Special Issue "Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 December 2021.
Interests: soil ecosystem services; soil organic carbon dynamics; food modelling; sustainable management practices; sustainable food systems
Interests: social-ecological system analysis; biocultural diversity; social values; human–nature connectedness; sustainability
Interests: collective action; knowledge co-production; human–nature relationships; inclusive governance; social learning; social-ecological systems; sustainability transitions; sustainable management practices; transdisciplinarity
More and more people live in cities. In recent decades, this, combined with rural abandonment and landscape polarisation, has resulted in high land ownership concentrations and agricultural intensification. These land use changes are caused by the increasing expansion of megafarms. These large commercial monocrops are based on extreme, simplified cropping systems, leading to a loss of genetic diversity (traditional varieties adapted to the specific local conditions) and a greater dependence of the population on large and complex global food-supply chains.
This, in turn, has resulted in a significant decrease in the resilience of agriculture and overall food systems, and threatens the maintenance of traditional indigenous and peasant farming. Paradigmatic examples are the globally important agricultural heritage systems (GIAHS) or high nature value (HNV) farmlands. The consequences of this are a loss of traditional farming knowledge based on the application of sustainable management practices. Agroforestry and silvopastoral systems, cover crops, a combination of high diversity of crop species, the application of organic inputs, reduction or no-tillage, and biological control are examples of systems and practices that have been proven to be beneficial for building resilient agroecosystems that sustain both nature and society.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to reconnect society with the sustainable use of agroecosystems by fostering resilient social-ecological systems, emphasising the links between the functioning of natural systems and human well-being, and stressing the benefits that people derive from them. This is pivotal to the maintenance and recovery of traditional agricultural knowledge and the sustainable practices that aim to re-structure agri-food production in an environmentally-friendly way.
This Special Issue aims to highlight impactful research and commentary focusing on attempts to connect people with nature for the promotion of sustainable agricultural transitions. This Issue will fully embrace inter- and trans-disciplinary studies from multiple disciplines (e.g., agricultural sciences, environmental sciences, geography, economy, and sociology), as well as those incorporating other knowledge systems (e.g., local and indigenous) in the co-construction of knowledge for sustainable agriculture. In addition, we encourage studies in rural areas (e.g., GIAHS or HNV farmland) and initiatives addressing urban–rural relationships or those developed within metropolitan areas (e.g., community-supported agriculture, food hubs, domestic gardens, multifunctional agriculture, and farmers´ or consumers´ cooperatives). Studies assessing the societal and ecological impacts of those initiatives are also welcome. This Special Issue invites all types of articles, applying qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methodologies, as well as both empirical primary research and reviews, along with commentaries.
Dr. José Luis Vicente-Vicente
Dr. Cristina Quintas-Soriano
Dr. María D. López-Rodríguez
Manuscript Submission Information
Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.
Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agriculture is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.
Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.
- sustainable agriculture
- farmers knowledge
- indigenous and local knowledge
- human–nature connectedness
- biocultural diversity
- rural abandonment
- social-ecological systems
- ecosystem services
- nature´s contributions to people
- globally important agricultural heritage systems
- high nature value farmland
- urban agriculture
- peri-urban farming
- science–policy–society interface
- collective farming
- inclusive governance
The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.
Authors: Mouléry M, Sanz Sanz E, Napoléone C, Josselin D, Vicente-Vicente JL, Piorr A, Guiraud N
Abstract: Foodshed approaches enable to assess the theoretical capacity of the food-self sufficiency of a specific region considering its pedological conditions. Moreover, recent analysis has shown that it is necessary to shift the assessment from the size of an isotropic circle to the commodity-group–specific spatial configuration of the foodshed based on biophysical and socioeconomic features. Following these works and focusing on a specific animal food product (beef), we present in this paper an innovative modelling approach based on spatial analysis to highlight which areas in the foodshed dedicated to feeding livestock (fodder, pastures and grasslands) can be functionally connected to the nearest city by means of proximity/short beef supply chains. We used available free available data on regional yields and consumption patterns, combined with spatially explicit data on land use covers, cropping patterns and topography.
In this perspective, we will analyze the agricultural spatial signature of livestock-oriented farms through a composite spatialized indicator of fragmentation, at the farm level, which inform us about the physiognomy of farms. Our assumption is that this spatial information give an account of the influence of connection of peri-urban farms involved in proximity supply chains. This composite indicator derived from information such as the complexity of these contours, the rate of dispersion and the ratio of surfaces of these parcels for example.
