Bio-District / Eco-Region

The Bio-District (or Eco-Region) is an area where local farmers, consumers, authorities, training and research centers, associations and tour operators conclude an agreement on the sustainable management and use of local resources based on (agro-)ecological principles and practices in order to exploit the ecological, economic and socio-cultural potential of the area.[1]

The names of these communities vary according to their reference to regions, states, counties, towns and villages. On an international level, the names Bio-Districts, Eco-Regions, Bio-Villages and Eco-Villages are used predominantly. On the German level, they are promoted under the denominations Bio-Cities, Eco-Cities, Eco-Model Regions, Bio-Model Regions (as the Eco-Model Regions in the German state Baden-Württemberg are called) and Eco-Model States. To be distinguished from these are Food Councils[2], which are regarded as a niche in their own right.

Aim and innovation

The goal of Bio-Districts is to boost a sustainable, integrated, participatory, and (depending on the region) climate-neutral territorial development with a holistic approach, which binds various actors in the region or community to these goals through an innovative formal agreement. The specific goals and principles set out in this agreement vary greatly from community to community.

The holistic approach can include the following ecological, social and economic objectives: In the ecological dimension participatory landscaping and the introduction of agro-ecological system solutions at field level are promoted. From an economic point of view, the local closed value chains are strengthened by creating solid and fair local markets, which are accessible for organic producers. In addition, authorities boost rural employment by local public procurement. Furthermore, organic certification systems for producers should be simplified, and access to land for the younger generations made easier. At the same time, consumers benefit from greater transparency regarding the origin of their food and will be able to purchase fresh, local, organically grown products at local markets, events and public institutions.[3] Social inclusion projects aim to integrate people with disabilities, prisoners, drug addicts and migrants into the local community. In addition, food sovereignty, environmental awareness and cultural identity of local communities are promoted across all actors. [4]


Cilento Bio-District - Italy[11]; Biovallèe - France[12], Mühlviertel - Austria[13], Valposchiavo - Switzerland[14], Eco -Region Kaindorf - Austria[15]; Bio-Cities Augsburg, Bremen, Darmstadt, Erlangen, Freiburg, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Landshut, Lauf / Pegnitz, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg - Germany; numerous Eco-Model Regions in Germany


production, processing, trade, consumption, waste and recycling



local authorities, associations, producers, consumers, local training centers and tour operators, gastronomy, schools, artisanal organic food processors, research institutes

Development and current dynamics

In order to promote an exchange between the different communities, various networks have been set up over the past ten years: The International Network of Eco Regions (IN.N.E.R.) is linking Eco-Regions across Europe. The Global Ecovillage Network has evolved from the exchange between different Bio-Villages/Eco-Villages and first Europe-wide conferences have been held[7]. Next to other founding organizations[8], the German network 'Bio-Städte'[9] was involved in the foundation of the 'Organic Cities Network Europe' in Paris at the beginning of 2018, which counts already nice city members[10].


Sustainability potential


  • biodiversity (indirect)
  • soil (indirect)
  • water (indirect)
  • climate (indirect)
  • air (indirect)
  • resource efficiency in production and consumption
  • promotion of regional, closed nutrient cycles


  • poverty reduction (indirect)
  • strengthening of regional economic cycles
  • support of activities with positive external effects
  • increase of food security
  • promotion of recycling economy
  • fair producer prices (on national and global level)
  • creation of transparency along the value chain


  • health: Access to healthy food (indirect)
  • participation
  • social justice (indirect)
  • awareness/ education for sustainable nutrition (indirect)

Risks / disadvantages

The holistic and sustainable character of a Bio-District requires complex knowledge for its implementation, since many different fields of action are involved. Communication with a large number of actors is therefore seen as the key to success and the unlocking of potential synergies. At the same time, it can also be very challenging, especially when the newly created models encounter established structures.[16] Here, good communication becomes even more important to highlight the advantages of the models. Another challenge can be the often small number of existing local artisanal processing businesses.  As industrialization increased, these often had to give way to less pricy competitors. Thus in the beginning, there might be a lack of processing structures, recording and logistics facilities for small, locally-traded product quantities.


[1] FAO (2017): The experience of Bio-districts in Italy. http://www.fao.org/agroecology/database/detail/en/c/1027958/ (20.02.2020)

[2] Haack, M., Engelhardt, H., Gascoigne, C., Schrode, A., Fienitz, M. & Meyer-Ohlendorf, L. (2020): Sozial-ökologische Transformation des Ernährungssystems: Nischen des Ernährungssystems. German Environment Agency, Dessau-Roßlau.

[3] Biostädte (n.d.): Ziele des Netzwerks. https://www.biostaedte.de/ueber-uns/aktuelles/67-was-biostaedte-und-oeko-modellregionen-verbindet.html  (20.02.2020)

[4] FAO (2017): The experience of Bio-districts in Italy. http://www.fao.org/agroecology/database/detail/en/c/1027958/ (20.02.2020)

[5] ibid.; Grandi, C. & Triantafyllidis, A. (2010): Organic Agriculture in Protected Areas. The Italian Experience. FAO. Rome.

[6] Senato della Repubblica (2018): Legislatura 18a - Disegno di legge n. 988.

[7] One example is the European Ecovillage Conference, which took place in July 2019.

[8] Bio Forschung Austria, Città del Bio Italien, Eco-Estonia, Milan Center for Food Law and Policy

[9] At present, 14 cities (Augsburg, Bremen, Darmstadt, Erlangen, Freiburg, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Landshut, Lauf / Pegnitz, Leipzig, Munich and Nuremberg) are part of the German network of Bio-Städte, which began to maintain exchanges in this form in 2010. In order to become part of the network, a cooperation agreement was signed by the founding cities: Bio-Cities, municipalities and districts have a corresponding council resolution; pursue self-defined goals; implement projects, actions, measures and appoint a responsible body or contact person. (Biostädte (n.d.): Mitmachen. https://www.biostaedte.de/ueber-uns/kooperationsvereinbarung.html (20.02.2020))

[10] The cities are Correns (France), Lauf (Germany), Milan (Italy), Nuremberg (Germany), Paris (France), Porec (Croatia), Seeham (Austria), Växjö (Sweden) and Vienna (Austria).

[11] Cilento (Campania) – BIO-DISTRETTO (2014 - 2019). http://biodistretto.net/bio-distretto-cilento/ (20.02.2020)

[12] Association des Acteurs de Biovallée (n.d.). Biovallée website: https://biovallee.net/ (20.02.2020)

[13] BioRegion Mühlviertel (n.d.): BioRegion Mühlviertel—Miteinander für ein gutes Leben. https://www.bioregion-muehlviertel.at/ (20.02.2020)

[14] 100 % Valposchiavo (2016): Regionale Produkte aus dem «Bio-Tal». https://www.graubuenden.ch/de/regionen-entdecken/geschichten/100-valposchiavo-regionale-produkte-aus-dem-bio-talc (20.02.2020)

[15] Verein Ökoregion Kaindorf (2018). https://www.oekoregion-kaindorf.at/ (20.02.2020)

[16] Biostädte (n.d.): Was Biostädte und Öko-Modellregionen verbindet. https://www.biostaedte.de/ueber-uns/aktuelles/67-was-biostaedte-und-oeko-modellregionen-verbindet.html (20.02.2020)