Understanding and improving the sustainability of agro-ecological farming systems in the EU

Why UNISECO?

There is an increased awareness that the challenges of producing enough food and biomass while preserving soil, water and biodiversity cannot be solved only by dominant types of conventional agriculture, and that agro-ecological approaches and eco-functional intensification are fundamental for sustainable food production in the future. However, despite significant effort of national governments and stakeholders, the provision of public goods together with market/private goods is not in balance and frequently not sustainable at farm or farm systems levels. The key dilemma is how to produce public goods whilst having viable production of private goods, securing economic and social sustainability at a farm level, which is not overly dependent on public funds. This dilemma has specific characteristics in different farm systems.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

The ambition and overarching objective of UNISECO is to address the key dilemma and to strengthen the sustainability of EU farming systems, through co-constructing improved and practice-validated strategies and incentives for the UNISECO addresses the work programme topic SFS-29-2017 and contributes to Sustainable Food Security by identifying and supporting farming systems that enable the production of healthy food while preserving the environment and bringing added value to farm households and the different stakeholders of the value chain.

UNISECO will

  • enhance the understanding of socio-economic and policy drivers and barriers for further development and implementation of agro-ecological approaches in EU farming systems to identify and facilitate more effective management strategies for European agriculture. This requires a wider systems perspective, considering socio-economic, ecological and political settings at a territorial level.
  • operationalise a socio-ecological systems framework that integrates external settings into a sustainability assessment of farming systems, paying particular attention to the role of different types of actors and their roles in sub-systems.
  • provide a methodological toolkit to assess the environmental, economic and social impacts of innovative strategies and incentives for agro-ecological approaches in EU farming systems at farm and territorial levels. The methodological toolkit will be tested in participatory case studies in 15 European countries with different biophysical, socioeconomic and socio-cultural contexts of farming systems.

UNISECO is committed to a genuine transdisciplinary process, reflected in consortium composition of stakeholder and scientific partners, and the emphasis on multiactor engagement. Group learning processes, integrating practical and theoretical knowledge, will benefit scientists, stakeholders and end-users through improved understanding on how to strengthen sustainability of EU farming systems.

INTENDED IMPACTS

  • improved methodological capacity to assess the sustainability of agro-ecological approaches
  • enhanced integrated capacity and knowledge sharing to develop viable long term strategies for traditional and small-scale AEFS
  • co-constructed novel and effective market mechanisms and policy instruments for delivering public goods through economically viable AEFS
  • improved knowledge base of agro-ecological farming in the EU for use by policy-makers with at EU, national and regional levels, advisors, farmers, value chain actors and consumers
  • inform the reform process of the CAP after 2020, revisions to environmental policies and policy efforts to support rural job creation