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Summary

The importance of social capital for agricultural and rural development is explored in this paper through the analysis of seven comprehensive case studies that have been carried out in the framework of the European RETHINK research programme. The case studies are based on rather different initiatives at the interface between agricultural and rural development in Germany, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and Israel. The case studies represent a broad spectrum of socio‐economic and agricultural contexts and focus on the role of social capital for development. We explore how social capital materialises in the context of rural areas, and what nuances it acquires in different rural environments. The case studies are used to better understand, and to illustrate, different expressions of social capital in different situations. Within the broad notion of social capital, we pay particular attention to trust, cooperation, sense of community, and culture and tradition. All four dimensions play a critical role in agricultural and rural development as they affect how people relate to each other, organise themselves and interact for development. Sociologia Ruralis. DOI: 10.1111/soru.12218


Article
Summary

This article discusses the economic dimensions of agroecological farming systems in Europe. It firstly theoretically elaborates the reasons why, and under what conditions, agroecological farming systems have the potential to produce higher incomes than farms that follow the conventional logic. This theoretical exposition is then followed by a presentation of empirical material from a wide range of European countries that shows the extent to which this potential is being realized. The empirical data draw upon different styles of farming that can be described as ‘proto-agroecological’: approaches to farming that are agroecological by nature, but which may not necessarily explicitly define themselves as agroecological. The empirical material that we present shows the huge potential and radical opportunities that Europe's, often silent, ‘agroecological turn’ offers to farmers that could (and should) be the basis for the future transformation of European agricultural policies, since agroecology not only allows for more sustainable production of healthier food but also considerably improves farmers' incomes. It equally carries the promise of re-enlarging productive agricultural (and related) employment and increasing the total income generated by the agricultural sector, at both regional and national levels. While we recognise that agroecology is a worldwide and multidimensional phenomenon we have chosen to limit this analysis to Europe and the economic dimension. This choice is made in order to refute current discourses that represent agroecology as unproductive and unprofitable and an option that would require massive subsidies. Journal of Rural Studies, Volume 71, Pages 46-61


Article
Summary

The importance of social capital for agricultural and rural development is explored in this paper through the analysis of seven comprehensive case studies that have been carried out in the framework of the European RETHINK research programme. The case studies are based on rather different initiatives at the interface between agricultural and rural development in Germany, Spain, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark and Israel. The case studies represent a broad spectrum of socio‐economic and agricultural contexts and focus on the role of social capital for development. We explore how social capital materialises in the context of rural areas, and what nuances it acquires in different rural environments. The case studies are used to better understand, and to illustrate, different expressions of social capital in different situations. Within the broad notion of social capital, we pay particular attention to trust, cooperation, sense of community, and culture and tradition. All four dimensions play a critical role in agricultural and rural development as they affect how people relate to each other, organise themselves and interact for development. Sociologia Ruralis 59(1): 66-91


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Summary

he Common Agricultural Policy can be seen as a partial success story because it has resulted in increased food production at reasonable prices for consumers. However, its main focus was on agricultural productivity and economic growth. Although recent CAP reforms have led to better integration of agricultural and rural policies there is a need for more recognition of the role of multi-actor governance in aligning farm modernization with sustainable rural development. In this paper we explore how multi-actor governance systems are being implemented and the limiting and enabling factors involved. Our analysis is based on eleven case studies carried out as part of the trans-disciplinary RETHINK research programme. In this paper we first identify five strategies that we interpret as responses to the challenge of reconnecting farm modernization and sustainable rural development. Based on the experience within these strategies we discuss six vital conditions that cut across these different strategies: they include the role of informal networks, effective coordination, polycentricity, bottom-up initiatives, agency and trust and transparency. Although most of these conditions are recognized by the scientific world, in practice they are rarely translated into effective policy strategies to support territorial development. Journal of Rural Studies 59: 252-262


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Summary

Stimulating an effective provision of public goods and ecosystem services from Europe’s farmland and forests is a critical challenge for policy-makers. In this paper we focus on three aspects of this challenge. Firstly, we explore the different drivers that influence the provision of public goods and ecosystem services by farming and forestry. Secondly, we identify the key motivational, institutional and socio-economic factors that can encourage the provision of these benefits. And thirdly, we examine the role of governance arrangements, of new forms of cooperation and of institutional change in enhancing the provision of public goods and ecosystem services.

