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Special Issue "Sustainable Rural Futures"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (28 February 2022) | Viewed by 8044

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editor

Dr. John McDonagh
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Geography, Archaeology & Irish Studies, National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), H91 TK33 Galway, Ireland
Interests: agriculture; small-scale farming; succession; multifunctional countryside

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The rural landscape, facing its most transformative period in our history, is key to any meaningful discussion on sustainability. In particular, the rural landscape is frequently positioned in terms of its role in the future of food production and food security, addressing issues of energy security and being part of the efforts confronting climate change. When it comes to thinking about the rural landscape, and particularly agriculture, a fundamental principle is the necessity to plan ahead. In our contemporary world, this fundamental principal is perhaps more significant now than ever. Our ability to adapt, to strategize, to overcome unexpected obstacles, and to build sustainable and resilient systems is a challenge and necessity we must fully embrace. The rural landscape, however, faces an array of challenges, such as an ageing farming population, limited land mobility, disillusionment among young farmers in terms of future livelihood sustainability, and the steady decline of the farm family. In this Special Issue, these key concerns and others, which will undoubtedly mould our rural futures, will be explored. We therefore invite contributors that can offer critique, insight, and analysis on these areas of interest. The scope of the submissions should draw from (but is not limited to) the following areas:

  • Succession and intergenerational family farm transfer;
  • Young farmers and new entrants to farming;
  • Small-scale farming;
  • The family farm;
  • Land mobility;
  • Building rural resilience;
  • Agriculture and innovative practices.

Dr. John McDonagh
Guest Editor

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. 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 2000 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

  • sustainability
  • rural futures
  • succession
  • inheritance
  • farm transfer
  • young farmer
  • new entrants
  • land mobility
  • rural resilience
  • family farm
  • small-scale farming
  • innovative practices

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Rural Futures and the Future of the Rural
Sustainability 2022, 14(11), 6381; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14116381 - 24 May 2022
Viewed by 379
Abstract
To talk of rural and the future in the same sentence was described by Shucksmith [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)

