Agro-ecological Knowledge Hub



Case study dilemma and research questions

How to reduce the fragility of agro-ecological farms while maintaining the social, economic and environmental sustainability?
This is the dilemma that farmers of the case study wanted to address in UNISECO. In this case farmers are already in a farming system redesign and are already at an agro-ecological stage. However those farms consider themselves as “fragile”. Agro-ecological projects arise from a bottom-up approach with little institutional support, market difficulties and with great personal effort. Any unforeseen economic, social or environmental change may cause a project to fall. Due to this fragility, the proportion of conventional farmers who consider implementing changes towards agro-ecological transition is rather low. Therefore reducing the fragility of agro-ecological farmers is crucial to encourage the transition pathway.

Key characteristics and sustainability issues of the farming system

This case study gathers a holistic view of agro-ecological farming systems, and is inspired on the farms that are part of the EHKO association, which is present in the areas of the Basque Country and Navarra. There are about 100-150 farmers close to the association, agro-ecological farms being often islands in an important radius of kilometres. These farms include a wide range of production types, but all of them share the objectives of promoting agro-ecology, being organic systems, with diversification of crops and additional environmental practices, commercialization at local level with short marketing channels, solidarity economy, and being locally based and small sized rural farms. The association of EHKO emerged as a need to share experiences in a farmer to farmer approach and to a wider public in the field of agro-ecology, as an answer to the lack of implication and lack of promotion of this type of farming model from the institutional side and the agribusiness. The association is currently creating a movement around agro-ecology at several levels in different administrative regions of the north of Spain and south of France.
The case study provides an example of farmers working with all pillars of sustainability at the same time (e.g. linking their production and processing to consumers and carrying out collective approaches for common issues’ resolution).
The case study area comprises a large number of conventional farms and, from the approximately 100-150 agro-ecological farms that are closely related to EHKO in different production types, the farm assessment within UNISECO will focus on the group of farms with cereal production.

Key actors involved

  • Farmers and Agri-food value chain: agro-ecological farmers; local value chain companies of organic products; end user companies of organic products (local caterers, groceries and others); farmers unions of the regions of the Basque Country and Navarra.
  • Consumers: local consumer associations of organic products.
  • Authorities and administration: governments of the regions of the Basque Country and Navarra (NUTS 2); public companies involved in the sector of agriculture; city councils of the regions of the Basque Country and Navarra (LAU 2).
  • Science, innovation, advisory, capacity building: certification bodies for organic agriculture; private consultants and advisory companies in the agro-ecological sector; education centres (schools and universities) with agricultural training.
  • NGOs, civic society organisations, local community representatives: regional cross-border association of agro-ecological farmers and citizens (EHKO); environmental and food related NGOs.

Agro-ecological practices and sustainability trade-offs

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Key barriers of implementation agro-ecological practices

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Key actions (or Strategies) to overcome barriers

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Key lessons learnt

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