European farming and society in search of a new social contract - Learning to manage change

The proceedings of the 5th European IFSA Symposium (held in Vila Real, Portugal) were edited by Artur Cristovao and published in 2004  (ISBN 972-669-587-2), 946 pp.

Table of content of the proceedings

Full proceedings (6 MB)

The papers included in the proceedings will be included here and can be downloaded from the conference website.

Workshop 1: Food system: Food quality and safety for sustainable rural development, chaired by Donato Romano and Geir Lieblein
Events of recent years have heightened the awareness and concerns that consumers have about food quality and safety. Food quality taken in its widest meaning will include the organoleptic quality of food for the individual consumer to food security at household and to national levels. Food safety touches on the psychological and physical health of people, consumers' welfare, their cultural appreciation of food, the right to food and indeed all the questions of food ethics. These may all be primarily the reactions of the non-farming population. Equally important are issues and concerns of the farming population on how to keep the money circulating in the region for its development. Linking the typical agri-food productions with their consumption, and accounting for the environmental, recreational and cultural services provided by farmers, can represent an important drive for sustainable rural development in many European rural areas. In this regard, 'food systems' is a way of embracing the whole, linking the farming and the nonfarming sectors of society and the social contract between them. Some of the questions to be considered in this workshop will be: Is it possible for the characteristics of excellence linked to productive processes set by local traditions to be maintained, even in the presence of a significantly growing demand, and therefore of increased production? In which way can aspects of the traditional Farming Systems (productive structures, production techniques, institutional relationships, legislation, personal capacity, and relationships between producers and consumers) cope with the expansion of the market, without a degeneration of the specific characteristics of the local systems? What innovative models do we need to fill the gap between the large players dominating the food systems and the small-scale alternatives that have emerged to date?

Workshop 2: The sustainability of small scale farming, chaired by David Gibbon, Jacques Brossier and Luigi Omodei Zorini
This theme will continue with some of the debates and ideas which were illuminated by the Volos (2000) and Florence (2002) meetings. We would like to explore the continuing roles of small-scale farming, both as a component within broadening rural livelihood systems and in providing ecological and environmental services that society at large demands. We will also examine the linkages between farming systems research and the rural livelihood framework, which includes the analysis of the importance of institutional, social, physical, natural, financial and human capital, in the evolution of more sustainable systems. This theme will welcome contributions from small-scale organic farmers who are building new alliances in production systems, research and marketing methods. We would appreciate contributions of both theoretical studies and case studies from widely differing contexts, which will contribute to our ongoing debates. We would particularly like to encourage joint contributions from natural and social scientists, advisers and farmers that demonstrate synergy, systemic thinking and evidence of learning in the approach to these complex issues.

Workshop 3: Natural resources management and farm functions in landscape construction, chaired by Herman van Keulen and Jacques Baudry
The societal demand on agriculture is shifting from production of commodities, with special attention to avoid pollution or depletion of natural resources, to integrated natural resources management, including rural landscape management and development. Increasing public concern for sustainable development is leading to increased attention for multi-functionality as a boundary condition for farming activities. This theme will be discussed in the Workshop, considering the following objectives:
- To identify options for improved natural resources and landscape management;
- To identify ways to evaluate potential impacts of improved natural resources and landscape management;
- To review methodologies for assessing the efficiency of various incentives in terms of environment; and 
- To analyse possible conflicts among environmental objectives in specific natural resources management and landscape management in a farming system setting.

Workshop 4: Knowing and learning: Labour and skills at stake for a multidimensional agriculture, chaired by Bernard Hubert
The Learning network will meet again in Vila Real, with new issues: the consequences on labour and activities of overall societal evolution (individual values, common sense, relation to work and quality of life) and new market requirements in the fields of quality of products, food and health security, environmental management, social conditions. This year we suggest to focus our discussions and interactions on some radical transformations at work in individual identities and social structures such as professional bodies, farms, agri-food enterprises, local communities, in the sense that new skills as well as labour management are required, relevant networking between existing skills (in complementary social positions) is required to enhance their efficiency. How are those skills built in an intertwined questioning that addresses the role of numerous agencies and actors, with a specific stress on the local level, since a strong hypothesis may be that territorial assets are core components of the evolution of agriculture towards multidimensionality? These questions are addressed by a wide range of disciplines, in the human sciences (ergonomics, psycho-sociology, sociology, anthropology, political sciences and economy) as well as bio-technical sciences (agronomy, animal husbandry, forestry, food technology). Hence, this workshop will welcome such diversity and has for ambition to cast an interdisciplinary light on these questions. Skills can be considered as products as well as conditions of professional history. We look for papers describing and analysing individual learning processes through personal trajectory, the role of training agencies, educational systems and local or professional communities or any interactive systems of skill building. How generic and specific skills are identified, translated into training products and implemented through the cooperation between different actors, including workers/workplace providers, relationships or innovative territorial projects? Beyond individual skills, this co-operation highlights the need for collective or organisational skills, which are the products as well as the conditions of actions and interactions between stakeholders.

Workshop 5: Combined micro-economic and ecological assessment tools for sustainable rural development, chaired by Peter Zander and Tommy Dalgaard
Sustainable development of farming systems requires profound knowledge of complex interdisciplinary processes. These comprise scientific as well as agricultural, social, economic and political processes. Changes in farming systems management depend on the decisions of a number of decision-makers in agricultural enterprises and public authorities from the local level up to European agricultural and environmental politics. Farmers generally follow the economic rationality in their decision making, which is implicated by the economic conditions. These conditions currently undergo considerable modifications through the actual practice of subsidising agriculture in Europe. In the future, the EU funded agricultural subsidies will increasingly be linked to the environmental performance of agricultural practices (EU-Commission 2000). To develop an effective agro-environmental policy, tools are needed that allow detailed ex-ante economic and environmental analysis of different policy options at a regional level. The sustainability of a certain land use combination can only be defined in a participative societal discourse, which requires adequate information. At the same time, much of the correlations between different aspects of sustainability are not known, because of knowledge gaps on processes, data or lack of models which can generate adequate information at the regional level. The provision of tools that are able to analyse the interdependencies between the relevant indicators of sustainability at a regional or national level will contribute substantially to sustainable development. These issues will be debated in this Workshop, with the contribution of all participants.

Poster presentation