Rural transformation, innovation and sustainable agro-food systems

The global challenge of feeding the growing population, while preserving the natural resource base in the context of climate change, implies the need for profound transformation of agro-food systems. This paper considers the changes in progress in rural areas, their multifaceted relationships with the cities, as well as their implications for system-level innovation in driving sustainable rural transformation

Andrea Sonnino and Milena Stefanova, ENEA

DOI 10.12910/EAI2018-023


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The global challenge of satisfying the growing world food demand and reducing poverty, while preserving the natural resource base of food production and facing the climate change, is of unprecedented dimensions and nature. World agriculture and food systems are in fact called to play the protagonist role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), primarily the SDG 2 “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”, and the objectives of the Paris Agreement. A profound transformation is in other words required to reposition the global food and agriculture systems from being an important driver (and a victim at the same time) of environmental degradation and climate change to becoming a key contributor to the transition to sustainability, increasing at the same time the total food production and improving the rural livelihoods.

This paper offers a contribution to the analysis of the changes in progress in rural areas, their multifaceted relationships with the cities, as well as the challenges and opportunities offered by these changes to small and medium agricultural producers. The pivotal role of innovation in rural transformation is discussed, including not only the technology drivers, but also organizational and social change. Finally, the development of analytical frameworks and indicators for agriculture and food systems, key for orienting the innovation processes in the desired direction, multidimensional benchmarking and programme monitoring, is examined. …