5f. Agriculture and Sustainability

Track chairs:

Raymond Auerbach. Nelson Mandela University, South Africa. Raymond.Auerbach@nmmu.ac.za

Catherine Macombe. INRAE, University of Montpellier, France. catherine.macombe@irstea.fr

Goals and objectives of the track:

Agricultural production has reached a point where radical transformation is necessary to serve the needs of humanity.  The industrial model of production and processing produces apparently cheap food, which increasingly costs the environment and the healthcare system dearly.  The sustainability of Agriculture itself is essential for maintaining sustainable societies. Agricultural production is also fundamental to the sustenance of life and is the bedrock of rural economic and industrial development, especially in the provision of adequate and nutritious food so vital for human development and raw material for industries. In most developing economies, agriculture accounts for a substantial proportion of foreign exchange earnings and employs much of the active labour force. Similarly, agricultural production (food crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry) promotes rural incomes which in turn enhance rural welfare especially in developing and emerging economies. The developed countries on the other hand are faced with challenges of intensive agriculture, unemployment and environmental concerns.

The goal of this track is to highlight the main trends in agriculture happening either as a result or parallel to the environmental and social crisis. It is of the utmost interest to describe and to explain how agriculture is transforming itself to cope with (among others) climatic and social constraints. Moreover, it is important to know how the new trends experienced in the rest of the society (e.g. digitisation) are impacting the sustainability of agriculture. The focus of the track also includes the question of implementation of more sustainable models in agriculture, whatever the social, legal, technical, etc. scope. In this world of complex systems, paradigm shifts have led to several regime shifts in agriculture and food systems.

Accordingly, we invite submissions from various disciplines, regarding emerging and developed countries as well, and concerning different scales: plot, farm, region, country, etc.

- What are the main trends in agriculture? How to divide trends into sustainable paths, and how can past unsustainable tendencies be transformed?

- What are the weak signals that indicate the "underground" or more visible trends agriculture is experiencing?

- How are the new trends in society affecting the sustainability of agriculture?

- What are the new business models emerging in agriculture?

- What are the paths from here towards a sustainable agriculture (at regional, national or World level)? What are the main levers and the challenges? What about practical experiences?

- What are the impacts on society of the changes experienced or wished in agriculture when it evolves towards sustainability?  

We invite contributions which review the actions and ambitions of stakeholders in disrupting existing unsustainable systems of food growing and provisioning, and endeavouring to secure more just and sustainable practices of production, access and supply.

There is also much to be gained by further investigating, comparing, and where relevant contrasting, the shared practices, spaces, knowledges and cultural conceptions of sustainable agriculture across the northern and southern hemispheres, as well as rural and urban settings. Related theoretical, conceptual and empirical concerns arise with regard to understanding the significance and potential of grassroots and alternative food movements in bringing about transformations capable of benefiting even the most vulnerable of societal groups; can we identify possibilities for new (more sustainable and socially innovative) types of production and consumption relations? How can we fit these empirical expressions into broader concepts of societal transition, adaptation and justice at both a local and global scale?



Raymond Auerbach has worked on agro-ecology for fifty years. He farmed organically in Australia and South Africa for twenty years, trained organic farmers for fifteen years and now works in organic research, organic food systems and food security. He is a professor of soil science and plant production at Nelson Mandela University and he and his wife Christina work on sustainable food production, mindfulness education and renewable energy in South Africa.

Catherine Macombe is agronomist, and has worked in the agricultural field for forty years, especially in meat production. She trained future agricultural advisors in the Central Massif (France) for ten years. She is a researcher at INRAE (National Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, in France), Dr. in Management science, and specialised in the creation of methods to take into account social impacts of changes in the agro-food sector, in the spirit of life-cycle thinking.