Small scale farming systems are the backbone of the Mediterranean farming system with an overwhelming contribution to the global food supply. However, many of the rural economies and smallholder farmers communities are struggling to sustain production, as low incomes, unsustainable and inefficient practices, lack of market connections and limited access to information are affecting their livelihood.
Fragmentation of the markets, inefficient farming practices, older age group of farmers, the disconnection between youth and their interest in agriculture are enhancing land abandonment and degradation, output quality and productivity, transparent and efficient access to markets (especially new markets based on e-commerce) and lack of valorisation of waste generated at farming level. Many organisational aspects made to support farmers, that was brought in the 20th Century, did not evolve to meet the current market demands, including the current models of cooperatives and associations that need uplifting. There is a significant need to have proper governance, less corruption, improved market intelligence, the introduction of innovative approaches in sustainable practices, market development, investment and financing. There is also a need of inclusion of the small farmers in the local value chains as a way to increase the competitiveness and access to the markets which can be achieved through education, access to technology, access to finance, policy support and innovation.
An urgent goal is to increase the profitability of smallholders by tackling technical, organisational and social challenges while at the same time being sustainable. The agro-ecosystem and the social system at stake in this type of farming must be considered together, and a strong focus on the social system is required. Proposals should revisit organisational aspects, i.e. new models of organisation of farmers, enabling them to process transformation at the farm level, new value chain governance including short and circular value chain models are to be developed.
Sustainable small-scale processes adapted to weak agricultural systems should be coupled to by-products valorisation according to the EU Circular Economy Action Plan. These models need to consider a triple bottom line approach (economic, social, and environmental); and if possible, be technology-enabled for scaling and efficiency.
Proposals should exploit the multifunctional potential of Mediterranean smallholder farming systems (including livestock production systems) combining sustainable production practices with other sustainable income sources allowing value creation both locally and at the international level (eco-tourism, local products direct selling, landscape fruition, traditional cultural heritage, etc.).
The quality of the local products and their valorisation through small farm processing units (simple transformation and or processing) is to be considered, as well as the possible interconnections among these units.
Within each of the main targets, an integrated and participatory approach involving multiple disciplines and actors concerned (farmers, manufacturers, logistic suppliers, etc.). should be stimulated considering the following logic framework:
A ‐ a detailed diagnosis of the situations; B ‐ an ex‐ante co‐design of innovations; C ‐ an implementation of innovations.
Activities must be implemented in living labs or with value-oriented approach Based on Demo, including a cost‐benefit assessment of the tested innovations addressing the different dimensions of sustainability.
The approach to be proposed should be based on two main targets: i) Profitability, i.e. promote inclusive and sustainable rural development, with a specific focus on poverty eradication, women’s empowerment and youth employment, including equitable and sustainable access to essential local services for rural communities and ii) Resilience and environmental sustainability, i.e. improve the resilience of Mediterranean smallholder farming systems to climate change and the sustainability of concerned agro-ecosystems through ecological approaches. These include increased use of functional biodiversity and especially agrobiodiversity, organic farming and sustainable land and water use management.
• Enable access to markets, i.e. ensure access of local producers to distribution channels and markets, providing the general population with healthy and sustainable products.
• Increase the income of the farmers, also including other possible agricultural-linked income sources and ensure transparency and fair pricing structure along the value chain.
• Promote access to work of young farmers and women.
• Improve sustainable food production systems with efficient use of natural resources and with eco-friendly processes with low GHG emission.
• Reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses and potentially valorising the waste left.
Supporting information for the Section 1 Call for Proposals, Topic 1.2.1
For questions related to this call for proposals, please contact Fabrice Dentressangle at [email protected]
The Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area will devise new R&I approaches to improve water availability and sustainable agriculture production in a region heavily distressed by climate change, urbanisation and population growth
The PRIMA programme is an Art.185 initiative supported and funded under Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.
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