Special Issue "Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472). This special issue belongs to the section "Agricultural Systems and Management".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2021) | Viewed by 14027

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Special Issue Editors

Dr. José Luis Vicente-Vicente
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF). Research area on Agricultural Landscape Systems (working in a group on land use decisions in a spatial and system context) Eberswalder Street 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany
Interests: soil ecosystem services; soil organic carbon dynamics; food modelling; sustainable management practices; sustainable food systems
Dr. Cristina Quintas-Soriano
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Economy and Company, University of Almeria, Almería, Spain
Interests: social-ecological system analysis; biocultural diversity; social values; human–nature connectedness; sustainability
Dr. María D. López-Rodríguez
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Av. Carl Friedrich Gauss, Castelldefels, 08860 Barcelona, Spain
Interests: collective action; knowledge co-production; human–nature relationships; inclusive governance; social learning; social-ecological systems; sustainability transitions; sustainable management practices; transdisciplinarity

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

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
Guest Editors

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 submissions that pass pre-check are 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 1800 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.

Keywords

  • agroecology
  • sustainable agriculture
  • resilience
  • farmers knowledge
  • indigenous and local knowledge
  • human–nature connectedness
  • stakeholder
  • 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

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
A Transformative (r)Evolution of the Research on Agriculture through Fostering Human-Nature Connectedness—A Special Issue Editorial
Agriculture 2022, 12(4), 522; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12040522 - 07 Apr 2022
Viewed by 712
Abstract
More and more people live in cities [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Research

