An Iterative Approach for Knowledge Production in the Agricultural Systems and Insights for IS Development

An Iterative Approach for Knowledge Production in the Agricultural Systems and Insights for IS Development

Rosanna Salvia, Giovanni Quaranta
DOI: 10.4018/IJAEIS.2018100104
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There is motivation in many rural areas and communities to resolve the issues slowing achievement of a sustainable future, and to embrace the concept of the circular economy for agro-food systems. Increased consumption of resources is not an option and therefore best use must be made of capital, incorporating the “reduce, re-use, recycle” mantra. Research projects addressing sustainable land use can help to accomplish this aim, and the studies have demonstrated that stakeholders may be helped to understand and act on new knowledge especially if they are involved in more than one project. This is because they gain confidence to evaluate research ideas in the light of their own experience. In the Basilicata region of southern Italy there has been a succession of research projects since the 1990s to study the processes of land degradation and appropriate technologies to combat the risk of desertification. Most recently, the attitudes and perceptions of groups of cereal farmers included in both the DESIRE and REACT projects, or the REACT project alone, were compared using a Questionnaire, and the results highlighted the success of the iterative approach. This is an important finding, and can encourage understanding and action to overcome constraints and support the circular economy in agro-food systems.
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Recent studies highlight an increasing number of interconnected challenges faced by agro-food systems (Foresight, 2011; McIntyre et al., 2009; Rockström et al., 2009; SCAR, 2011; Thompson et al., 2007; UNCTAD, 2013). The challenges include environmental issues such as raised greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture contributing significantly to climate change. The unsustainable exploitation of non-renewable resources (such as phosphorous) is also of increasing concern. Agricultural soils, known to be great reservoirs for carbon and other key resources, are showing signs that industrial agricultural practices are having a detrimental effect: compaction negatively impacts soil structure; depletion of nutrients and soil organic matter decreases fertility and erosion by wind and water degrade arable lands. Furthermore, excessive nutrient runoff and leaching from agriculture has a detrimental effect on the aquatic environment. The UNCCD (2016) recognise the importance of halting negative effects and promote the idea of land degradation neutrality, where the aims are to: maintain or improve ecosystem services; maintain or improve productivity, in order to enhance food security; increase resilience of the land and populations dependent on the land; seek synergies with other environmental objectives; and reinforce responsible governance of land tenure. Changes in policy decisions affecting the rural economy are likely to affect a diverse range of ecosystem services (Reed et al., 2013a), and in this context it is gradually becoming clearer how multiple ecosystem services can be evaluated and compared. Ferrarini et al. (2017) provide an example of networks of plant-based bioenergy buffers in a rural landscape that help to conserve resources such as soil, water and organic carbon. They cite measurements of biomass and energy in relation to transport costs etc. but similar calculations could be made with regard to agro-food production. Challenges in the agro-food system related to social aspects are also frequently highlighted in recent literature, with issues related to unequal access to food and exploitation of farm and food workers a particular cause for concern. Moreover, the negative economic effects caused by both hunger and obesity are increasingly coming to the attention of decision makers.

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