Special Issue "Actor-oriented Research for Food Systems Redesign in Agroecological Perspective"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Agriculture".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Corrado Ciaccia
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA) – Research Centre for Agriculture and Environment, 00184 Rome, Italy
Interests: agroecology; organic farming; food system redesign; ecological weed management; participatory action research
Dr. Fabio Tittarelli
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Research Centre for Agriculture and Environment, Via della Navicella 2-4, 00184 Rome, Italy
Interests: organic greenhouse production; agroecology; cropping system redesign; organic growing media

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Specialized, intensive agriculture, despite generally high productivity, has generated a variety of drawbacks for the environment and public health. These standardization trends reduce farmers’ ability to design tailored farming systems and the consequent optimization of local resource use. Moreover, current patterns of food production, distribution, and consumption are regarded as unable to fairly distribute added-value produce by agricultural activities and as destructive to natural resources and livelihoods in rural areas. If ecological, economic, and social sustainability is to be achieved, there is a need for urgent reform, moving away from the globally standardized approach of the current agriculture, toward a process of redesigning of food systems, driving into an effective change, from the local to the global scale. Due to the strong interdependence between production and consumption, this objective can be achieved by rethinking the role of all the actors of the agricultural sector (from producers to consumers) through transdisciplinary, participatory, and change-oriented research and action (agroecological approach). Actor-oriented, integrative, and participatory approaches of research could, therefore, be fundamental pillars to promote dynamic and properly oriented innovation processes. Organic farming, guaranteeing the respect of its fundamental principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care, represents the right context for actor-oriented research by incorporating agroecology into organic research, as the engine to promote food system sustainability.

In this Special Issue, we will explore specific ways in which actor-oriented research contributes to organic food system redesign toward sustainability. We seek contributions that accomplish this by focusing on the connections between different actors through action-research strategies as far as participatory multi-criteria analysis. We will also consider how consumer awareness strategies may affect the food system redesign, through a shift in consumption choices guided by the respect of the sustainable development of the local and global community.

Dr. Corrado Ciaccia
Dr. Fabio Tittarelli
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 1900 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.


  • Participatory action research (PAR)
  • co-research
  • multi-criteria assessment
  • agroecology
  • food system redesign
  • local food system
  • consumer awareness
  • food citizenship
  • food governance

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
Organic Agroforestry Long-Term Field Experiment Designing Trough Actors’ Knowledge towards Food System Sustainability
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5532; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105532 - 15 May 2021
Viewed by 186
The implementation of agroecology principles within organic farming research is a crux to redesign sustainable agri-food systems. To govern this transition, the local research demand should be addressed by direct engagement of all stakeholders in the research process. The first step is the [...] Read more.
The implementation of agroecology principles within organic farming research is a crux to redesign sustainable agri-food systems. To govern this transition, the local research demand should be addressed by direct engagement of all stakeholders in the research process. The first step is the involvement of farmers and technicians, with the aim of restoring their decision-making role, switching governance to local scale. The co-design/co-management of Long-Term Experiments (LTEs) can be crucial to govern the above-described transition through networking and participatory activities. In this study, we report the experience of co-designing a new LTE in Southern Italy by local actors and scientists. Through a participatory action research methodology, an LTE was considered as a biophysical component of an agroecological living lab, a public–private environment aimed to design a local food system. The setup of parallel field trials in satellite farms stands for the other biophysical component, whereas the stakeholder platform represents the social one. Through definition of common objectives, a step-by-step process is presented, which highlights the interest of local organic actors to share ideas and perspectives for the territory, pointing out the inclusion of end-users (the consumers) in the process to complete the transition to sustainable food systems. Full article
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Planned Papers

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.

Title: The assessment of Participatory Action Research (PAR) as tool to promote future concrete actions in agroecological projects
Authors: Valentina Vaglia, Francesca Orlando, Elena Pagliarino, Stefano Bocchi
Affiliation: 1. Department of Environmental Science and Policy, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via G. Celoria 2, 20133, Milan, [email protected] (V.V.); [email protected] (S.B.) 2. Department of Molecular and Translational Medicine (DMMT), Università degli Studi di Brescia, Viale Europa, 11, 25123 Brescia BS, Italy; [email protected] (F.O.) 3. Italian National Research Council, Research Institute on Sustainable Economic Growth (Cnr-Ircres)
Abstract: The principal actors for promoting agroecological action and perspectives are farmers, scientists, institutions, and associations gathered together for developing collective innovation. In Italy the project named Riso-Biosystems, financed from 2017 to 2019, by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, led the opportunity of assessing the role of participatory research from stackeholder point of view focusing on organic rice production. Data were collected from stakeholders involved in the project (e.g. farmers, scientists) using survey and interviews. The methodology adopted focused on triangulating qualitative and quantitative data in order to evaluate the PAR performance in facilitating the following process: a) sharing knowledge and co-learning on the complexities of organic rice agro-ecosystems and techniques between the project’s participants; b) building an environment of mutual trust and commitment supporting scientists and farmers exchange; c) highlighting the best farming performance supported by scientific data collected thanks to scientists and farmers’ cooperation; d) building a supportive community for enhancing organic rice production on the territory. Through the findings resulting from the analysis of the different stakeholders involved in the project, our investigation explored how the PAR process could offer new insight to facilitates the development of agroecological farmers-oriented projects.

Title: Food Citizenship as an Agroecological Tool for Food System Re-design
Authors: Fabio Tittarelli, Anna Saba, Marta Diperro, Corrado Ciaccia
Affiliation: 1 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia Agraria, Centro di ricerca Agricoltura e Ambiente (CREA-AA), Via della Navicella, 00184 Roma (RM), Italy; [email protected]; [email protected] ; 2 Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia Agraria, Centro di ricerca Alimenti e Nutrizione (CREA-AN), Via Ardeatina 546, 00178 – Roma; [email protected] 3 Italian Association of Organic Farmers – Lazio branch (AIAB-Lazio), Lg Dino Frisullo, snc, 00153 Rome, Italy; [email protected] [email protected] * Correspondence: [email protected]; Tel.: +39-06-7005413
Abstract: Modern agrifood system incorporates all aspects of production, processing, transport, preparation, consumption, and disposal of food and is considered responsible of up to 30% of the total greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Its complete re-design is the crux to reach the ambitious objectives of recently published “Farm to fork” and “Biodiversity” strategies of the European Union. An agroecological approach to food system can be the keystone and a stricter connection between farmers and consumers (food citizenship) moves in this trajectory. A web survey has been carried out in Italy to assess the degree of awareness of consumers on economic, social and environmental implication of food consumption. The questionnaire aimed at: i) assessing consumer perceptions of the sustainability of their food consumption patterns; ii) focusing on organic fruits and vegetables; iii) collecting the usual food expenditure and socio-demographic information. The results showed a country in which consumers patterns are geographically differentiated in terms of purchase and in environmental awareness related to food production systems. A country where the willingness to pay a higher price for organic fruits and vegetables is quite low and socio-economic condition of the interviewed consumers often prevails on any other criteria in consumption behaviour.

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