Research

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Article
Designation, Incentivisation and Farmer Participation—Exploring Options for Sustainable Rural Landscapes
Sustainability 2022, 14(9), 5569; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14095569 - 05 May 2022
Viewed by 362
Abstract
This paper explores how policies, management practices and farmer participation can help shape resilient and sustainable rural environments. The key elements of the paper draw together policy initiatives on land designation for conservation, action-based and results-based agri-environment programmes, and locally led and inclusive [...] Read more.
This paper explores how policies, management practices and farmer participation can help shape resilient and sustainable rural environments. The key elements of the paper draw together policy initiatives on land designation for conservation, action-based and results-based agri-environment programmes, and locally led and inclusive partnership models. In doing this, the paper explores ways to address environmental decline, while also allowing farmers to farm and for management practices to be developed that farmers can readily endorse. The paper draws from empirical evidence gathered from two case studies in West Ireland. These studies include in-depth interviews, consultations with key stakeholders and an exploration of policy and other documentation associated with the management of rural landscapes. What emerges from the discussion and the field evidence is that, while there can be discontent, even disillusionment with some practices, there are models of great promise evolving. In particular, the research identifies the importance of enabling a space in which a farmer’s knowledge and expertise have due prominence and where they are afforded recognised input in the schemes being developed and promoted. The conclusion of the paper suggests that, while impacts vary, it is clear that combining forces from top-down and bottom-up, allied to locally led decision-making input, provides the Special Areas of Conservation combination whereby landscapes can be both farmed and protected. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
Article
Expanding Perspectives on the Poverty Trap for Smallholder Farmers in Tanzania: The Role of Rural Input Supply Chains
Sustainability 2022, 14(9), 4971; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14094971 - 21 Apr 2022
Viewed by 475
Abstract
Smallholder farmers across rural landscapes remain trapped in a vicious cycle of endemic poverty where interconnected challenges limit their ability to improve their livelihoods. Our study of smallholder farmers’ relationships with suppliers and several stakeholders across the Tanzanian rural agro-input supply chain offers [...] Read more.
Smallholder farmers across rural landscapes remain trapped in a vicious cycle of endemic poverty where interconnected challenges limit their ability to improve their livelihoods. Our study of smallholder farmers’ relationships with suppliers and several stakeholders across the Tanzanian rural agro-input supply chain offers an extended perspective on the persistence of endemic poverty and broadens the discussion on the future of sustainable food production and smallholder livelihoods. Through interviews and focus groups, we use a grounded theory methodology to develop a systemic approach to understanding the complexities of this landscape as related to smallholder agro-input sourcing activities. Our causal loop diagram framework provides a unique perspective on the poverty trap experienced by smallholder farmers in this context. Our findings may be useful in targeting practical and sustainable directions towards overcoming the poverty trap, ultimately enabling smallholders to increase wealth and improve their livelihoods through sustainable practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
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Article
Moravian–Slovak Borderland: Possibilities for Rural Development
Sustainability 2022, 14(6), 3381; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063381 - 14 Mar 2022
Viewed by 435
Abstract
This article analyzes the question of how the change of geopolitical position in the rural region of Eastern Moravia, which was shifted from the center of the state on its border, is reflected. The paper shows how the originally marginal region transformed from [...] Read more.
This article analyzes the question of how the change of geopolitical position in the rural region of Eastern Moravia, which was shifted from the center of the state on its border, is reflected. The paper shows how the originally marginal region transformed from an area with shepherd agriculture to an industrial area with a skilled workforce during the existence of Czechoslovakia and questions how to cope with the consequences of the reverse change into a marginal geopolitical position on the eastern border of Czechia. The paper considers the balance of migration, supplemented by the construction of new dwellings, to be a relatively complex indicator. It states that the region of Eastern Moravia is problematic in terms of further development, except for the northern part, which is affected by the suburbanization of Ostrava. As a result, it proposes to supplement the current orientation toward the manufacturing industry by creating conditions for the development of cultural tourism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
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Article
Sustainability and Agricultural Regeneration in Hungarian Agriculture
Sustainability 2022, 14(2), 969; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14020969 - 15 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 560
Abstract
Generational renewal is a core issue in European agriculture. Despite the continuous efforts of governments and the EU Council, the ageing of farmers seems an unstoppable process, accompanied by land concentration, the decrease in agricultural activity and the transformation of the European countryside. [...] Read more.
Generational renewal is a core issue in European agriculture. Despite the continuous efforts of governments and the EU Council, the ageing of farmers seems an unstoppable process, accompanied by land concentration, the decrease in agricultural activity and the transformation of the European countryside. Consequently, there is a very rich scientific literature analysing the problem; a great part of it argues that the young farmer problem consists, in fact, in a number of different problems, with these problems showing huge regional differences. Hungary, as a new member state, with a heterogeneous (both fragmented and concentrated) land-use structure offers a good field to analyse generational renewal. Our paper is based on the first results of an ongoing Horizon 2020 project analysing rural regeneration. As a part of the research study, 48 semi-structured interviews were conducted with young farmers, successors of farmers and new entrants into farming. In our paper, we explore how education, access to land and family traditions influenced generational renewal and how it impacts sustainability practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
Communication
The Future of Rurality: Place Attachment among Young Inhabitants of Two Rural Communities of Mediterranean Central Chile
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 546; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010546 - 05 Jan 2022
Viewed by 687
Abstract
Rural livelihoods are under threat, not only from climate change and soil erosion but also because young people in rural areas are increasingly moving to urbanized areas, seeking employment and education opportunities. In the Valparaiso region of Chile, megadrought, soil degradation, and industrialization [...] Read more.
Rural livelihoods are under threat, not only from climate change and soil erosion but also because young people in rural areas are increasingly moving to urbanized areas, seeking employment and education opportunities. In the Valparaiso region of Chile, megadrought, soil degradation, and industrialization are driving young people to leave agricultural and livestock activities. In this study, our main objective was to identify the factors influencing young people living in two rural agricultural communities (Valle Hermoso and La Vega). We conducted 90 online surveys of young people aged 13–24 to evaluate their interest in living in the countryside (ILC). We assessed the effect of community satisfaction, connectedness to nature, and social valuation of rural livelihoods on the ILC. The results show that young people were more likely to stay living in the countryside when they felt satisfied and safe in their community, felt a connection with nature, and were surrounded by people who enjoyed the countryside. These results highlight the relevance of promoting place attachment and the feeling of belonging within the rural community. Chilean rural management and local policies need to focus on rural youth and highlight the opportunities that the countryside provides for them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
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Article
Irish Organics, Innovation and Farm Collaboration: A Pathway to Farm Viability and Generational Renewal
Sustainability 2022, 14(1), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14010093 - 22 Dec 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1493
Abstract
The family farm has been the pillar of rural society for decades, stabilising rural economies and strengthening social and cultural traditions. Nonetheless, family farm numbers across Europe are declining as farmers endeavour to overcome issues of climate change, viability, farm structural change and [...] Read more.
The family farm has been the pillar of rural society for decades, stabilising rural economies and strengthening social and cultural traditions. Nonetheless, family farm numbers across Europe are declining as farmers endeavour to overcome issues of climate change, viability, farm structural change and intergenerational farm succession. Issues around farm viability and a lack of innovative agricultural practices play a key role in succession decisions, preventing older farmers from passing on the farm, and younger farmers from taking up the mantel. A multifunctional farming environment, however, increasingly encourages family farms to embrace diversity and look towards innovative and sustainable practices. Across the European Union, organic farming has always been a strong diversification option, and although, historically, its progress was limited within an Irish context, its popularity is growing. To examine the impact of organic farm diversification on issues facing the Irish farm family, this paper draws on a qualitative case study with a group of Irish organic farmers engaged in the Maximising Organic Production System (MOPS) EIP-AGRI Project. The case study was constructed using a phased approach where each stage shaped the next. This started with a desk-based analysis, then moving on to semi-structured interviews and a focus group, which were then consolidated with a final feedback session. Data gathering occurred in mid to late 2020. Research results reveal the uptake of innovative practices not only improve farm viability, but also encourage the next generation of young farmers to commit to the family farm and consider farming long-term. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
Article
Understanding Complex Relationships between Human Well-Being and Land Use Change in Mozambique Using a Multi-Scale Participatory Scenario Planning Process
Sustainability 2021, 13(23), 13030; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132313030 - 25 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 920
Abstract
The path for bringing millions of people out of poverty in Africa is likely to coincide with important changes in land use and land cover (LULC). Envisioning the different possible pathways for agricultural, economic and social development, and their implications for changes in [...] Read more.
The path for bringing millions of people out of poverty in Africa is likely to coincide with important changes in land use and land cover (LULC). Envisioning the different possible pathways for agricultural, economic and social development, and their implications for changes in LULC, ecosystem services and society well-being, will improve policy-making. This paper presents a case that uses a multi-scale participatory scenario planning method to facilitate the understanding of the complex interactions between LULC change and the wellbeing of the rural population and their possible future evolution in Mozambique up to 2035. Key drivers of change were identified: the empowerment of civil society, the effective application of legislation and changes in rural technologies (e.g., information and communications technologies and renewable energy sources). Three scenarios were constructed: one characterized by the government promoting large investments; a second scenario characterized by the increase in local community power and public policies to promote small and medium enterprises; and a third, intermediate scenario. All three scenarios highlight qualitative large LULC changes, either driven by large companies or by small and medium scale farmers. The scenarios have different impact in wellbeing and equity, the first one implying a higher rural to urban area migration. The results also show that the effective application of the law can produce different results, from assuring large international investments to assuring the improvement of social services like education, health care and extension services. Successful application of these policies, both for biodiversity and ecosystem services protection, and for the social services needed to improve the well-being of the Mozambican rural population, will have to overcome significant barriers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
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Article
Sustainable Family Farming Futures: Exploring the Challenges of Family Farm Decision Making through an Emotional Lens of ‘Belonging’
Sustainability 2021, 13(21), 12271; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132112271 - 06 Nov 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 721
Abstract
This paper illustrates the importance of moving beyond an economic focus, and towards an emotional one, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of why farmers can be reluctant to retire and/or pass their farm onto the next generation. We report on a two-phase [...] Read more.
This paper illustrates the importance of moving beyond an economic focus, and towards an emotional one, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of why farmers can be reluctant to retire and/or pass their farm onto the next generation. We report on a two-phase qualitative study of family farm decision-making processes in Northern Ireland, drawing on 62 in-depth oral life history interviews with farmers, farmers’ spouses, and farm successors. In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the emotional aspects of retirement and succession decision-making processes, and their relationship with place belonging, in the first phase of this research we employed an innovative ‘Work and Talk’ method, whereby interviews were conducted while shadowing, or in some cases, co-working, with farmers on their land. The second phase of this research responded to restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, and involved remote telephone or online interviews with family farm members. This research revealed the complex relationships between a ‘longing for belonging’ and emotional attachment to the family farm, and the challenges associated with patrilineal farming structures, expectations and identities, in planning for succession. The emotional impacts of strained relationships with policy makers around support for retirement emerged as a surprisingly dominant theme throughout the interview process, suggesting the need for greater emphasis on the emotional aspects of farming retirement and succession planning to inform future rural development policies targeted towards the sustainability of family farms. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)

