On 8–10 March 2016, UNU-IAS held an international workshop on “Identifying Models for Fostering Biocultural Diversity in Landscapes through Alternative Food Networks”, which looked at alternative food networks as a way to restore and develop biocultural diversity, landscape sustainability and the linkages between rural and urban areas.
Traditional production landscapes, which for centuries have provided a wide range of benefits to human well-being, are under the threat of wide-spread socioeconomic changes. Land use change, land abandonment and urbanization are among the main factors eroding the traditional function of these landscapes. International experts, academics and local government stakeholders participating in the workshop looked at ways in which the concept of alternative food networks may be applied to enhance landscape sustainability.
Alternative food networks ― such as organic farming, direct selling, local quality labeling initiatives, geographical indications, hobby farming, urban agriculture and non-market food sharing ― can be understood as newly emerging networks of food producers, consumers and other actors who are outside of conventional, industrial agriculture and trade circuits.
The workshop discussed the potential of so-called “place-based food networks”, which recognize the added value of products originating from traditional landscapes, as a way of sustaining local biocultural diversity. Participants looked at case studies from around the world and brainstormed models and solutions that can be applied in this process. They also exchanged ideas on potential new joint research projects. Outcomes of this workshop will be summarized in a scientific paper later this year.
The workshop was held as a part of cooperation between the “Building Local Governance through Synergy and Tradeoff Analysis of Ecosystem Services” (ES-Tradeoff) project, the Satoyama Initiative and the EU-FP7 “Sustainable Future for Europe’s Heritage in Cultural Landscapes” (HERCULES) Project.