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Special Issue "Agroecology for the Transition towards Social-Ecological Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Ecology and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Marina García-Llorente

Madrid Institute for Rural Development, Agricultural and Food Research (IMIDRA), Madrid, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: agroecology; ecosystem service assessment; human connectedness to nature; rural development; social-ecological system; social farming; participatory action research
Guest Editor
Dr. Elisa Oteros-Rozas

Universidad Pablo de Olavide (UPO), Seville, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: traditional ecological knowledge; pastoralism; political agroecology; gender; new peasantries
Guest Editor
Dr. Federica Ravera

Universitat de Vic- Universitat Central de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Website | E-Mail
Interests: climate change adaptation; ecological economics; gender; multicriteria decision analysis; scenarios; sustainable rural development; vulnerability assessment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite the scientific and technological achievements to improve agricultural productivity, insufficient attention has been paid to the environmental and social consequences of the prevailing agrifood system. Academics, practitioners and activists have been discussing in the last decades how can an increasing population be fed in a social-ecologically sustainable and equitable way. Meanwhile, agricultural intensification has situated agroecosystems in a vulnerable situation because of the decline of cultural values, key ecological processes and ecosystem services. As a response, agroecology was born to address the problems generated by industrial agriculture: it is presented as a practice, scientific discipline, and socio-political movement that tries to apply ecological concepts in the sustainable management of agricultural systems. Like the socio-ecological approach, agroecology requires holistic and interdisciplinary views to analyze the complex relationships that are generated between ecological functioning, human wellbeing, economic profitability, governance models and land-use policies. However, to date, agroecology has not gained enough strength as a scientific discipline and its application in agrarian, rural and landscape planning policies is hence limited. For this Special Issue we welcome contributions exploring how agroecological approaches promote the sustainability of agrarian social-ecological systems. Specifically, we welcome conceptual and empirical studies that may focus on agroecological initiatives that contribute to global and climate change adaptation and mitigation, community supported agriculture models, social and inclusive farming, agrarian ecosystem services assessments, agroecological rural development, the role of local/traditional/indigenous agroecological knowledge and its transmission, agroecological public policies, participatory-actions research processes, and gender and rural perspectives.

Dr. Marina García-Llorente
Dr. Elisa Oteros-Rozas
Dr. Federica Ravera
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 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. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly 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 1700 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
  • Agroecosystem
  • Ecosystem service
  • Local/traditional/indigenous ecological knowledge
  • Gender            
  • Governance
  • Global change adaptation
  • Participatory approach
  • Social-ecological system
  • Social and inclusive farming
  • Social learning

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Resignification Practices of Youth in Zona da Mata, Brazil in the Transition Toward Agroecology
Sustainability 2019, 11(1), 197; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11010197
Received: 14 September 2018 / Revised: 21 December 2018 / Accepted: 23 December 2018 / Published: 2 January 2019
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Abstract
Youth play an important role in the transition toward agroecology through practices of resignification. This article discusses how young people resignify agroecology by taking part in education initiatives that originate from social movements, and that aim to strengthen young peoples’ abilities to reflect
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Youth play an important role in the transition toward agroecology through practices of resignification. This article discusses how young people resignify agroecology by taking part in education initiatives that originate from social movements, and that aim to strengthen young peoples’ abilities to reflect on their practices and realities. We used action research to create films with young agroecologists in the region of Zona da Mata Mineira, Brazil. Our analysis draws on films, interviews and participatory observations made during thirteen workshops to visualize the agroecological practices and visions of youth. We explore how social frames—e.g., the specific ways in which people understand reality—shape practices and how these frames are actively changed by youth. The findings show how frames are changed during (1) frame amplification by building on existing local values; (2) frame bridging by linking with other social movements; (3) frame extension by inclusion of new frames; and (4) frame transformation by altering the meaning of agroecology. We find that young people who engage with agroecology contribute to processes of repeasantization that rework local culture to be more inclusive of different populations, generations and genders, and that they foster an appreciation of the interconnectedness of humans and nature. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Participatory Guarantee Systems in Peru: Two Case Studies in Lima and Apurímac and the Role of Capacity Building in the Food Chain
