Sara Burbi: Sustainable Communities – The case of farmers in the South West region
In recent years the concept of sustainability has been applied to all sectors of society. Whether we live in a city or in a rural area, communities are encouraged to consider their impact on the environment and the social and economic sustainability of their practices. Farming communities are particularly under pressure; in fact, farmers are expected to be competitive in growing markets at local, national and international level. At the same time, they are also incentivised to protect the natural environment and implement practices that promote environmental conservation, whether by recreating native grassland, woodland or protecting certain wild animals and plant species. Finally, farmers are now also encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint in order to provide long-term sustainability of their land-based businesses.
The multiple challenges farmers are facing daily can be discouraging and lead to a feeling of isolation from the rest of the society. In particular, the research community and policy makers are seen as distant entities, not always fully understanding the practical challenges that farmers need to overcome. The study addresses the need for establishing successful communication between farmers and researchers, with respect to greenhouse gas mitigation and farm practices sustainability. By engaging with the farming community, valuable feedback is obtained on current, practical barriers to the implementation of mitigation options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and how these barriers influence the decision-making process at the farm level. The purpose of the study is to engage the farming community in better understanding the scientific evidence on what can be done practically to reduce GHG emissions while at the same time valuing the importance of farmers’ contribution to what is feasible on their farms. By jointly assessing the feasibility of greenhouse gas mitigation options in different types of farms, we are providing support to farmers directly and learning from their insights and experiences. Indirectly policy makers that have the difficult task to include sustainability in policies will benefit from such translational research that should facilitate better policy developments that are likely to affect future generations.