Deprived of subsidies, the Jardins de Cocagne could lose 140 jobs

It is a little after 8:30 a.m. when Rose, knife in hand, sets out to harvest salads. In a half-hectare greenhouse, she has been working for two months at the Jardins du Ricotier, in Fenouillet, north of Toulouse. Like twelve other people, she benefits from an integration contract on the site, which allows her to reconnect with employment, autonomy and stability. “ I was lost before this contract. I discovered market gardening and it fascinates me, I really don’t know what I would do if I lost this job »she says.

But since the end of 2023, the Cocagne de Haute-Garonne group, of which the Jardin du Ricotier is a part, has been in danger. Deprived of European subsidies, the project sees its financial stability compromised and 140 jobs could be eliminated. This territorial branch is part of the national network Les Jardins de Cocagne, which was created more than thirty years ago to produce organic, local and supportive fruits and vegetables.

Reimbursement of grants already paid

In December, the departmental council announced the withdrawal of 500,000 euros in subsidies intended for the group, via the European Social Fund (ESF). This sudden decrease is explained by a reduction in the budgets allocated by the European Union. “ The envelope of ESF managed by the departmental council amounts to 1.2 million euros and eighteen structures responded to the call for projects. The request from the Cocagne group alone represents a request of 1.08 million euros, which could therefore not be satisfied in its entirety. »the department justifies itself in a press release.

Haute-Garonne is also demanding reimbursement of subsidies already paid, citing “ control linked to the inappropriate use of European funds ». Taken together, this represents a loss of 850,000 euros for Cocagne Haute-Garonne. “ We obviously cannot assume this dead loss, it endangers the entire group in the territory »alarms Laurent Durrieu, co-director of the structure.

“ It’s incomprehensible that we’re about to go out of business. »

Faced with this situation, employees, volunteers, members and supporters of the Cocagne Haute-Garonne network met on Thursday May 16 in front of the departmental council to express their anger, but above all to reaffirm the importance of such a project.

“ We respond to public policies with our actions in the field of integration, but also ecology. We allow people who are precarious and far from employment to get their heads above water. We also provide quality organic food at affordable prices. It’s incomprehensible that we’re about to go out of business. »bitterly blurts out Adil, payroll manager in the network, who distributes leaflets to inform people about the situation.

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Tractors paraded in Toulouse on Thursday May 16 in support of Cocagne Haute-Garonne.
© Antoine Berlioz / Reporterre

Natacha, who has also benefited from an integration contract at Jardins du Ricotier for two months, is afraid for the future. “ We love market gardening, that’s what we want to do. We have children who count on us and to whom we can offer quality food thanks to this work. »she continues.

In Haute-Garonne, 1,200 baskets are delivered each week to forty municipalities in the department, including 30 % at solidarity rates thanks to the five gardens in the network. “ When you buy a basket, you know what’s behind it. It’s more than an Amap, more than organic fruits and vegetables, it’s a whole social project that allows people to have access to employment and healthy, local food. »insists Jean-Marc, member and consumer of baskets at Jardins du Girou, in Gragnague, a few kilometers to the east.

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Rose, who has been working at Jardins du Ricotier for two months, is afraid of losing the stability that this integration contract offers her.
© Antoine Berlioz / Reporterre

Before the departmental council, Grégory, socio-professional support in the network, is disappointed. “ We want to restore confidence in the people we recruit for integration. We use market gardening to help them plan ahead, we support them, we give them back faith in this system and, after all this journey, they tell themselves that everything could collapse again. It’s hard »he explains in front of a banner “ Our useful professions are in danger “.

For its part, the department reacted via a press release emphasizing that “ the dialogue must continue to define a viable model for the Jardins de Cocagne in Haute-Garonne ». Hope for the hundreds of jobs threatened, even if time is running out to find a solution. Meetings are already planned with members of the network and possible funders, notably the Occitanie region, to save the Jardins de Cocagne in Haute-Garonne and the local, organic and solidarity food project.

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