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Article
Nature’s Contributions to People Shape Sense of Place in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia
Agriculture 2022, 12(4), 457; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12040457 - 24 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 852
Abstract
Understanding the roots of a sense of place in farmlands is crucial for stopping rural exodus to urban areas. Farmers’ experiences related to their way of life, peace and quiet, rootedness, pleasure, and inspiration are fundamental components of a sense of place in [...] Read more.
Understanding the roots of a sense of place in farmlands is crucial for stopping rural exodus to urban areas. Farmers’ experiences related to their way of life, peace and quiet, rootedness, pleasure, and inspiration are fundamental components of a sense of place in farmlands. Here, we used the city of Pereira located in the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia (CCLC) to examine the role of nature’s contributions to people (NCP) in forming meanings and attachments that shape their sense of place to this region. This region has experienced intense agricultural lands abandonment due to rapid urbanization over the last decades. To do so, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods was used, including semi-structured interviews, observation, and dialogue, to capture farmers’ perceptions and emotions associated with farmlands, reasons for remaining, and the diversity of NCPs. Results indicated that farmers recognized farmlands as a quiet and safe space that support family cohesion. Results also showed that the characteristics of the farms (e.g., agricultural practices, distance to cities, and gender) play an important role in articulating a farmer’s attachment to farmlands. Finally, farmers identified nonmaterial NCP (e.g., physical and psychological experiences and supportive identities) to be the most important contributions for shaping their sense of place. We call for the need to include robust and transparent deliberative and negotiation mechanisms that are inclusive of all relevant stakeholders, to aim to address unequal power, and to recognize and strengthen communities’ mechanisms of action on the CCLC. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Self-Sufficiency Assessment: Defining the Foodshed Spatial Signature of Supply Chains for Beef in Avignon, France
Agriculture 2022, 12(3), 419; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12030419 - 16 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 822
Abstract
Foodshed approaches allow for the assessment of the theoretical food self-sufficiency capacity of a specific region based on biophysical conditions. Recent analyses show that the focus needs to be shifted from foodshed size portrayed as an isotropic circle to a commodity–group-specific spatial configuration [...] Read more.
Foodshed approaches allow for the assessment of the theoretical food self-sufficiency capacity of a specific region based on biophysical conditions. Recent analyses show that the focus needs to be shifted from foodshed size portrayed as an isotropic circle to a commodity–group-specific spatial configuration of the foodshed that takes into account the socio-economic and biophysical conditions essential to the development of local food supply chains. We focused on a specific animal product (beef) and used an innovative modeling approach based on spatial analysis to detect the areas of the foodshed dedicated to beef feeding (forage, pasture, and grassland), considering the foodshed as a complex of complementary areas called an archipelago. We used available statistical data including a census to address the city-region of Avignon, France covering a 100 km radius. Our results showed that the factors driving the use of short supply chains for beef feeding areas are the foodshed archipelago’s number of patches, the connectivity between them, and the rugosity of the boundaries. In addition, our beef self-sufficiency assessment results differ depending on geographical context. For instance, being located within the perimeters of a nature park seems to help orient beef production toward short supply chains. We discuss possible leverage for public action to reconnect beef production areas to consumption areas (the city) via short supply chains (e.g., green, home-grown school food programs) to increase local food security through increased local food self-sufficiency. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
The Role of Consumer-Citizens and Connectedness to Nature in the Sustainable Transition to Agroecological Food Systems: The Mediation of Innovative Business Models and a Multi-Level Perspective
Agriculture 2022, 12(2), 203; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12020203 - 31 Jan 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1369
Abstract
Conventional agricultural systems have contributed to social, economic and environmental problems and are the main threat to global sustainability. In response, theoretical frameworks to describe the transition to sustainable food systems have been proposed, emphasizing the necessity to shift from farm-level solutions to [...] Read more.
Conventional agricultural systems have contributed to social, economic and environmental problems and are the main threat to global sustainability. In response, theoretical frameworks to describe the transition to sustainable food systems have been proposed, emphasizing the necessity to shift from farm-level solutions to a focus on interactions within the entire value chain, from production to consumption. Despite the emphasis on the importance and potential of consumers to contribute to sustainable agri-food transitions, approaches to their role have remained within the traditional, linear supply chain framework. Marketing approaches view consumers as passive actors, limited to voting with their wallets, which has deepened the disconnection between consumers, producers and nature, resulting in a triple fracture. We analyze the role of the consumer in agri-food systems, contrasting marketing approaches with other consumers/citizens concepts and locate them within sustainability transition frameworks and a multi-level perspective. We discuss the re-establishment of the connection between farmers and consumers and human–nature connectedness and explore this connection mediated through innovative business models, which act as niche innovations with the capacity to influence regimes and landscapes within the multi-level perspective. The role of consumers/citizens in the co-creation of innovative business models is also addressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Reconnecting Farmers with Nature through Agroecological Transitions: Interacting Niches and Experimentation and the Role of Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems
Agriculture 2022, 12(2), 137; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12020137 - 20 Jan 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 1238
Abstract
Sustainability transitions in agriculture are explored through an analysis of niche initiatives within a common production system, relying on sustainable transitions, multi-level perspectives, and agroecological frameworks, and involving multi-actor, agricultural knowledge, and innovation systems (AKIS). The article focuses on how experimental niches and [...] Read more.
