IFSA 2020 Conference

Keynote Speakers
HELENA FREITAS (PT) - Agriculture and territorial cohesion in Portugal: an ecological and political perspective

Helena Freitas received her PhD in Ecology from the University of Coimbra, in collaboration with the University of Bielefeld, Germany, in 1993, and did postdoctoral studies at Stanford University, USA, between 1994 and 1996. She is Full Professor of Biodiversity and Ecology at the Department of Life Sciences of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Coimbra since 2003, and holds the UNESCO Chair in Biodiversity and Conservation for Sustainable Development since 2014.

Helena Freitas joined the General Council of the University of Coimbra (2009-2011), was Director of the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra from 2004 to 2012, having prepared and coordinated her requalification program, President of the League for the Protection of Nature (1999 -2002), founder and President of the Portuguese Society of Ecology (2004-2013) and Vice-President of the European Society of Ecology (2009-2012). She is currently Coordinator of the Center for Functional Ecology – science for people and the planet, Scientific Coordinator of FitoLab – Phytosanitary Laboratory of the Pedro Nunes Institute, and is part of the Scientific Council of the Department of Life Sciences of the University of Coimbra. The scientific areas of specialty are related to: Ecology; Mediterranean Ecosystems; Forest and Agriculture; Ecology and Management of exotic and invasive species; Conservation of Nature, Biodiversity; Physiology of the tree; Diversity of Plants and Fungi; Tolerance to Stress and Bioremediation; Environmental policy; Bioenergy; Conservation of Nature; Microbial ecology; Ecology and Society.

Agriculture and territorial cohesion in Portugal: an ecological and political perspective

The Portuguese agro-food sector faces a number of threats, including climate change, globalization of goods and services and land use changes related to the abandonment of primary activities among the most worrying. Climate change scenarios for Portugal point to progressively more unfavourable conditions for agriculture, resulting from the reduction of precipitation and temperature increase, the worsening of the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the increased susceptibility to desertification and the favourable conditions for harmful biotic agents, evidencing the need to foster the resilience of territories through measures to adapt to changing conditions.

Agriculture will continue to be very diverse, highly dependent on what access to land may be but desirably thought of a land-use logic (agro-ecological zoning) that anticipates the effects of climate change. It is also essential to take into account the specificity of the territories, providing public support to farms, and devoting resources to the development of the territory where family farming prevails, recognizing the reality of the productive structure of these regions, in particular the environmental and social importance of multi-income agriculture.

The paradigm shift requires other policies, favouring territorial action, encompassing all explorations, and in harmony between these and the other sectors of activity. Only at this scale is it possible to make the necessary investments in applied research, with the support of the scientific and technological system, by providing the technology, innovation and knowledge necessary for the transformation and sustainability of family farming. The natural and progressive qualification of family farming will eventually drive other equally relevant areas, in particular the design of innovative cooperatives, the establishment of appropriate producer organizations, and proximity markets. Placing family farming at the centre of the sector’s public policies is a fundamental strategic movement for the cohesion and sustainability of the territory, for the wellbeing of the Portuguese, for the preservation of the environment and for the safeguarding of biodiversity.


JULES PRETTY (UK) - Redesign for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture

Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, formerly Deputy Vice-Chancellor (2010-19). His sole-authored books include The East Country (2017), The Edge of Extinction (2014), This Luminous Coast (2011, 2014), The Earth Only Endures (2007), Agri-Culture (2002) and Regenerating Agriculture (1995). He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Arts, former Deputy-Chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, and has served on advisory committees for BBSRC and the Royal Society. He was presenter of the 1999 BBC Radio 4 series Ploughing Eden, a contributor and writer for the 2001 BBC TV Correspondent programme The Magic Bean, and a panellist in 2007 for Radio 4’s The Moral Maze.

