved in social farming in the Czech Republic at least, that signifies that several willing people are transforming this mainstream view toward more economically and ecologically sustainable, and socially cohesive practice. In this perspective, it is possible to discern these reasons for the development of social farms in the Czech Republic:

(a) Most of the stakeholders in Czech social farming have learnt about it from international projects (e.g. AREA viva non-profit organisation participated in MAiE Project);
(b) It often depends on active people from the civil society sphere within which many social services providers find social farming as an alternative way of therapy provision;
(c) Finally, European structural funds play the role of the driver in social farming that supports the social entrepreneurship development.

Aims of social farming in the Czech Republic

Usually, social farming in the Czech Republic covers from one to three of these pillars focusing on:

  1. jobs creating for vulnerable people from different target groups in regular or sheltered workplaces, with both financial contributions and support (e.g. wage contributions, mandatory benefits, etc.) as well as non-financial benefits (working with employment experts, identifying specific approaches, etc.);
  2. A set of activities that are implemented to prepare people for integration into a regular or sheltered labour market. This pillar also includes a set of social interventions aimed at activation, social rehabilitation etc., intended for clients whose integration in the labour market is minimal, and these services are therapeutic;
  3. One-off and long-term educational activities that are directly linked to agricultural setting and the rural environment. They aim to develop knowledge, skills, and the relationship to countryside and nature. They seek to promote the viability of rural areas. They are mainly prepared for children, youth, seniors and the general public.

Organisational support of social farming in the Czech Republic

In 2015, an agenda of social farming gained a particular prominence as a new opportunity for rural development, and it comes under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic. An interdepartmental Working Committee on Social Farming consisting of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, from the European Economic and Social Committee, representatives from academic, non-profit and profit sector was established and meets regularly since there. This Working Committee aims to promote this agenda and find specific programmes of support in different policy chapters.

In 2017, the National Social Agriculture Association was established as a non-profit body for the connection, cooperation, and the support of social farmers, academics, researchers in this area. Finally, at the end of 2017 co-called Thematic Working Group on Social Farming was founded for the similar purpose as the Committee but on the regional level.

Education in social farming in the Czech Republic

In 2015, the very first long-life educational course on social farming was accredited at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and is taught at Jabok – Institute of social pedagogy and theology in Prague. The topic of social farming regularly emerges in the subjects of multifunctional agriculture, landscape ecology or regional development at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, or Mendel University in Brno.

Web site: www.socialni-zemedelstvi.cz