Agriculture in Mediterranean Europe: Between Old and New Paradigms: Volume 19


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

This introductory chapter evidences the need to push again to the fore research undertaken in Southern European countries, highlighting its Mediterranean features and how they relate to old and new theoretical and political debates. Consequently, in this first chapter we describe the main aim of the book as well as how the subsequent chapters contribute to fulfill this quest outlining the structure of the book.

This chapter aims to analyse the evolution of competing paradigms and theoretical frameworks that have pervaded the debates on the present and future of agricultural and food systems and their associated rural areas. From this global overview, we will extract common features of paradigms that are being reproduced over time as well as highlight the innovations introduced. Particular attention will be paid to discuss the responses and contributions inspired by European Mediterranean-based research, setting up the framework that underlines the subsequent chapters of the volume.

This chapter presents an overview of the ‘big’ data of Mediterranean agriculture, with a special focus on the four EU countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece), in order to provide a backdrop for the rest of cases analysed in the volume. In this regard, two thesis are discussed: the assumption that farming systems in the South have not followed the process of ‘productivist modernisation’ characterising post-war Northern European agricultural change, and that, precisely due to this reason, most holdings and regions from the South would have more possibilities to adapt to new approaches of multifunctional rural development.Thus, the chapter tackles both the static and dynamic structural traits of Southern agricultures and their differences with the North, as well as several aspects of the organisation of farming in the Mediterranean and other key components of productivist modernisation: farm intensification and specialisation. Later, the diffusion of multifunctional dynamics is addressed, in order to introduce some reflections about their meaning and scope in the Mediterranean regions. The chapter ends with a straightforward typology of Southern farming systems and a concluding section, which goes back to discuss the two initial theses.

The Portuguese montado is a particular land use system, characterized by the combination, in the same area, of the forestry and the grazing components interrelating with each other, in large-scale farm units. Mostly, this system is acknowledged due to its specific landscape character, in a savanna-like phisionomy, with changing densities along a continuous tree cover of holm and cork oaks and grazing in the under cover. The montado is a production system, and its extensive character and particular pattern makes it possible to support a multitude of ecosystem goods and services nowadays valued by society. Nevertheless the system is threatened and the resulting landscape is under strong reduction in the last decades. This paper shows the dimension of the ongoing reduction, for the whole region of Alentejo, since 1960 and up to now. And furthermore, based on a survey to land managers of montado in a Natura 2000 site, it shows how the land management options for the most are still focusing on production and productivist ideals, even when keeping a multifunctional system. These orientations do not result in a radical replacement of the system, and therefore the illusion is kept that the multifunctionality is mantained – but progressively the system loses its balance and the tree cover decays in such a way that the montado disappears. This unique landscape is thus under severe threat. The paper ends with a discussion on the urgent need for integrated policy goals and tools for the montado as a system, and for much more colaboration with the land managers in order to strength the multifunctionalty relevance and support a novel attitude replacing the productivist concept of farming, misleading in the context of this system.

The objective of this chapter is to provide an approach to the farmland abandonment problem in Galicia, the Spain’s north-western region. We describe the land use pattern that characterized the traditional agricultural system, and analyze the process of structural adjustment and changes in land use recorded in the last 50 years. The empirical basis is provided mainly by an original elaboration of agricultural census data for the period 1982–2009. The results show that in the last five decades the area devoted to crops and pastures was constrained to a small portion of the territory (just over 20%), while the agro-livestock uses of hill land which were very important up to the mid-twentieth century disappeared. All this led to a remarkable expansion of abandoned land, which currently occupies at least 20% of the regional area. The drivers of this farmland abandonment are diverse and vary from one zone to another. But among them the conditioners derived from the structure of land ownership must be emphasized, coupled with the poor functioning of the land market and leasing. Land abandonment has had a major impact on the dynamics of the agricultural sector, limiting the size of farms and causing an increasing intensification in a small portion of the territory. This has also led to severe environmental problems, especially forest fires. Consequently, improving mobility and land use should be a priority of agricultural and rural development policies in this region.

The purpose of this chapter is to shed light on some outstanding patterns of change observed in Spanish agriculture over the last decades, and to discuss the ways in which the productivist rationale is reproduced in them. We start by providing an overall picture of the structural transformations of agriculture revealed by the national statistics, calling attention to the increasing importance of a “hard core” of farms progressing under a rationale of growth and modernization. Later, drawing on the literature, we comment some meaningful trajectories of farm change observed in three selected Mediterranean farming systems, namely horticulture (as an example of a long-consolidated intensive agriculture), vine growing (an orientation which has undergone stunning changes in Spain in recent times), and small ruminant production (an extensive farming system with a high conservation value). The three farming systems are advancing, to a greater or a lesser degree, along intensification, concentration, and specialization pathways. However, the introduction of new elements in the most expansionary farm strategies (such as the participation in quality schemes) will provide interesting elements of discussion of the adaptable nature of productivism and its capacity to accommodate to external opportunities and constrains.

Which is the main characteristic of the French Mediterranean Agriculture (FMA)? The recognition of the multifunctionality of agriculture, supported by the institutions of the territorial development? Or the development of social dumping considered as a necessity by many institutions of the sector? To answer this question the analysis is based on three main sources of data: agricultural statistics, monographs and administrative reports. The results show that the structural diversity is still important in the FMA. A significant proportion of the farms have based their economic strategy on making the most of the multifunctionality of agriculture. Some have built real success stories. But this development path cannot guarantee the viability of a large range of holdings: the number of farm holdings in FMA has decreased by 27% since 2000 and 57% since 1988. Due to the specificities of the Mediterranean productions, the cost of labour is still considered as a major adjustment variable to secure farm income in the region. Many situations are reported where the situation of casual labour is concerning, in particular for migrant workers. However, the working conditions of temporary migrant workers remain invisible and the image of the multifunctional agriculture is put forward as a marketing asset by all types of actors. This image is misleading. It makes invisible, issues that are essential for the future. Thus, it generates knowledge gaps and leads to the depoliticization of debates on the development models of agriculture in masking the contradictions and the conflicts of interest that they generate.