In addition, results of the modelling approached were discussed with key informants in focus-groups. We conclude that the identified areas have a greater possibility to be reactive to institutional incentives aiming at increasing food security by means of increasing local food-sufficiency (ex. green home-grown school feeding programmes). Finally, we discuss how the identified spatial determinants of the connection of the peri-urban farm holdings to the city might inform regional food policy implementation and discuss avenues for further research to elaborate guidelines for the development of food planning as a disciplinary field.
Keywords: foodshed archipelago; proximity food supply chains; spatial signature; city-region; food self-sufficiency; regional food security; agricultural diversification; food planning; regional food system; food policy
- Tentative Title: Participatory Mapping of Demand for Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Landscapes
Authors: Carmen Schwartz, Mostafa Shabaan, Sonoko Bellingrath-Kimura, Annette Piorr
Abstract: Agricultural land use systems have in the past decades been optimized for producing provisioning ecosystem services, often at the expense of regulating and cultural services. The objective of this paper is to conduct a comprehensive mapping analysis of five regulating and one provisioning ecosystem service (ES) in agricultural landscapes, and to thereby contribute to the search for participatory approaches to ES-based land-use management. To this end, we assess different demands for five ecosystem services by different stakeholder groups in agricultural landscapes of 3 regions in Brandenburg. Our aim is to find out whether demands differ for different ES and by stakeholder groups. Furthermore, we assess the correlation between land use and demanded ES, and furthermore discuss the requesites for successful participation in a stakeholder workshop. Our study contributes to the field of participatory methods for ES assessment, and explores the possibilities of integrating results of participatory approaches in planning processes.
- Tentative Title: Understanding sense of place and nature´s contribution to people in a rapid urbanized region of the coffee cultural landscape of Colombia
Authors: Beatriz E. Murillo-López, Antonio J. Castro and Alexander Feijoo
Abstract: Global change drivers are leading to rapid urban growth in rural settings, increasing pressure on land resources, land speculation and access, reducing the quality of life of the rural communities and causing rural abandonment that affects cultural roots of farmland communities. This is the case of the region of Pereira located in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, which has experienced over the last decades both rapid urbanization and land transformation. However, the cultural roots that articulated connection and sense of place to this region seem to be crucial factors for understanding motivations to remain in these cultural landscapes. Within this context, this study aimed to examine the role of nature´s contribution to people (NCP) in shaping sense of place of farmers in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. Specifically, we focused on examining the role of meanings, attachments, values and connection to nature in shaping sense of place to this region. To do so, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods were used to (i) identify and characterize the diversity of farmers and farms of a case study located in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia; (ii) examine the diversity of emotions and feelings associated to farmlands, as well as sociodemographic factors that explain them (iii) identify the level of attachment (or sense of palce) of local communities through exploring motivations to remaining in the region, (iv) identify the diversity of nature's contributions to people that articulated farmer´s sense of place, and v) to explore the visions of the local communities with respect to the future of the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. Results showed that characteristics of the farms such as agricultural practices, distance to cities, and gender play an important in articulating farmer´s meanings and attachment to farmlands. We also found that farmers recognized farmlands as a quiet and safe space that support family cohesion. Additionally, farmers more strongly perceived the farmland benefits associated to non-material NCP than those related to material NCP. Overall, sense of place to this agricultural region was explained by the diversity of emotions associated to farmland features and meanings. We argue the need of including the diversity meanings and attachments to farmlands in new landscape planning strategies that aim to restore cultural roots of communities in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia.
