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Stefano Grando1, Gianluca Brunori1, Teresa Pinto-Correia2, Lee-Ann Sutherland3

1 University of Pisa, Italy.

2 University of Évora, Portugal

3 James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Corresponding author: Stefano Grando, E-mail: stefano.grando@for.unipi.it

Topic: An empirically grounded theoretical framework for the analysis of small farms contribution to food and nutrition security

Keywords: small farms, food and nutrition security, food sysyems, theoretical framework


The SALSA project aims at assessing the current and future role of small farms and related small food businesses in achieving sustainable food and nutrition security in Europe and in selected African regions,. This objective originates from two main observations: the large presence of small farms in both backward and richer regions, and the increasing attention for food and nutrition security concerns, even in supposed food-secure contexts. These observations led to investigate the contribution of small farms and related food businesses to sustainable food and nutrition security, through an approach based on the observation of small farm’s connection with the territorialised food system.

The reflection process triggered by field research outcomes suggested a refinement of the initial theoretical framework. The paper presents the key elements of this empirically grounded theoretical framework, showing how the research process contributed to the grounding. In particular, the interviews conducted with small farmers gave insights into farming strategies and consumption behaviours, highlighting the differences between farms aiming at self-provisioning and market-oriented ones, and the wide range of market and extra-market flows of food and other resources in which small farms are engaged. Regional food systems have been analysed through participated mapping exercises and the definition of food balance sheets. Besides, the satellite mapping of selected regions highlighted  the diversified land occupation patterns linked to the presence of different small farms’ types.

The resulting grounded framework hinges on some key elements. First, a broad definition of FNS, rooted in the current policy debate and capable to grasp the specific small farms’ contribution. This definition encompasses freshness, diversity, cultural value of food, and highlights the importance of food access, beyond the mere availability. Second, a flexible definition of small farm, capable to account for the diversity of small farms’ connections to the food system, through the identification of relevant typologies upon which SF contributions to FNS can be assessed. Third, a dynamic system approach, reflecting the small farms’ capacity to adapt to changes in their socio-economic, technological and natural environments. Finally, the consideration of spatial elements. The spatial analysis of the food system, conducted at a regional level, allows the observation of production and consumption regional patterns and of the flows of food and other resources among regional actors (producers, distributors, retailers, consumers etc.) influenced by the geography as well as by logistics and power relations.

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