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Small farms, small food businesses and sustainable food security

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SALSA (Small farms, small food businesses and sustainable food security)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-07-31

The overall goal of SALSA "Small Farms, Small Food Businesses and Sustainable Food Security" is to develop a better understanding of the current and potential contribution of small farms to Food and Nutrition Security (FNS). SALSA does this by assessing the role of Small Farms and Small Food Businesses in the regional food systems, being food system outcomes determinant to FNS.
Small-scale farming is crucial for producing food and for sustaining the livelihoods of millions of people around the world, particularly in developing countries. But small farms are also very common across Europe, and here too they play an important role in providing quality food, income, and opportunities for people in rural areas. And yet small farms—and the small businesses often associated to them—are very often under the radar of research and the big discussions about agricultural policy in the European Union.
This project brings European small-scale farming to the agenda of academia and policy-making. The theory of rural development has tended to see peasant farming as a relic of the past, inexorably giving way to industrial farming and urbanization. Historical processes in industrialised nations seemed to vindicate this view. In rich countries, small-scale family farming has, for the most part, been replaced by large-scale farming, which benefits from economies of scale and increases in productivity and efficiency. Large-scale farming is also intimately linked with the modern supply chain, organised around supermarkets, which today feed most of the population in Europe. As a result of this tendency, small-scale farming has been marginalised from agricultural policy, both at the EU and at country level. This has resulted in important consequences for small farms to access finance and other means of support, and more generally to engage with key policy debates about their future.
However, in many parts of Europe, small farms are neither anomalous nor irrelevant. Across regions from the Scottish Highlands to the Greek Islands, small farms are a dynamic part of the food system, providing employment, opportunities and food for thousands of people, and in fact, they are holding together the fabric of rural landscapes. Through SALSA we shed light and bring together the latest evidence and insights about European small-scale farming from a cross-geographical, multi-disciplinary perspective.
SALSA provides evidence and knowledge to support better informed and targeted public policies, as well as validated tools to guide decision-makers in enhancing the contribution of small farms and food businesses to sustainable food systems at the regional level. SALSA partners have studied 30 regions in Europe and Africa, using the most recent remote sensing data and technologies, combined with social sciences enquiry, participatory foresight analysis and transdisciplinary approaches, leading to food systems mapping and assessment and their comparative analysis.
(1) Research-related progress and impacts
SALSA goes beyond previous research as it connects its analysis of food availability, i.e. increasing the production of food, with an analysis of food access, especially for low-income groups, and the related question of the resilience of food systems. The 30 regions reflect the diversity of small farms and food systems in Europe and Africa.
(2) Practice-related progress and impacts
The SALSA team has developed and is piloting an approach that helps to overcome the limitations of official statistics on small farms and regional food systems. The set of maps of small-scale farming in Europe that has been produced is cutting-edge. The empirical work implemented in SALSA is highlighting the co-evolution between small farms and their particular contexts. The SALSA team also engages with relevant stakeholders and decision-makers to facilitate a dialogue that cuts across classical boundaries in research, policy and practice which finds its expression in numerous dissemination and engagement activities. However, it is too early to discuss the socio-economic impact and wider societal implications of the project.
(3) Policy-related progress and impacts
The in-depth understanding of the role of small farms in FNS in different regional situations is supporting decision-making in both the private and public sectors. The insights that we are obtaining from SALSA help to better tailor international cooperation and future research collaboration. Contributions to policy-making and related to the identification of new development models for the agro-food sector will mainly be forthcoming in subsequent work.
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