Jules received a 1997 award from the Indian Ecological Society, was appointed A D White Professor-at-Large by Cornell University from 2001, and is Chief and Founding Editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. He received an OBE in 2006 for services to sustainable agriculture, an honorary degree from Ohio State University in 2009, and the British Science Association Presidential Medal (Agriculture and Food) in 2015. This Luminous Coast was winner of New Angle Prize for Literature in 2013, and The East Country was winner of the East Anglian book of the year in 2018.

Redesign for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture

Previous agricultural revolutions brought considerable harm to environments, and often also to people’s health. It did not seem possible, at the time, to conceive of a productive agriculture that did not trade off valuable services from the environment. It has now been shown that the sustainable intensification (SI) of agricultural systems offers synergistic opportunities for the co-production of positive agricultural and natural capital outcomes. A new model of change has been developed, suggesting that that Efficiency and Substitution can be helpful steps towards SI, but the need now is for system Redesign. This is essential to deliver optimum outcomes as ecological and economic conditions change. The expansion of SI has begun to occur at scale across a wide range of agroecosystems. The benefits of both scientific and farmer input into technologies and practices that combine crops and animals with appropriate agro-ecological and agronomic management are increasingly evident. But it will not be easy. Much food today is wasted, lost to pests post-harvest, people in affluent parts of the world are eating too much. SI may be approaching a tipping point where it could be transformative to landscapes and whole agroecosystems. This, though, will need supportive national and international policies.

CLARA NICHOLLS (US) - Agroecology and the design of climate change resilient farming systems

Clara I. Nicholls is a Colombian agronomist with a Master in Entomology from the Colegio de Posgraduados, Chapingo, México and a Ph.D. in Entomology and Biological Control of Insect Pests from the University of California Davis. She is a Permanent Lecturer on Sustainable Rural Development in Latin America at the University of California, Berkeley.

She also teaches at Santa Clara University, and various universities in Colombia, Brazil, Nicaragua, Argentina, Spain and Italy. Currently she serves as co- director of CELIA (Latin American research center of Agroecology, she is an honorary president of SOCLA (Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology) and is the Regional Coordinator of REDAGRES, a network of Latin American researchers exploring ways to evaluate and enhance resiliency of farming systems to climate change.

Her research has centered on enhancing plant biodiversity of farms to provide habitat and foster natural enemies of insect pests in a range of farming systems. She is also working on methodologies to evaluate the resilience of farms to climate change and based on such assessments in designing agroecological interventions to enhance the adaptability of farming systems to climatic extremes.

She is the author of 4 books (among them Biodiversity and pest management in agrecosystems) and of more than 50 scientific journal papers.

Agroecology and the design of climate change resilient farming systems

Undoubtedly, climate and weather induced instability will affect levels of and access to food supply, altering social and economic stability and regional competiveness. Adaptation is considered a key factor that will shape the future severity of climate change impacts on food production. Many peasants in Latin America use agroecological strategies that reduce vulnerabilities to climate variability including crop diversification (polycultures, agroeforestry systems, etc.), maintaining local genetic diversity, animal integration, soil organic management, water conservation and harvesting, etc. Understanding the agroecological features that underlie the resilience of traditional agroecosystems is an urgent matter, as they can serve as the foundation for the design of adapted agricultural systems. Observations of agricultural performance after extreme climatic events (hurricanes and droughts) in the last two decades have revealed that resiliency to climate disasters is closely linked to farms with increased levels of biodiversity. Field surveys and results reported in the literature suggest that agroecosystems are more resilient when inserted in a complex landscape matrix, featuring adapted local germplasm deployed in diversified cropping systems managed with organic matter rich soils and water conservation-harvesting techniques. The identification of systems that have withstood climatic events recently or in the past and understanding the agroecological features of such systems that allowed them to resist and/or recover from extreme events is of increased urgency, as the derived resiliency principles and practices that underlie successful farms can be disseminated to thousands of farmers via Campesino a Campesino networks to scale up agroecological practices that enhance the resiliency of agroecosystems. The effective diffusion of agroecological technologies will largely determine how well and how fast farmers adapt to climate change.