Sustainability transitions in agriculture are explored through an analysis of niche initiatives within a common production system, relying on sustainable transitions, multi-level perspectives, and agroecological frameworks, and involving multi-actor, agricultural knowledge, and innovation systems (AKIS). The article focuses on how experimental niches and sustainable activities affect farmers’ relationships with nature, and the reconceptualisation of the production system in which they operate, particularly where this system is embedded in less sustainable conventional or dominant regimes and landscapes. The need for fundamental changes, in the way that humans interact with nature, is widely argued for in order to achieve sustainable development, and farmers occupy a central role through participation in complex networks of agri-food systems. They have also found themselves disconnected from nature through conventional agri-industrial production practices. Four niches (biological control, ecological restoration, soil health, and ecological pond management) within the greenhouse sector of Almeria (SE Spain) are explored in a case study. Our results indicate that a farmer’s interaction with nature is functional, but through agroecological practices, a deeper understanding of the ecosystems in which greenhouse landscapes are embedded may be gained. As they become more connected to nature and benefit from ecosystem services, they can transition to more sustainable agricultural systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Participatory Mapping of Demand for Ecosystem Services in Agricultural Landscapes
Agriculture 2021, 11(12), 1193; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11121193 - 26 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 903
Abstract
Agricultural land use systems have been optimized for producing provisioning ecosystem services (ES) in the past few decades, often at the expense of regulating and cultural services. Research has focused mainly on the supply side of ES and related trade-offs, but the demand [...] Read more.
Agricultural land use systems have been optimized for producing provisioning ecosystem services (ES) in the past few decades, often at the expense of regulating and cultural services. Research has focused mainly on the supply side of ES and related trade-offs, but the demand side for regulatory services remains largely neglected. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the usefulness of participatory geographic information system (PGIS) methods for demand assessment in larger rural and agrarian contexts by identifying spatially explicit demand patterns for ES, thereby enlarging the body of participatory approaches to ES-based land use management. Accordingly, we map, assess, and statistically and spatially analyze different demands for five ES by different stakeholder groups in agricultural landscapes in three case studies. The results are presented in a stakeholder workshop and prerequisites for collaborative ES management are discussed. Our results show that poor correlation exists between stakeholder groups and demands for ES; however, arable land constitutes the highest share of the mapped area of demands for the five ES. These results have been validated by both the survey and the stakeholder workshop. Our study concludes that PGIS represents a useful tool to link demand assessments and landscape management systematically, especially for decision support systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Do Traditional Livestock Systems Fit into Contemporary Landscapes? Integrating Social Perceptions and Values on Landscape Change
Agriculture 2021, 11(11), 1107; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111107 - 06 Nov 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 762
Abstract
European traditional cultural landscapes are increasingly modified by rural abandonment and urban growth processes. Acknowledged as of High Nature Value for providing multiple ecosystem services while contributing to human well-being, the future of these social-ecological systems is uncertain. Here we aim to (1) [...] Read more.
European traditional cultural landscapes are increasingly modified by rural abandonment and urban growth processes. Acknowledged as of High Nature Value for providing multiple ecosystem services while contributing to human well-being, the future of these social-ecological systems is uncertain. Here we aim to (1) explore dominant land use and cover (LULC) changes linked to extensive livestock farming across an urban-rural gradient defined by a large city (Madrid) over the last three decades; (2) identify and classify the main driving forces shaping these landscape trajectories and; (3) acknowledge the main landscape values for promoting landscape stewardship under participatory governance frameworks. For doing so, we combine mapping analyses (CORINE Land cover) with stakeholder perceptions and positions. Our results show a dual process of progressive abandonment of agroecosystems linked to traditional livestock farming and an ever-increasing urban growth over the last three decades as the most important driving forces. The growing urban sprawl in areas close to Madrid begins to be perceived as problematic for interviewees. The decline of extensive livestock farming in detriment of tourism, particularly evident in rural areas far from Madrid, is perceived as a threat to the cultural heritage and traditions of rural people. This decline is also perceived as a worrying increase of wildfire risk. Stakeholders stressed the need of valuing extensive livestock farming to prevent rural-urban migration, dynamizing rural economies, conserving landscapes and traditions while producing food-quality products. Interviewees advocated for science-based, stakeholder-inclusive and participatory landscape planning and co-management, leading to more context-specific, regionalized policymaking. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Effects of Agricultural Use on Endangered Plant Taxa in Spain
Agriculture 2021, 11(11), 1097; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111097 - 04 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 704
Abstract
Agriculture is one of the most widespread human activities and has the greatest impact on terrestrial ecosystems, as it transforms natural ecosystems into artificial landscapes using, in many cases, large amounts of pesticides as well as overexploiting natural resources. Therefore, for effective biodiversity [...] Read more.
Agriculture is one of the most widespread human activities and has the greatest impact on terrestrial ecosystems, as it transforms natural ecosystems into artificial landscapes using, in many cases, large amounts of pesticides as well as overexploiting natural resources. Therefore, for effective biodiversity conservation, it is necessary to include agricultural systems in conservation programs. In this work, the 50 plant taxa described for Spain as threatened by agricultural use were selected. These were divided according to the type of threat into those affected by crop extension, intensification, or abandonment. In addition, information was obtained concerning their conservation status, level of protection and functional traits (life form, pollination, and dispersal). Finally, the evolution of land use, in the areas near the populations of the selected species, was identified. The selected taxa belong to 21 families and present different life forms and modes of dispersal or pollination. Forty-six percent are endangered (EN) and most are included in legal protection lists. Nearly three-quarters are threatened by crop expansion and land use dynamics, reflecting an expansion of cultivated areas, which adds further pressure to these species. In addition to agricultural expansion, taxa are also at risk, due to important rates of agricultural land abandonment, and mention agricultural intensification. Nevertheless, conservation measures do exist to promote biodiversity in agricultural landscapes that may help to reverse the negative effect of land use dynamics on selected species, but few are specific to threatened flora. Therefore, if threatened plants are to be conserved in agricultural areas, it is necessary to promote a profound transformation of our socioecological systems. One of these transformative changes could come from the human-nature reconnection. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Evaluation of Farmers’ Ecological Cognition in Responses to Specialty Orchard Fruit Planting Behavior: Evidence in Shaanxi and Ningxia, China
