New EU project on small farms and how they contribute to sustainable food and nutrition security

Centre for Rural Research (CRR) is participating in a new EU project on how small farms contribute to sustainable food and nutrition security. The project members recently partook in a kick-off in Èvora, Portugal.

Nyhetsbilde Foto: CRR

This is an ambitious project, which aims to determine the contribution of small scale agricultural systems to the total food security situation. The study of such questions requires a broad empirical basis. The project has selected 30 reference regions in Europe and Africa within different food systems. CRR will study the role of Norwegian small scale farms.

- We are very much looking forward to working with such a competent team where we will further develop this field of knowledge along with such accomplished researchers. We’re excited to work closely with users both globally and nationally. We are happy that the Development Fund and the Norwegian Farmers and Smallholders Union have joined the project, says senior researcher Hilde Bjørkhaug.

The project coordinator is Teresa Pinto-Correia, of Èvora University, Portugal.

Top score

One of the goals of Horizon 2020 is developing solutions to large societal challenges, and this project is part of this work. The SALSA project won in sharp contest with other consortium. The project received a 15 out of 15 possible points in the evaluation. Both scientific quality, ability to deliver and societal impact were considered.  

The project has a solid scientific foundation and works close with organizations that specialize in knowledge building and implementation. Most of the 17 partners who will implement the studies are from Southern and Eastern Europe, but there are also partners from Norway, Scotland, Tunisia, Kenya, Ghana and Cape Verde.

Why Norway?

- Norway has maintained a relatively scattered, small scale user structure and independent farmers. This has an impact on both the food systems, the eco systems and sociocultural aspects in rural areas. Norway is well equipped to maintain its level of small scale farming in a very diverse farming and food system. The Norwegian agricultural model has a high level of legitimacy and acceptance among most people, Bjørkhaug says.

The farms, systems and framework conditions

Areas in Europe where small scale systems are in use are included in the project. The distinct circumstances of the different countries are of course of significance.

- We wish to emphasize the position of the small farms when it comes to nutrition and demand in the regions where these small farms are situated. Are they adapted to the needs of the market? Hopefully this project will help improve the ability to compete and the efficiency of small scale farms, and further aid in cultivating the unique qualities of both the products and the processes.

The analysis in the various regions of Europe and Africa will build a foundation for better and increased cooperation in research and development in the agriculture and food sector. Small farms are often overlooked in traditional agricultural research, Bjørkhaug says. By highlighting their contributions, collaborations, variety, potential and challenges, the project will provide a better understanding of small farmers' role in food and nutrition security.

- This is part of the sector that may not have been seen as equally interesting in the research. The opportunities in the different regions are huge, she says.

Knowledge gained from the project will be part of a base for more effective and targeted subsidies. In particular, the project will highlight where in the agricultural system one best utilizes the various structures of agricultural production in different regions.

Useful to industry - user-oriented

The project is in close contact with users and stakeholders, and is especially relevant to actors within policy and management. The aim is to create an arena for common experiences and knowledge building with small-scale farmers and their organizations. A high number of relevant organizations are actively involved in the consortium, including FAO, the UN's agriculture organization.

CRR has a long standing research tradition within this field. One recent example is the AGRISPACE project, funded by the Research Council of Norway, that looks at regional characteristics and potentials with the varied user structure and nature in Norway. Thus, SALSA is both of relevance for ongoing work at CRR and will also benefit from it.

Barter economy - hypermodern traditionalism

One of the areas to be studied in the project is new development models within the food supply chain. The systems for processing and distribution can either increase or decrease the distance between the consumer and food production. How can small farms contribute to re-establishing an understanding of food production among consumers? How to re-connect? The project will also examine the existence of and the opportunities within barter economy and other informal markets.

- What one previously may have thought of as old-fashioned or under-developed is now gaining popularity. There is a growing interest in barter economy among modern consumer groups. Alternative markets may perhaps transform traditional agriculture to something ultra-modern, says Bjørkhaug.

To meet the Horizon2020 strategy on equality, women's contribution in particular to small-scale production will be highlighted.

- Various civil society initiatives and new relationships between the urban and the rural can thus become a counterweight to what many regard as unbalanced power relations between consumers, small farms, the processing and the major food chains.

 

Methodically ambitious

 

In addition to statistics, document studies and interviews, the project will conduct methodological pioneering work by including satellite data in the analyzes. Here, scientists will combine spatial analysis with qualitative, participatory and consultative methods. Using available data on agricultural structures, land use and satellite images, the aim is to provide reliable estimates of access to food, diversity and changes created by a small scale farm structure.

 

 

The SALSA project (Small Farms, Small Food Businesses and Sustainable Food Security) won the Horizon 2020s announcement SFS-18-2015 'Small farms but global markets: the role of small and family farms in food and nutrition security'. Startup is the second quarter of 2016.

Hilde Bjørkhaug

Dr.polit. (Sociology)

Mobil: +47 971 80 178

E-mail: hilde.bjorkhaug@rural.no

 

 

What is Horizon 2020?

- The European Union programme for research funding

- The world's largest research and innovation programme, with 80 billion Euros distributed over the course of seven years.

- The goal is to strengthen innovation and value added in Europe

- Runs from 2014 to 2020

- Norway contributes significantly to its funding. Norway’s overall contribution to Horizon 2020 is expected to total close to NOK 16 billion over a period which may extend to 2025. 

- Norwegian research communities can participate along with European Union member states