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4644; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124644
Received: 18 September 2018 / Revised: 29 October 2018 / Accepted: 30 November 2018 / Published: 6 December 2018
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Abstract
Participatory guarantee systems (PGS) are an emerging strategy in the organic farming and agroecology movement for ensuring the sustainable origin of food. This study focused on the perspectives of stakeholders involved in PGS in Peru (Lima and Apurímac) in order to acquire a
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Participatory guarantee systems (PGS) are an emerging strategy in the organic farming and agroecology movement for ensuring the sustainable origin of food. This study focused on the perspectives of stakeholders involved in PGS in Peru (Lima and Apurímac) in order to acquire a greater understanding of how these PGS operate and the context in which they are embedded. Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used for data collection in 2016. PGS in Peru have a fairly centralized pyramid structure, with non-governmental organizations and regional farmers’ associations the main driving forces behind PGS implementation. Improved access to markets and additional commercialization channels are major motivations for farmers to participate in PGS, but major difficulties in these two areas are still being encountered in both regions. There is a high demand among farmers for technical training. Farmers acting as internal evaluators play a special role in their local nuclei and are crucial in the PGS process. The PGS in Lima and Apurímac are an important tool in the agro-ecological movement in Peru and offer considerable potential for the support of small-scale farmers. However, there is a need for official recognition and support together with improvements in internal organization and communication for PGS to be able to maintain their principles. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Understanding Farm Diversity to Promote Agroecological Transitions
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4337; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124337
Received: 12 September 2018 / Revised: 15 November 2018 / Accepted: 17 November 2018 / Published: 22 November 2018
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Abstract
Agroecology is increasingly promoted by scientists, non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), international organisations and peasant movements as an approach to foster the transition to sustainable and equitable food systems. The challenges to agroecological transitions are not the same for all farmers, as they can face
[...] Read more.
Agroecology is increasingly promoted by scientists, non-governmental organisations (NGO’s), international organisations and peasant movements as an approach to foster the transition to sustainable and equitable food systems. The challenges to agroecological transitions are not the same for all farmers, as they can face different social and bio-physical conditions. We developed a farm typology combining participatory and quantitative methodologies to assess and categorise farm diversity and its implications for developing strategies to promote agroecological transitions. The participatory typology was developed during workshops to acquire insights on local farmers’ perceptions and knowledge, and to generate hypotheses on family farm diversity. The participatory-based hypotheses were tested in the quantitative farm characterisation, which provided information on household characteristics, production strategies, land use, participation in public policies and extension services. Farms were located in Zona da Mata, Minas Gerais, Brazil, which harbour a wide diversity of farmers and where different actors have been engaged in agroecological transitions for the past 30 years. Our main findings were: (i) In the face of agroecological transitions, farmers differ in their management strategies, practices and principles; (ii) farmers identified as agroecological typically had stronger engagements in a network composed of farmers’ organisations, universities and NGO’s; (iii) agroecological farms showed great potential to provide a wide range of ecosystem services as they featured a higher crop diversity and a higher number of crops for self-consumption; (iv) to promote agroecology, it is crucial to recognise peasant knowledge, to change the dominant discourse on agriculture through social movement dynamics, and to generate support from public policies and funds; and (v) participatory and quantitative methodologies can be combined for more precise and relevant assessments of agroecological transitions. Full article
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Open AccessArticle The Contribution of Traditional Agroecological Knowledge as a Digital Commons to Agroecological Transitions: The Case of the CONECT-e Platform
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3214; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093214
Received: 18 July 2018 / Revised: 15 August 2018 / Accepted: 3 September 2018 / Published: 8 September 2018
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Abstract
Traditional agroecological knowledge (TAeK) refers to the cumulative and evolving body of knowledge, practices, beliefs, institutions, and worldviews about the relationships between a society or cultural group and their agroecosystems. These knowledge systems contribute to maintaining environmental and culturally sensitive food systems and
[...] Read more.
