RSG Contested Approaches to Land-use


Paul Swagemakers
Department of Applied Economics, University of Vigo, Vigo, Spain.


The fragmentation of landscapes, decline of farm land birds in numbers and diversity, the obsolescence of autochthonous cow breeds, and decrease of soil fertility and soil organic matter call for adjustments in land-use and farm practices that support a reconnection of nature and society: models that promote sustainable agriculture, generate appropriate knowledge and innovation and empower family farms to change and adapt to new societal and environmental needs. This entails a gradual but continuous process of adaptation, as well as structural changes in the character of society. Thereby the state sponsorship of economic and social programmes and projects is increasingly replaced by partnerships involving governmental and non-governmental organisations and other civic actors. In this context, the Research and Study Group aims to capture the emerging complex array of institutions and issues in terms of multi-level governance.


This Research and Study Group aims to enhance a sustainability shift of food and forestry systems through the analysis of the conditions that strengthen the participation, collaboration and collective action of people engaging in places. Therefore its members identify, interpret and analyse grassroots initiatives deepening the transformation of the broader system and study the interrelations of these dynamics with (regional) policy frameworks. The objective of exchanging approaches that enhance a sustainability shift of food provisioning and related ecosystem services implies bringing together researchers, students, farmers and civil society groups in order to strengthen the institutional support for innovative grassroots organisations in food and forestry production, rural development and new rural urban relations.

Activities for 2016

This Research and Study Group (RSG) applies an iterative and interactive process to feed its research agenda. Members will participate in and to contribute to regular ESRS events (the bi-annual congress, summer schools) and activities and events organised by others (by means of organising a working group, a local event, or giving a presentation or acting as a discussant in such events). This includes contribution of members to the XIV World Congress of Rural Sociology ‘Sustainable and Just Rural Transitions: Connections and Complexities’ in Toronto but also the participation of RSG members in small, scientifically coordinated but stakeholder oriented regional events. Information exchange among its members consists of actively monitoring and reporting on contributions of its members: reporting on engagement of active RSG members with local stakeholders, examining and analysing ‘factors’ that undermine the innovative capacity of stakeholders, where possible assisting them to reduce the related resistance of public administrations and conventional industries.

These activities aim to contribute to the further development of theoretical frameworks and enable a better understanding of participation, collaboration and collective action of  people engaging in places in different governance contexts. Results will be communicated through online platforms: the ESRS website or a LinkedIn group.

In 2016 the agenda is developed among RSG members, and in 2017 and 2018 is further discusses and analysed in future ESRS activities, so as at the ESRS congress in Krakow (2017) and the third conference ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (2018).

Guiding, initial research questions for the discussion, extent of the issues mentioned in the rationale are:

  • What (contested) approaches to land-use the RSG members would like to bring in?
  • What are innovative mediatory structures and mediating instruments that possibly contribute to a sustainability shift of food and forestry systems?
  • How to assess the effectiveness of private and public support for collective action / territorial approaches to biodiversity conservation?