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Roman Road Garden: organic market garden for combating social exclusion

Centre-Val de Loire - Beaune la Rolande
Access to employment

In 2010, an amazing organisation was born of a partnership between VINCI and the Cocagne Network: an organic solidarity garden located in Beaune-la-Rolande along the A19. Its role is to test and validate new tools to fight social exclusion.



The story begins with an unlikely encounter between VINCI and the Cocagne Network. “There was an abandoned site on the edge of the A19 that we wanted to improve. After a discussion with the Fondation VINCI pour la Cité, we decided to create an organic garden that would also serve as a means of integrating people into the workforce,” explains Marc Bouron, deputy director of Cofiroute (motorway subsidiary of VINCI Group) and current president of the organisation.

Combating exclusion

His team approached the Cocagne Network, which includes over a hundred organic market gardens that serve as social integration workshops. VINCI funded a feasibility study in late 2009. This rural area, which is poorly served by mass transit and whose population often lives far from work, has a real need. Cofiroute hired Julie Mandresilahatra, a specialist in social services recommended by the Network, to launch the project. The Roman Road Garden, which received €28,500 from the Foundation for the purchase of farm equipment, opened in October 2010.
Today, the organisation has eight employees on professional integration contracts and three permanent staff members. “Participants plant and cultivate, harvest and personally deliver vegetables to consumers in weekly baskets,” explains Julie Mandresilahatra, who currently directs the organisation. They sign six-month government-subsidized contracts that can be renewed for up to two years, and receive social support and professional training. Sylvianne Foudriat, 50, has renewed self-confidence, “I started out as an uncertified health care aide. I lost my job and couldn’t find another one because a health care aide today requires a degree. My social worker told me about the organisation. I’m currently doing sandwich training in office automation and computers to eventually work as an assistant.”

A springboard to employment

The organisation is just getting up to speed in early 2011. “We’re here to help her become independent. I have the great fortune to learn about a world I didn’t know. Some really deserve support,” explains Marc Bouron. For her part, Julie Mandresilahatra stresses the close collaboration with her sponsor, “What is essential is the human element of donating skills. In the field of labour law, which I don't know well, for example, I can call him often and ask my questions. At the same time, Cofiroute plans to offer training in careers at highway rest areas near the garden and is considering selling part of the harvest in the rest areas and contracting maintenance work on green spaces in its network. It’s a real springboard to employment.” By late 2011, the organisation plans to have five permanent employees and fifteen staff members on social integration contracts.

Meanwhile, along the A19, it’s time for the first harvest.

May 2011 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.