Keywords: Socio-ecological Systems; Farmlands; Biocultural diversity; World Heritage Site
- Tentative Title: Effects of agriculture on threatened plant species in Spain
Authors: José Luis Molina Pardo, Emilio Rodríguez Caballero, Azucena Laguía Allué, Manuel Sánchez Robles and Miguel Cueto Romero y Esther Giménez Luque
Abstract: Agriculture provides food and other resources for a growing world population. It is one of the most widespread uses and has the greatest impact on terrestrial ecosystems. Indeed, in recent years, agricultural intensification has led to a simplification of the landscape and has extended the massive use of pesticides and fertilisers, which is causing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity on a global scale. Therefore, for effective conservation of biodiversity and its associated ecological processes, agricultural systems need to be included in conservation programmes. This study identifies the effect of agriculture on plants at risk of extinction in Spain. The extension and intensification of agriculture causes significant limitations in the dispersal and recruitment of these species and may even lead to the loss or extinction of some of their populations. The effect of agricultural activities has been studied in 363 populations of 65 plants threatened by agriculture using contingency tables and linear models (ANCOVA and GLM). This analysis shows the relationship between crop types and ecological characteristics of plants at risk of extinction. Our results indicate that the dominant biotype among the plants threatened by agriculture is the hemicryptophytic (39%), followed by the therophytic biotype (20%). The "Endangered" degree of threat is the most frequently found (46 %). Changes in crop types and increasing extension are the factors that put these plants most at risk. For some of these plants a detailed scientific study of their life cycle is needed to enable administrations to design appropriate management and conservation strategies. In order to avoid the loss of their populations and to raise awareness among the local population of the importance of conserving these species, as they are often considered a hindrance to the development of their agricultural activities.
- Tentative Title: Reconnecting farmers with Nature through sustainable agriculture transitions: the role of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems and Living Labs
Authors: Cynthia Giagnocavo, Miguel de Cara-García, Mónica González, Melchor Juan, José Ignacio Marín-Guirao, Sepide Mehrabi; Estefanía Rodríguez, Jan van der Blom and Eduardo Crisol-Martínez
Abstract: European agricultural policy measures have often favoured increased production and intensification at the expense of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and market influences have resulted in increased farm size and vertical and horizontal integration, as well as intense power concentration in the inputs and distributor ends of global supply chains.
Consequently, there has been a disconnection not only of a large proportion of the European population with ecological systems within which such agricultural activity is carried out, but also of farmers. Farmers themselves are going through processes of being reconnected with Nature in agriculture through the adoption of more sustainable practices. Their relationship with Nature is also influential in shaping other people´s understanding of agriculture, including, but not limited to, their local communities, consumers and civil society.
This paper deals with the fundamental role of farmers and their Agricultural and Knowledge Innovation Systems (AKIS), such as advisors, cooperatives, public entities, research institutions, value chain actors and other key players in socio-economic-ecological systems, to drive change in the process of reconnecting people with Nature through agriculture. Activation of resources and capabilities within AKIS, along with co-creation and collective action is shown to have created a shared vision of more sustainable, and realizable, paths.
Specifically, we use as a case study the AKIS and the Almería Agroecology Living Lab approach, in the greenhouse sector in southeast Spain as an example of how agricultural transitions can utilise dynamic characteristics of farming systems and specific contexts to “reset” narratives and development paths. We also refer to various regional, national and European projects and initiatives that have been leveraged to accelerate such change.
Currently, Almeria has a highly concentrated agricultural production area with 32.000 ha of greenhouses, owned by 16.000 farmers. Conventional agriculture, based on chemical pesticides, was the main pest and disease control strategy, in which crops were maintained under sterile conditions. Excessive use of pesticides resulted in pests developing resistance, as well as market rejection of Spanish horticultural products. From 1990s onwards, this chemical-based paradigm started to change, at first due to the introduction of bumblebees for pollination, which obliged farmers to use only compatible chemicals and strategies. This trend was reinforced, during the mid-2000s through a broad adoption of biological control of pests. Using beneficial insects and pollinators allowed farmers to integrate biodiversity into their greenhouses, creating a first step towards a reconnection with Nature.
During the last decade, other sustainable strategies have been extensively studied, and are gradually being adopted by farmers and their cooperatives. There has been a significant increase of farmers establishing auxiliary flora between their crops (e.g. flower strips and banker plants) and ecological infrastructures around their greenhouses (e.g. hedgerows, biodiversity islands, and nest-boxes for bird and microbat species), all of which foster the presence of spontaneously appearing insects and other animals that play a major role reinforcing pest biological control. Also, soil and water pond management have been key areas to help farmers recognizing the importance of biodiversity. Instead of using biocides, techniques such as bio solarization and the naturalization of ponds offer a profitable solution to conserve and use biodiversity to regulate pest damages and diseases, boosting crop production and supporting environmental protection. Altogether, these sustainable strategies have also contributed to the rise of organic farming in greenhouse horticulture, which now occupies ca. 12% of the total production area in SE Spain. Ultimately, the adoption of sustainable strategies by farmers favors the presence of autochthonous flora and fauna around greenhouses, transforming these anthropized landscapes and the people living and working on them more connected with Nature.