Other

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Commentary
‘Farmers Don’t Retire’: Re-Evaluating How We Engage with and Understand the ‘Older’ Farmer’s Perspective
Sustainability 2022, 14(5), 2533; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052533 - 22 Feb 2022
Viewed by 1072
Abstract
Globally, policy aimed at stimulating generational renewal in agriculture is reported to pay meagre regard to the mental health and wellbeing of an older farmer, overlooking their identity and social circles, which are inextricably intertwined with their occupation and farm. This paper, in [...] Read more.
Globally, policy aimed at stimulating generational renewal in agriculture is reported to pay meagre regard to the mental health and wellbeing of an older farmer, overlooking their identity and social circles, which are inextricably intertwined with their occupation and farm. This paper, in probing this contentious issue, casts its net across what could be deemed as disparate literatures, namely connected to transferring the family farm and social gerontology, in order to determine what steps could be taken to reassure older farmers that their sense of purpose and legitimate social connectedness within the farming community will not be jeopardised upon handing over the farm business to the next generation. A number of practical ‘farmer-sensitive’ actions that can be taken at both policy and societal level are subsequently set forth in this paper to help ease the fear and anxiety associated with ‘stepping aside’ and retirement from farming amongst older farmers. A particular focus is placed on social and emotional wellbeing benefits of being a member of a social group reflecting farmer-relevant values and aspirations in later life. The potential of the multi-actor EIP-AGRI initiative and the long-established livestock mart sector in facilitating the successful rollout of a social organisation designed to fit the specific needs and interests of the older generation of the farming community is then outlined. In performing this, the paper begins a broad international conversation on the potential of transforming farming into an age-friendly sector of society, in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) age-friendly environments concept. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Rural Futures)
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