Traditional agroecological knowledge (TAeK) refers to the cumulative and evolving body of knowledge, practices, beliefs, institutions, and worldviews about the relationships between a society or cultural group and their agroecosystems. These knowledge systems contribute to maintaining environmental and culturally sensitive food systems and have been considered very relevant for agroecological transitions, or the processes of scaling-up and -out agroecology. However, TAeK’s erosion and enclosure threatens its use and reproduction, which in turn might affect TAeK’s potential contribution to agroecological transitions. Here, we explore how transforming TAeK, and particularly TAeK on landraces, into a digital commons can contribute to its maintenance and protection, and thus to agroecological transitions. We do so by analyzing the CONECT-e platform, an initiative for digitally storing and sharing TAeK in a participatory way. One year after being launched, CONECT-e has documented 452 geographically distinct landraces from 81 different species. The information shared in this platform is well-structured, clear, and reliable; it thus allows for the replication of the knowledge reported. Moreover, because CONECT-e makes the documented information freely available and protects it with a copyleft license, placing information in this platform could help one face landrace misappropriation issues. CONECT-e, or similar initiatives, could contribute to agroecological transitions via maintaining TAeK under the digital commons framework, making it accessible to all society and avoiding enclosure processes. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Translating Agroecology into Policy: The Case of France and the United Kingdom
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2930; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082930
Received: 25 May 2018 / Revised: 3 August 2018 / Accepted: 10 August 2018 / Published: 17 August 2018
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Abstract
The popularity of agroecology has grown over the last few years as an alternative paradigm for food systems. This public attention has meant agroecology is increasingly becoming institutionalised and integrated into food policy frameworks. While there is a significant body of literature discussing
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The popularity of agroecology has grown over the last few years as an alternative paradigm for food systems. This public attention has meant agroecology is increasingly becoming institutionalised and integrated into food policy frameworks. While there is a significant body of literature discussing the origins and worldviews intrinsic to agroecology, hardly any academic publications focusing on analysing policies claiming to have an agroecological focus exist. This first policy study of its kind contributes to the scarce agroecological policy literature by interrogating what we argue is a ‘translation’ process, which starts with the vision of agroecology and analyses how the concept changes once it has been operationalised into a policy document or law. Evidence from two European agricultural policy contexts, namely France and the United Kingdom, is presented. The methodology followed focused on the analysis of the context, problem construction, conceptualisation of agroecology, operational principles, and policy instruments included in the policy documents. Three main themes emerged from the case studies: differences in framing agroecology in the public policy arena; common dependencies to existing configurations influencing translations of agroecology in public policies; and the need for democratic discussion on the hybridisation of agroecology itself, as well as on implied, but often veiled, political choices. This paper concludes that a selective and relational hybridisation of agroecology is emerging during its ‘translation’ into public policies. Full article
Open AccessArticle Energy Assessment of Pastoral Dairy Goat Husbandry from an Agroecological Economics Perspective. A Case Study in Andalusia (Spain)
Sustainability 2018, 10(8), 2838; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10082838
Received: 21 June 2018 / Revised: 27 July 2018 / Accepted: 5 August 2018 / Published: 9 August 2018
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Abstract
This paper presents a methodological proposal of new energy sustainability indicators according to a novel accounting that follows agroecological and ecological economics criteria. Energy output is reformulated to include manure and thus consider the contribution to fertilization made by pastoral livestock farming to
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This paper presents a methodological proposal of new energy sustainability indicators according to a novel accounting that follows agroecological and ecological economics criteria. Energy output is reformulated to include manure and thus consider the contribution to fertilization made by pastoral livestock farming to agroecosystems. Energy inputs calculations include the grazing resources. These new definitions and calculations allow for new formulations of the energy return on investment (EROI) as measures of the energy efficiency of livestock farming systems (final EROI and food/feed EROI). The environmental benefit of manure is estimated from the avoided energy cost of using this alternative to inorganic fertilizers (AECM). The environmental benefit of grazing is measured through the energy cost of avoiding cultivated animal feed (AECP) and its impact in terms of non-utilized agricultural area (ALCP). The comparative analysis of different livestock breeding systems in three pastoral dairy goat farms in the Sierra de Cádiz in Andalusia, southern Spain, reveals the analytical potential of the new energy sustainability indicators proposed, as well as the potential environmental benefits derived from territorial-based stockbreeding and, more specifically, grazing activities. Those benefits include gains in energy efficiency, a reduction of the dependence on non-renewable energy, and environmental costs avoided in terms of energy in extensive pastoral systems. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Holistic Management and Adaptive Grazing: A Trainers’ View
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 1848; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10061848
Received: 22 March 2018 / Revised: 25 April 2018 / Accepted: 31 May 2018 / Published: 2 June 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1724 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Holistic Management (HM) is a grazing practice that typically uses high-intensity rotation of animals through many paddocks, continually adapted through planning and monitoring. Despite widespread disagreement about the environmental and production benefits of HM, researchers from both sides of that debate seem to