This paper will serve to explore the components and process of building a “system” capable of sustainable transition and reconnection with Nature.
Methodology: mixed methods, triangulation, desk research, survey data, and case study.
Keywords: Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems; Sustainability Transitions; Conservative agriculture practices; Knowledge co-production; Mediterranean horticulture; Integrated Pest Management; Greenhouses; Soil health; Biological control; Pond naturalisation; Collective action; Socio-ecological systems; Human-nature relationships
- Tentative Title: The role of consumer-citizens in the transition to agroecological systems
Authors: Sepide Mehrabi, Juan Carlos Perez-Mesa and Cynthia Giagnocavo
Abstract: We examine the role of the consumer-citizen in the transition to agroecological systems and the corresponding reconnection to nature through a more profound understanding of the socio-economic-ecological context for agriculture. The consumer has been emphasized as an influential actor in agri-food supply chains locating them at the center of market decision making. This has been coupled with an increasing focus on transparency, traceability, a wide range of sustainability and “green” certifications, and other initiatives, including within the European agri digitalization agenda. This liberal market demand driven theory assumes well informed consumers will make the correct choices based on transparent information, aided by appropriate technologies, and thus create a market for sustainable agricultural product. Yet, the physical and knowledge-based disconnection between consumer-citizens and agricultural production makes the role of the rational choice consumer-citizen even less tenable, given a wide variety of factors such as demographic trends which have left rural areas sparsely populated and urban areas highly concentrated, as well as the commoditization of agricultural product in global supply chains.
We use a framework for analysis combining Gliessmann's five levels of sustainable food systems (2020), FAO's 10+ elements of Agroecology (FAO, 2016), as well as sustainable transition literature applied to agriculture. We consider social, technological, and business model innovations that bridge the incremental Levels of 1 and 2 of Agroecology, which focus on increasing efficiency of inputs, reducing the use of resources and substituting alternative practices at the farm level, with the Level 3 and 4 transformational stages which focus on a redesign of agroecosystems and the reconnection of consumers/citizens to farmers, and thus the contextual socio-economic-ecolgogical systems, through the development of alternative and/or innovative food networks.
We present data on social, organisational, institutional, and technical innovations that enable consumer-citizens to reconnect with agriculture and the natural environment. Examples include social enterprise and cooperative businesses, collective grow groups that share knowledge and land, collective food buying groups, community-supported agriculture, public procurement programs, short supply chains, etc. We also consider how these innovative networks become institutionalised to connect with broader social changes, and how civil society organisations and social movements constrain or enable local innovation to facilitate the consumer-citizen relationship with farmer-producers and embed agricultural activities within the broader ecological context.
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- MacRae, R., Szabo, M., Anderson, K., Louden, F., & Trillo, S. (2012). Empowering the citizen-consumer: Re-regulating consumer information to support the transition to sustainable and health promoting food systems in Canada. Sustainability, 4(9), 2146-2175.
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- Tentative Title: Re-Connecting Public Governance Across Scales: Approaches from Local to Global
Author: Johanna Wilkes
Abstract: The world is in desperate need of transformation. Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the world was already off track from both achieving the SDGs (such as zero hunger) and fulfilling commitments made under the Paris Agreement to help temper the impact of the climate crises. COVID-19 has only exacerbated much of what already existed. Inequities were enlarged (Fisher and Bubola 2020) and the number of individuals in poverty is expected to rise (World Bank 2020). However, the disruption of societies across the world in 2020/2021 has provided space for deep reflection on the role of both governments and communities. Global governance has historically played a key role in policy norm development and financing, and the pandemic is no exception. While some countries were structurally prevented from borrowing (Vijaya 2020), others were able to launch large scale social programming responses, such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). In addition, import-dependent countries have experienced currency deflation and food price increases far greater than other countries (HLPE 2020). At the same time, mutual aid models and local-led initiatives have been cropping up across the world to lead to one of the most fine-grained levels of COVID-19 relief. The pandemic has shown us that global problems need multi-scalar solutions; local and global policy arenas are not substitutes but rather interconnected complements. As part of multi-scalar solutions, public governance can be a way of re-connecting nature with people rather than commodifying it. By addressing the tension that exists between our current food systems and all that is exploited by it, different scales of governance can serve as a space of transformation towards more equitable, sustainable outcomes. Focused on four different examples, this review will explore different scales of public governance to highlight how these transformations are possible in real time. By focusing on global (the inclusive ‘most-affected’ model of the Committee on World Food Security), national (the integrated approaches found within the Biosphere Reserve system in Canada), provincial (the commitment to Zero-Budget Farming (ZBF) in Andhra Pradesh), and local (the growing role of food policy councils and local food systems strategies), this review helps tease out the shared and unique conditions for success across scales and why each scale within public governance matters for a better future.
