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Agroecological futures: resilience of small-scale farming across spatial scales in Important Agricultural Heritage Sites from the southern Andes

    26/11/2020 12:30 - America/New York
    H2020 / Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions
    Chile, Villarrica
    Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
    Villarrica Campus, Center for Local Development (CEDEL)
    ECOS (Ecology-Complexity-Society) Laboratory

There is growing concern among researchers, policymakers, activists and politicians that agrobiodiversity is being eroded by the increasing transformation of the Earth’s ecosystems. Agrobiodiversity can be quantified in terms of landraces, which are those locally adapted crop varieties that farmers have reproduced in a given social-environmental context for generations. These landraces represent a unique source of genetic diversity that is crucial for future global needs. In situ conservation of this agrobiodiversity and food security are strongly linked to agroecological practices and movement occurring in small-scale farming systems but also in urban areas, in which local agricultural knowledge plays a crucial role. Many researchers have stressed that, as a result of a predominantly industrial development of agriculture, landraces and local agricultural knowledge have been lost in many locations. However, little attention has been paid to evaluating how small-scale farming systems learn and endure by incorporating new information in response to broader socio-environmental changes, i.e. the “system’s resilience”. To be resilient, a small-scale farming system should incorporate new information whilst maintaining its traditional components. The loss or continuing utilization of landraces in small-scale farming systems and the occurrence of agroecological practices may be influenced by several socio-environmental filters acting across spatial scales (i.e. processes that selectively remove species or landraces according to their phenotype, local uses or value). Increasing knowledge on the resilience of small-scale farming systems is particularly important in Chile, because small-scale farming represents 92% of the country’s agricultural units. Also, Chile is one of the countries in the Americas that is most vulnerable to climate change, and agrobiodiversity and farm resilience are crucial to maintain food security under future scenarios.

This offer is to examine the resilience of small-scale farming systems in an agroecological framework and the role of socio-environmental filters, and agroecological principles and movement in two Important Agricultural Heritage Sites in southern Chile. These Sites have been designated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and consist in outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agrobiodiversity and a valuable cultural heritage; however, these sites are threatened by many factors that have resulted in traditional farming practices being abandoned and landraces being lost. This project will specifically examine those small-scale farming systems known as homegardens and the broader agroecological movement. The researcher will implement mixed methods including participant observation and interviews, plant inventories, knowledge exercises, surveys of homegarden managers, landscape-scale assessments. These results will have policy implications to identify agrobiodiversity hotspots and agroecological principles for priority in situ conservation of plant genetic resources and empower local communities.


The postdoctoral researcher will join an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the new Interdisciplinary Complex for Sustainable Development (CIDS) at the Center for Local Development (CEDEL) from the southern Villarrica Campus of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Villarrica and its surroundings, located at northern Patagonia, comprise outstanding temperate landscapes with protected areas, native forests, glaciers, volcanoes, rivers, lakes, and a number of indigenous Mapuche communities and new settlers inhabiting rural areas. The posdoctoral researcher will deliver scientific papers, congress presentations, policy briefs, and support local farmers and organizations through workshops or other needs coming from the communities. 


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