SERGIO SCHNEIDER (BR) - The contribution of family farming to foster sustainable food systems

Sergio Schneider is Full Professor of Sociology of Rural Development and Food Studies at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he teaches and research at the Graduate Program of Sociology (PPGS) and Rural Development (PGDR).

Since 2003 Sergio Schneider has a research scholarship from CNPq (National Council for Science and Technology from Brazil) for high scientific productivity in social science research.

Sergio Schneider has a degree in Social Sciences (1990), and Master (1994) and PhD (1999) in Sociology. He was PhD visiting academic at LADYSS, Université Paris-X, Paris/France, with Hugues Lamarche (1997-1998). He also was Fellow and Academic Visitor Scholar at CPLAN, Cardiff University/Wales/UK (2007-2008), with Terry Marsden and Visiting Professor at Centre for Food Policy (CFP), City London Univesity, UK (2015-2016), with Tim Lang.

Since 1995, he works at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Department of Sociology, where he teaches courses on rural sociology, development sociology and sociology of food at Graduate Master and PhD level. His main research topics are food issues, rural development, food security, rural non-agricultural activities, family farming, territorial development and rural and food policies.

Sergio Schneider is currently deputy President of IRSA (International Rural Sociology Association) and was president of SOBER (2011-2013), the Brazilian Society of Economics, Sociology and Rural Administration and Vice President of ALASRU (2014-2018), the Latin American Association of Rural Sociology. He acts as a reviewer of scientific journals in Brazil and abroad. He is a consultant to national and international organizations on rural development, agriculture and food (FAO, WHO, IFAD, IICA, WHO, CIRAD, European Union).

The contribution of family farming to foster sustainable food systems

The presentation will address the challenges and perspectives of the family farming in a globalized world in which the food production and consumption has become a system dominated by global value chains upstreams and a small handful of supermarkets downstream. Family farming might be the best way to develop a sustainable agriculture committed with the SDGs and the nutrition transition, in line with a agriculture sensitive to nutrition approach and the new demands from the urban people. The key argument I would like to address is that family farming has great potentialities to develop sustainable food systems, which is an emerging concept that can be critical in the context of the  Decade of Family Farming, just launch by FAO.

IKA DARNHOFER (AT) - Challenges for Farming Systems Research: learning from experience and looking ahead

Ika Darnhofer is associate professor at the Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Economics at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna. After completing her studies in agricultural economics she spent a few years in the private sector before returning to academia in 2000. Her research focuses on management and decision making on family farms. Over the years her work moved from economic modelling towards qualitative approaches in rural sociology. Her focus is on resilience of farms, i.e. how they manage to persist over the long-term by adapting and transforming their perceptions of opportunities, their use of resources, and their activities. The focus on resilience is strengthened by the recognition that we live in turbulent times. Family farms thus need a high level of adaptive capacity to cope with rapid and often unpredictable change as well as with the ambiguity and contradictions in consumer’s demands and social expectations. She is a member of the editorial board of the ‚Journal of Rural Studies‘, of ‘Agricultural Systems’ and of ‚Agriculture and Human Values‘. She has been deeply involved in the IFSA since 2008: as a member of the executive committee, organising the IFSA Symposium in Vienna in 2010, maintaining the IFSA website, and co-editing the book ‘Farming systems Research into the 21st century: The new dynamic’. 


Challenges for Farming Systems Research: learning from experience and looking ahead

Farming Systems Research has always strived to integrate both natural and social sciences, taking into account agricultural production methods and farmer’s views. This integration is rarely easy, but crucial. As the current discussion on climate change or the unsustainable use of natural resources shows: it is easier to study and present the scientific facts about agro-ecosystems, than to motivate people to adapt their practices. Yet, to face the impacts of climate change and to manage our resources sustainably, we will need to change our practices, both in research and in society at large. In the closing plenary I will build on the presentations and discussions held at the IFSA 2020, reflecting on the progress we have made over the past decade or so, and identify some issues that would merit more attention within farming systems research.