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Facilitating Alternative Agro-Food Networks (AAFNs): Stakeholder Perspectives on Research Needs

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In support of local food systems

Strengthening alternative agro-food networks (AAFNs) could bring many benefits for society, from improving sustainable food distribution to fostering a joint community spirit.

Climate Change and Environment

Local food systems (LFS), a more contemporary take on the food chain concept, offer a more sustainable alternative to conventional food supply systems and bring with them numerous benefits. The EU-funded project 'Facilitating alternative agro-food networks (AAFNs): Stakeholder perspectives on research needs' (FAAN) investigated policies and factors that shape agro-food systems, particularly LFS. It conducted cooperative research on LFS involving five national teams from France, Hungary, Austria, Poland and the United Kingdom. The project outlined the societal benefits of LFS, local economic development and social cooperation, advantages that go far beyond simple food distribution. National and EU-level policies have both helped and hindered the progress of LFS, a reality that the project was keen to investigate. It therefore examined case studies that revealed the various strategies used in different contexts to exploit favourable policies and deal with unfavourable ones. FAAN produced recommendations on how policies could strengthen LFS in the future, such as facilitating establishment of cooperative networks, enhancing knowledge exchange, improving funding and easing legal regulations. The project also looked at how to design and assess European-level 'cooperative research' that involves different actors, underlining the importance of mutual understanding as a basis for integrated production of knowledge. To strengthen the prospect of a solid LFS movement in Europe, the project published a booklet for people who are already involved in LFS. The publication was also designed to address the needs of government agencies, policymakers and stakeholders who want to integrate LFS in their communities or countries. Ultimately, improved recognition of LFS and the value it brings to society will enable citizens and governments to address agro-food systems in a much more holistic and sustainable way.

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