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Holistic Management (HM) is a grazing practice that typically uses high-intensity rotation of animals through many paddocks, continually adapted through planning and monitoring. Despite widespread disagreement about the environmental and production benefits of HM, researchers from both sides of that debate seem to agree that its emphasis on goal-setting, complexity, adaptivity and strategic decision-making are valuable. These ideas are shared by systems thinking, which has long been foundational in agroecology and recognized as a valuable tool for dealing with agricultural complexity. The transmission of such skills is thus important to understand. Here, twenty-five Canadian and American adaptive grazing trainers were interviewed to learn more about how they teach such systems thinking, and how they reflect upon their trainees as learners and potential adopters. Every trainer considered decision-making to be a major component of their lessons. That training was described as tackling both the “paradigm” level—changing the way participants see the world, themselves or their farm—and the “concept/skill” level. Paradigm shifts were perceived as the biggest challenge for participants. Trainers had difficulty estimating adoption rates because there was little consensus on what constituted an HM-practitioner: to what level must one adopt the practices? We conclude that: (1) trainers’ emphasis on paradigms and decision-making confirms that HM is systems thinking in practice; (2) the planning and decision-making components of HM are distinct from the grazing methods; and (3) HM is a fluid and heterogeneous concept that is difficult to define and evaluate. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Absent Agroecology Aid: On UK Agricultural Development Assistance Since 2010
Sustainability 2018, 10(2), 505; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10020505
Received: 29 December 2017 / Revised: 1 February 2018 / Accepted: 9 February 2018 / Published: 13 February 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (575 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Using figures published by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), this study finds that despite overwhelming evidence in favour of agroecology as a mode of agricultural development able to address crucial aspects of the interrelated crises facing human societies, UK development aid
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Using figures published by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), this study finds that despite overwhelming evidence in favour of agroecology as a mode of agricultural development able to address crucial aspects of the interrelated crises facing human societies, UK development aid barely supports agroecology. Based on the most generous interpretation, this study shows for the first time that aid for agroecological projects is less than 5% of agricultural aid and less than 0.5% of total UK aid budget since 2010. Since 1 January 2010, no funds at all have been directed at or been committed to projects with the main focus on development or promotion of agroecological practices. Minor funds have been directed at projects which include some activities promoting agroecology at the most basic level of resource efficiency (e.g., conservation agriculture). By largely supporting industrial and Green Revolution agriculture, UK Aid priorities contribute very little to the transition towards social-ecological sustainability in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview Exploring the Connections between Agroecological Practices and Ecosystem Services: A Systematic Literature Review
Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4339; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124339
Received: 26 September 2018 / Revised: 19 November 2018 / Accepted: 21 November 2018 / Published: 22 November 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (3899 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Current patterns of global change are threatening the supply of agrarian ecosystem services on which human well-being depends. Within this context, agroecology has emerged within political and scientific arenas as a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture. We performed a
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Current patterns of global change are threatening the supply of agrarian ecosystem services on which human well-being depends. Within this context, agroecology has emerged within political and scientific arenas as a socially equitable and ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture. We performed a systematic literature review to explore how agroecology and the ecosystem services framework have been adopted together in the scientific literature, focusing on studies including empirical data on the effects of agroecological practices on the supply of ecosystem services. In our search, we combined terms related to agricultural practices and terms related to ecosystem services. A total of 179 scientific articles were analyzed. Most of the studies used a biophysical approach to evaluate ecosystem services, with regulating and provisioning services being more frequently analyzed than cultural services. More than half of the analyzed relationships between agroecological practices and ecosystem services were positive. Remarkably, our review showed that many of the ten elements of agroecology defined by the FAO have not been properly addressed in the literature. Finally, we identified research gaps and provided insights on where future research and policies should be focused in order to promote the transition towards sustainable agrarian social-ecological systems that increase the supply of ecosystem services while minimizing environmental impacts. Full article
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Open AccessReview Agroecology in Canada: Towards an Integration of Agroecological Practice, Movement, and Science
Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3299; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093299
Received: 6 July 2018 / Revised: 30 August 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 15 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (393 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This article surveys the current state of agroecology in Canada, giving particular attention to agroecological practices, the related social movements, and the achievements of agroecological science. In each of these realms, we find that agroecology emerges as a response to the various social
[...] Read more.
This article surveys the current state of agroecology in Canada, giving particular attention to agroecological practices, the related social movements, and the achievements of agroecological science. In each of these realms, we find that agroecology emerges as a response to the various social and ecological problems associated with the prevailing industrial model of agricultural production that has long been promoted in the country under settler colonialism. Although the prevalence and prominence of agroecology is growing in Canada, its presence is still small and the support for its development is limited. We provide recommendations to achieve a more meaningful integration of agroecology in Canadian food policy and practice. Full article
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