WG13 – Care Farming/Social Farming in more resilient societies
The concept of multifunctional agriculture has new implications in the provision of social services, in rural, peri-urban and urban areas. Social/care farming (SCF) is an innovative approach to nature-based activities and services organised at farm level and is increasingly becoming mainstream. The reorganisation of economic processes on a global scale requires re-orienting of local systems and territories to respond to local needs. It includes the mobilisation of local non-specialised resources – such as agriculture – for new purposes, particularly social ones. Different models of SCF initiatives are spreading rapidly across the world as a means of enhancing quality of life in terms of therapeutic, education, rehabilitation or social inclusion goals. SCF initiatives are differently labelled, respond to a variety of needs and demands from a wide variety of users (people with diverse disabilities, children, young people, elders, offenders, refugees, people from trafficking, disempowered) for different purposes (care, education, training, civil services, social protection, employment support, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment) and actors (such as farmers, the third sector, health and social sectors, service-users and their families and local communities). Globally, there are no standardised definitions of SCF and also traditional community-based practices could be read in the perspective of SFC.
At farm level, SCF has profound implications for farm activities, attitudes, marketing and organizational approaches inside and between actors. At public level, SCF raise questions of subsidiarity, innovative procedures, competencies, policies and attitudes and in the perspective of social inclusion, a generative welfare, social justice and community-based organisation.
In spite of the rapid uptake of SCF, there are still many aspects of the concept requiring clarification. The SCF concept breaks the cultural, sectorial and disciplinary barriers. Its evolution and affirmation is part of a process of transition that is demanding in terms of knowledge brokerage, dynamics and methods to use in facilitating local initiatives. This opens a trans-disciplinary debate and, consequently, to the use of a wide range of theoretical and methodological tools. Further progress should provide scientific evidence of SCFs comparative effectiveness, the impact at farm level and the reorganisation of an economic environment with an emphasis on reputation and responsibility, the definition of specific marketing/labelling initiatives and social innovation policies. Greater understanding of wider impacts on the organisation of local networks where the co-production of economic and social values design new ways of producing and building society in a more civic direction is required.
Progressing our understanding of the complexity of SCFs is vitally important. Criteria should be defined in order to classify social farming practices and take the lesson learnt from previous experiences. It is essential to delineate its priorities to enhance a good coordination between science and practice in the context of transition management and social innovation. Finally, synergies and collective learning should be found with other research fields – such as conservation – promoting multifunctional agriculture.
This working group will welcome contributions from many diverse perspectives including the health/social care domains, sociological and economic research, policy analysis, or sustainability science with the contribution from researchers/academics as well as practitioners, in accordance with a process of knowledge brokerage.
Francesco di Iacovo, Dept Veterinary Science, Pisa University, Italy
Marjolein Elings, Plant Research International, Wageningen UR, The Netherlands
Marina García-Llorente, Sociology of Climate Change and Sustainable Development research group Dept. of Social Analysis, University Carlos III, & Social-Ecological Systems Lab, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Dr. Helen Elsey, Academic Unit of Public Health, Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, The University of Leeds