The paper is based on a comparative analysis of 34 sectoral, multi-sectoral and territorial real-life case studies spread across 10 EU countries which were carried out as part of the EU-funded PEGASUS project. The analysis pays attention to the functional inter- and intra-relationships between farming and/or forestry, and the quantity and quality of public goods and ecosystem services that these activities provide. This analysis allowed us to identify the key factors that enhance the provision of social and environmental benefits. These include involving a wide range of actors in initiatives and actions, the establishment of appropriate governance arrangements in multi-actor partnerships, the key roles of coordination, cooperation and trust, and the importance of finding common interests and creating synergies and win–win situations. In most of the case studies, we found a complex interaction between different drivers, actors, motivations and interests. In general, we found that the provision of public goods and ecosystem services from farmland and forests is stimulated by policy interventions, planning and regulations that encourage, and support, the engagement of the private sector, and of civil society, in joint actions. Land Use Policy 73: 320-330


Article
Summary

This paper explores the relations between agricultural modernization and sustainable agriculture. The point of departure is the observable decrease in the sustainability and social–ecological resilience of agricultural and food systems. We ask where, precisely, the notions of agricultural modernization and agricultural sustainability contradict each other. In more concrete terms we ask what forms of modernization makes agriculture more (or less) sustainable. Our literature review shows that while the term ‘sustainable agriculture’, has been extensively debated, the term ‘agricultural modernization’, while carrying a positive and forward-looking connotation, remains poorly defined. To address this gap, we draw on evidence from real-life cases in fourteen countries in an attempt to interpret how the two concepts are perceived in very different contexts. These case studies show that different understandings of modern and sustainable agriculture coexist and that agricultural development follows diverse pathways. We conclude that the growing demands for an agricultural and food system that is more resilient, equitable and inclusive can be met by providing more support for the many divergent trajectories of agricultural modernization that practitioners are actually pursuing: trajectories that are often more attuned to the imperatives of ecology and to changing socio–economic preferences than the classical modernization trajectory. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability Volume 15, 2017 - Issue 5, pp. 575-592


Article
Summary

This paper explores the connections between farm modernisation, rural development and the resilience of agricultural and rural systems. The paper starts by ascertaining why agricultural and food systems need to change systemically. Evidence from case studies in fourteen countries is used to explore the possibilities for, and drivers and limitations of systemic change in four thematic areas: the resilience of farms and rural areas; prosperity and well-being; knowledge and innovation, and; the governance of agriculture and rural areas. In each area, we identify a major mismatch between visions and strategies on the one hand, and market developments, policy measures and outcomes on the other. The first theme is of growing concern as there has been an observable decrease in the social-ecological resilience of farms and of rural communities in recent decades. The second theme emerges as important as the concentration of production in some regions or some farms is directly linked to the marginalisation of others. The third theme illustrates that local farmer-driven innovations can teach us much, especially since farmers focus on efficiently using the resources available to them, including their location-specific experiential knowledge. Through the final theme we show that informal networks can balance different interests and approaches, which is essential for integrated rural development strategies and projects. Our findings in these four thematic areas have implications for the strategic frameworks and policy of the EU (and beyond) and future research agendas. We explicitly draw these out. The 14 case studies show that practitioners, grassroots initiatives and pilot programmes are already generating a wealth of experiences and knowledge that could be fruitfully used to inform higher-level policy development. The paper concludes that systemic change requires more critical reflection of conventional wisdom and approaches, and openness to ideas and practices that are outside the mainstream. Journal of Rural Studies: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.04.012