This chapter highlights some features of the current structure of Italian agriculture by focusing on the regional patterns of agrarian change. These patterns are followed mainly by comparing the data of the 5th and 6th Census of Agriculture and the data of holdings registered to the Chambers of Commerce. The analysis confirms the Northern-Southern dichotomy of Italian agriculture as the physical and economic dimensions of Northern regions’ holdings are appreciably higher than those in the South. Other traits of farms, not usually included in most traditional analyses, help explain that Northern-Southern dichotomy: the farmers’ educational level and the ICT availability on farms. The agriculture of Southern regions has been affected less by the structural adjustment and has maintained some traits of more ‘traditional’ farming. However, important innovations, such as organic farming and direct selling to ‘consumers in house’, have been adopted more readily by Southern farms. The marked regional duality of Italian agriculture corresponds to the several ways in which farmers and their activities interconnect with territorial development models that have shown a deep regional differentiation.

The persistence of different farm types in Italian agriculture shows that productivism is not the only possible development path that farms can follow, and that farms can successfully adopt strategies based on diversification rather than standardization of production.The aim of this work is to provide evidence about the diffusion of different diversification and differentiation strategies in Italian agriculture, and to compare the characteristics associated with the targeted groups of farms, as well as their structural and economic evolution over time.The analysis is performed on a panel of data built on the basis of information collected by the Italian FADN over the 2003–2009 period. For the purpose of the analysis we divided the population of Italian commercial farms into a fivefold innovative farm typology based on the extent of diversification and differentiation strategies adopted by farms.The findings show that conventional farms are still by far the largest category within the population of Italian commercial farms, while only 13% of total commercial farms is classified as differentiated and/or diversified. Conventional farms are also the best off in terms of economic results. As for the differentiated and/or diversified farms, their structures are still changing, their profitability is improving and they follow a more sustained income growth path than conventional ones.The analysis highlights that diversification and differentiation are not necessarily a viable solution to the low-income problem faced by many farms. Future research is needed to better understand the relationship between diversification strategies and policies.

During the past two decades Croatia has faced numerous challenges: gaining independence, war conflicts, political and economic transition and the process of European Union (EU) accession. Despite rich and diversified landscapes and cultural heritage, it is still faced with problems limiting the economic development. So the purpose of this chapter is to point out the pragmatic reasons of Croatian delay in the process of adjustment to European business and agricultural policy standards.Based on statistic and literature analysis, the study determines specific characteristics of Croatian regions, rural areas, rural population and agriculture. Agriculture after independence shows increase in utilized area, but the production is still below pre-war level and results with unsteady and modest value. Harmonization with Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) standards is slow; big steps have been made in establishing new institutions in agriculture and preparing adequate legislative framework, so there are no significant formal differences between Croatian and European agricultural policy. However, European agricultural policy models cause problems. There is a daily debate about a low degree of self-sufficiency of the domestic production, low competitiveness and uncontrolled import of farm products. Farmers still often expect for the government to organize the production and guarantee the purchase prices as were in former, socialistic system.Due to these reasons, a fear was expressed by farmers that they could not be able to meet the strict criteria for the European financing. Despite this, a large part of farmers see the possibilities for their existence in rural areas, mostly through development of non-agricultural activities.

A series of changes have taken place over the past 20 years that have transformed the face of rural Greece. At the heart of these changes have been the rural farm household and the European agricultural and rural development policies.The processes of de-agriculturalization and rural restructuring in the early 1990s have been accompanied by ‘rurbanization’ and socio-economic integration of rural populations. These interrelated processes have internally transformed the rural areas, thus forming a ‘new rurality’ characterized by contraction of agriculture, expansion of tourism and construction, increased pluriactivity, increased employment of international migrant labour and the reorganization of farm family labour and operation. However, in the environment of economic crisis, the conditions of the ‘new rurality’ have been affected by falling incomes, contraction of public services and by a ‘back to the land’ movement. This ‘reverse mobility’ has the elements of both modernity and tradition: engagement with new methods of organization and work and rediscovery of traditional crops, products and cultures.The chapter will discuss the characteristics and dynamics of the changing physiognomy of rural Greece in the past 20 years focusing upon three paths: the de-agriculturalization of the countryside, the perplexity of rural mobilities and rural resilience during the economic crisis. The chapter moves from a theoretical analysis of these paths to a detailed account of secondary sources on the transformation of agriculture and the countryside in Greece before it discusses the implications of the crisis upon the population movements and the ‘rediscovery’ of the economic, social and cultural values of rurality.

This concluding chapter presents a transversal reading of some key elements of Mediterranean agriculture and its pathways of transformation, in part under the lens of main theoretical paradigms, where, as the first section discuss, it has had a peripheral character. In this regard, the chapter tackles the impure nature (where allegedly productivist and non-productivist dynamics coalesce) of some agricultural pathways, at both the farm and the territorial levels. As it is discussed later, this relates to the role played by policies and the way Mediterranean decision-makers mediate EU regulations. Subsequently, three interwoven dimensions of the recent evolution of Mediterranean agriculture are analysed: the dynamics of family farming and the role played by family networks, the position of migrants in the evolution of agriculture and some hypothesis and clues about the implications of the current economic crisis for Southern farming systems. In the two last sections, the chapter ends discussing the theoretical and policy challenges posed by Mediterranean small-scale farming systems.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Rural Sociology and Development
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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