Food production potential of periurban agriculture : contribution of periurban farms to local food systems

Abstract : Periurban agriculture (PA) is becoming a central topic in research, involving debates from different disciplines. Agriculture performed in periurban areas is conceived as a tool to have territorial development and to give farmers a chance to maintain their activity. In Italy, analysis on PA have been especially done for metropolitan areas, while few studies have assessed PA under the influence of medium-sized cities, which are the most affected by the recent urbanization. While the debate has started in valorizing the PA’s multifunctionality, the recent claims on food security have arisen reflections on its potential contribution in feeding urban consumers, even in developed countries. The connection between PA and local food system (LFS) has been mobilized by several organizations and researchers, highlighting the environmental, economical and social benefits of such “proximal” production. Nevertheless several authors have claimed for in-depth analysis about the effective participation of farmers in LFS. Moreover, few studies have been focused on the practices put in place at territorial level by periurban farmers, in order to assess how productive strategies are integrated with farmers’ local commercial strategies. For this reason an agronomic analysis at territorial level is required. The overall purpose of this research is to develop a methodology for the assessment of the food production provided by PA and how it is integrated to LFS. To do so, the research answers to three questions: What current food production is performed by PA? How do farmers produce for the LFS? Under which conditions PA can produce for the LFS? The analysis is based on the interaction of two approaches: the farming system and the food system approaches. The case study is the PA around the city of Pisa, a medium-sized city located in Tuscany (Italy). The periurban area’s border consists of six municipalities, characterized by a recent urban sprawl and representative of Mediterranean coastal farming systems evolution. The analysis is based on interviews to farmers and the local buyers of their productions. The analysis shows that PA is composed by an heterogeneous composition of farms in terms of intensity, quantity, and quality of food production. There’s a high degree of heterogeneity of intensity’s production which is linked to heterogeneity of commercial choices between local and global food chains. This choice seems to be characterized mainly by indicators on farm management and land use, more than indicators on social characters of farmer, as age or formation. Considering the quantity of food production, the difference among potential, effective and real food capacity outlines the difference in estimates based on statistical and territorial analysis; it also quantifies the lack between what is effectively produced and what is really available for the LFS. This lack reflects different farmers’ strategies in participating in alternative and local food chains; especially most of the farmers coordinate hybrid strategies between alternative/local and conventional/global food chains. The network analysis highlights that even in LFS, farmers hybrid different typologies of local food networks. The parallel analysis of other LFS’ actors (processors and final sellers) demonstrates the difficulty in approaching a PA involved in such hybrid commercial strategies. If local buyers principally asserts that not all the production produced in periurban area is available for LFS, farmers reply that the capacity of producing for LFS is affected by several constraints mainly linked to regulation and commercial networks. Periurban farmers are thus adapting to the new opportunities of the geographical proximity to urban area, but an effort in coordinate such individual initiatives is needed. This coordination should integrate the territorial dimension that affects periurban food production, in order to better address issues on territorial development of such areas.
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Rosalia Filippini. Food production potential of periurban agriculture : contribution of periurban farms to local food systems. Agricultural sciences. AgroParisTech; Scuola superiore Sant'Anna di studi universitari e di perfezionamento (Pise, Italie), 2015. English. ⟨NNT : 2015AGPT0049⟩. ⟨tel-01285728⟩

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