Agriculture 2021, 11(11), 1056; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111056 - 28 Oct 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 701
Abstract
Developing specialties in orchard fruits productions with ecological and economic benefits is a practical and effective way to guarantee eco-friendliness and increase farmers’ income in the Loess Plateau area. Therefore, to understand these factors, the study constructs an agriculture ecological cognition index from [...] Read more.
Developing specialties in orchard fruits productions with ecological and economic benefits is a practical and effective way to guarantee eco-friendliness and increase farmers’ income in the Loess Plateau area. Therefore, to understand these factors, the study constructs an agriculture ecological cognition index from three dimensions of eco-agriculture cognitions (increase income cognition, water conservation cognition and eco-product price cognition). Our analysis was based on micro survey data from 416 farmers in Shaanxi and Ningxia, China. The study used two main econometric models, double-hurdle and Interpretative Structural Modeling (ISM), to examine the relationship and influence pathways between cognition of ecological agriculture and farmers’ specialty orchard fruit planting behavior. The results show that: (i) the cognition of eco-agriculture affects whether farmers plant specialty fruits (participation decision). The cognition of eco-agriculture increases income and the cognition of eco-product price significantly affect the scale of specialty orchard fruits planting (quantity decision). (ii) Household resource endowments influence specialty orchard fruit planting responses through ecological farming cognitions. (iii) The factors influencing the participation and quantity decisions of orchard fruit planting are significantly different. Therefore, when the government actively encourages farmers to participate in specialty orchard planting, it should fully consider the cognitive factors of ecological agriculture of the growers and develop targeted training strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Building an Agroecological Process towards Agricultural Sustainability: A Case Study from Southern Spain
Agriculture 2021, 11(10), 1024; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11101024 - 19 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 784
Abstract
The urgent need to implement agricultural systems that provide greater sustainability and resilience to the challenges of the climate change process has meant that alternative paradigms for agri-food systems and agriculture have become more relevant in recent times. In this study, we present [...] Read more.
The urgent need to implement agricultural systems that provide greater sustainability and resilience to the challenges of the climate change process has meant that alternative paradigms for agri-food systems and agriculture have become more relevant in recent times. In this study, we present the building process and consolidation of an agro-ecological project (Extiercol) in a rural area of southern Spain, with a prolonged depopulation process and close connections to nearby urban areas. Through participatory action research, the specific objectives of this study are (1) to describe the agroecological collective process from its creation by a youth association to its establishment as a viable agricultural project; (2) to identify the drivers for the development of this type of transition process towards agricultural sustainability and (3) to analyse urban-rural alliances in the establishment of agroecological projects. Finally, the replicability of this project was assessed, with a special focus on the main barriers to be addressed in order to implement this agricultural system such as difficult to land access or a negative perception of sustainable management by farmers. Through this study we have shown how the connection between the food production area and nearby urban areas can be achieved through an agroecological project. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Article
Know the Farmer That Feeds You: A Cross-Country Analysis of Spatial-Relational Proximities and the Attractiveness of Community Supported Agriculture
Agriculture 2021, 11(10), 1006; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11101006 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 982
Abstract
While food production and consumption processes worldwide are characterized by geographical and social distance, alternative food networks aim to reconnect producers and consumers. Our study proposes a framework to distinguish multiple dimensions of proximity in the context of Community Supported Agriculture (a type [...] Read more.
While food production and consumption processes worldwide are characterized by geographical and social distance, alternative food networks aim to reconnect producers and consumers. Our study proposes a framework to distinguish multiple dimensions of proximity in the context of Community Supported Agriculture (a type of alternative food network) and to quantitatively evaluate them. In a principal component analysis, we aggregated various detailed proximity items from a multinational survey using principal component analysis and examined their relationship with the attractiveness of Community Supported Agriculture in a multiple regression analysis. Our findings highlight the importance of relational proximity and thus of increasing trust, collaboration, and the sharing of values and knowledge within and across organizations in the food system. Rather than focusing on spatial proximity, increasing relational proximity might support alternative food networks, such as Community Supported Agriculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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Review

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Review
Reconnecting with Nature through Good Governance: Inclusive Policy across Scales
Agriculture 2022, 12(3), 382; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12030382 - 09 Mar 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 906
Abstract
We are disconnected from nature, surpassing planetary boundaries at a time when our climate and social crises converge. Even prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the United Nations and its member states were already off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [...] Read more.
We are disconnected from nature, surpassing planetary boundaries at a time when our climate and social crises converge. Even prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the United Nations and its member states were already off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fulfil climate commitments made under the Paris Agreement. While agricultural expansion and intensification have supported increases in food production, this model has also fostered an unsustainable industry of overproduction, waste, and the consumption of larger quantities of carbon-intensive and ultra-processed foods. By addressing the tension that exists between our current food system and all that is exploited by it, different scales of governance can serve as spaces of transformation towards more equitable, sustainable outcomes. This review looks at how good governance can reconnect people with nature through inclusive structures across scales. Using four examples that focus on place-based and rights-based approaches—such as inclusive multilateralism, agroecology, and co-governance—the author hopes to highlight the ways that policy processes are already supporting healthy communities and resilient ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Reconnecting People with Nature through Agriculture)
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