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New forms of local cooperation: The Swiss example of the Bieraria Tschlin and the barley network Gran Alpin

Barley fields in the surroundings of Tschlin. (Photo: Bieraria.ch)
Barley fields in the surroundings of Tschlin. (Photo: Bieraria.ch)

In 2004, some active people of Tschlin, a municipality in the Swiss mountain canton of Grisons, launched the idea of establishing a microbrewery. Why this in a village of 400 inhabitants at 1500 m altitude which had never had a beer tradition nor a large local market to sell? The idea was launched to reanimate another tradition – the cultivation of barley, which was practised for a long time in the dry valleys of the Alps at high altitudes on small earth and stone lynchets. The cereal production in the Alps had to be abandoned in the 20th century because the lynchets were too small for mechanical tillage while, at the same time, market exchange over large distances became easy. Meanwhile mountain agriculture in general is under pressure and enterprises and regions have to look at ways to create new products and new value chains. The idea of the Biereria Tschlin microbrewery was to create a sufficient demand for the renewal of the barley production run by a network of local farmers under the name of Gran Alpin.

Bieraria's beer is distributed regionally in the gastronomy channel and even nationwide.
Bieraria’s beer is distributed regionally in the gastronomy channel and even nationwide. (Photo: Bieraria.ch)

The Social Innovation was neither the brewery nor the renewal of the old value chain. The Social Innovation was the decision of a group of small farmers and inhabitants to leave traditional self-oriented entrepreneurial thinking and to develop a form of regional citizenship to invest together in a risky undertaking. They created a public company with now more than 1000 small shareholders; local and external people who receive an annual dividend which is rather symbolic – an early form of crowd funding but with the idea to strengthen regional embeddedness as well as urban–rural solidarity. The shareholders have invested 1’275’000 Swiss Francs, the beer is distributed regionally in the gastronomy channel and even nationwide. A master brewer could be hired from the lowlands, some part-time jobs could be created for the local people, the cereal-producing organic farmers could stabilize their métier. In 2013 Tschlin merged with Ramosch into the new municipality of Valsot, the population could be stabilized.

Author:

Manfred Perlik_klein

Manfred Perlik (Centre for Development and Environment, Bern University)

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