- Tentative Title: Evaluation of farmers' ecological cognition in responses to specialties in fruit orchard planting behavior: evidence in Shaanxi and Ningxia, China
Authors: Zhe Chen, Apurbo Sarkar, Xiaojing Li, Xianli Xia
Abstract: Developing specialties in orchard fruits productions with ecological and economic benefits is a practical and effective way to guarantee ecological security and increase farmers' income in the Loess Plateau area. However, how to promote farmers' response to the specialty in orchard fruits planting has become a vital issue. Therefore, to understand these factors, the study constructs an agriculture ecological cognition index from 3 dimensions of eco-agriculture cognitions (increase income cognition, water conservation cognition, and eco-product price cognition). The study's empirical setup comprises micro survey data from 416 farm households in Shaanxi and Ningxia provinces. We use the combination of the Double-Hurdle model and the Interpretative Structural Modeling (ISM) to explore the influence of ecological cognitions of farmers' within special orchard fruit planting in the framework of bounded rationality theory. The results show that: (i) the cognition of eco-agriculture increases income facilitate water conservation, and cognition of eco-product price positively affects whether farmers plant unique fruits (participation decision). The cognition of eco-agriculture increases income and the cognition of eco-product price significantly affects the scale of unique orchard Fruits planting (quantity decision). (ii) The paths of each factor influencing participation and quantity decisions were all along the path of "farmers' household endowment," → "ecological agriculture cognition," → "farmers' characteristic orchard Fruit response." (iii) The factors influencing the participation decision and the quantity decision of orchard Fruit planting are significantly different. Government should enhance the added value of ecological products and highlight the awareness of ecological agriculture. The government should also uphold the unique characteristic of the ecological orchard to produce a brand effect, economic benefit, and social benefit. For this thrives cultural festival, an experience exchange meeting to improve the added value of ecological products and extend the agricultural demonstration zone should be arranged. The concerned authorities should arrange specialized training facilities to enhance farmers' expectations of the rising price of characteristic orchard fruits, improve the ability to capture market equilibrium power, and promote the peaceful development of characteristic orchard Fruits.
- Tentative Title: Catalyzing smallholder farming to reconnect people with nature by advocating building resilient in agriculture to feed the Caribbean
Author: Ramgopaul Roop
Abstract: Agriculture is a critical sector that can address socio-economic challenges such as extreme poverty and food insecurity in developing countries. Despite its potential, the sector faces significant challenges which limit its competitiveness, sustainability, and poverty-reducing capacity. Smallholder farmers comprise over 570 million farms worldwide, consisting of over two billion people cultivating less than 2 hectares with traditional or informal tenure, mostly in marginal or risk-prone environments. Smallholder farmers suffer from marginalized resources, information, technology, capital, and assets. These conditions limit their adaptive capacity, reduce their resilience to climate change, and render them inadequate to cope with the challenges of sustainable production. As a result, they constitute approximately 75% of the world’s underprivileged, hungry, and undernourished people. Economies of scale, investment capacity, and a lack of technical knowledge can contribute to their decline over time. Family farms constitute 80% of agricultural units in Latin America and the Caribbean and employ over 60 million people. Therefore, family farming can be considered a leading source of agricultural employment and contributes to food and nutrition security and rural economies in the region. This paper examines catalyzing smallholder farming to reconnect people with nature by advocating agroecology as resilient agriculture to feed the Caribbean. Ro-Crops Agrotec, a smallholder family farm in Trinidad, is a case study as an advocate and practitioner of resilient agriculture in the Caribbean. In June 2021, the farmer received the Hemispheric “Soul of Rurality” award bestowed on Rurality Leaders in the Americas by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).