The Italian Embassy in South Africa in collaboration with the South African Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and the Italian Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of  the Agricultural Economy (CREA) will be hosting a workshop on the social and economic drivers of sustainable local economic development. The workshop aims to analyze and discuss approaches to local development that foster sustainable growth of local food systems in environmental, social and economic terms. Climate change, biodiversity reduction, land grabbing, increasing food insecurity and income inequality are complex challenges that need innovative interventions in agricultural systems not only from a technical and agronomic point of view, but also from a social perspective. Conventional agricultural systems are not adequate to deal with the serious problems that trouble several local populations, mainly in rural areas, but also in urban area. It is important to promote a transformative change in the way we produce and consume food and develop sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and eco-system services that are resistant to climate change, bringing together traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge. A new agricultural and economic paradigm, based on circularity, types of enterprise involving farmers (i.e. types of cooperatives), short chains, diversification of farm activities (including first processing, direct sales, services) and human and social capital, vulnerable people inclusion, is needed.

In South Africa and Italy, different public and private actors are working on value chain inclusion, rural development and food and nutritional security, as evidenced by the initiatives carried out in recent years and by the presence of numerous organizations, farms and public bodies interested in the social benefits of agriculture.

The meeting will be organized in different sessions with the aim to delve into organizational, economic, social aspects of this new approach to food production, through the presentation of empirical case studies and experiences from Italy and South Africa by bringing together researchers, community development practitioners, policy makers and other relevant stakeholder groups. The meeting is also expected to present a platform for research and practitioners to identify opportunities for collaboration both in practice and in terms of future research.

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