Topic: Animal Landscapes: new old risks on the small farm
Two global challenges for the 21st Century produce sites of tension in rural spaces particularly small farms. The first, addressing the natural environment and anthropocentric climate change, has stimulated considerable theorizing around rewilding as a component of climate change mitigation and as a guarantor of biodiversity. Supporters promote a radical approach to traditional agricultural practices recommending the rebalancing of land use in favour of wild species including predator reintroductions and widespread restoration of wilderness areas. The second challenge concerns feeding the world’s burgeoning population and is typically met with calls for significant increases in food production. The traditional response to increasing agricultural production has been to extend agriculture at the expense of wilderness and includes the suppression of wild animals alongside an engineered reduction in biodiversity typified by mono-cropping.
Small farmers throughout Europe and Africa, (interviewed for the SALSA project), when questioned about constraints to the productivity of their land, focused on predatory and destructive wild animals. They could produce more food, many contended, through de-wilding rather than re-wilding particularly in relation to predator control. Farmers were typically suspicious of or opposed to rewilding including species reintroductions and although diverse viewpoints were captured, most considered rewilding to be a production constraint. Production and rewilding appear locked in a series of problematic trade-offs at the level of farmer perception. Small farms are incentivised to participate in agro-ecological schemes and are penalized over traditional control practices whilst food and nutrition security agendas appear to depend on their ability to contribute to increasing global production by 50-100% by 2050.
Colonising influences are both urban and international with citizens in far off countries petitioning governments to both protect iconic species or otherwise produce newly hybridized landscapes whilst concurrently tackling food insecurity. Through Beck’s ‘Risk Society’ lens the paper examines the lived experience of small farmers in animal landscapes across Europe and Africa and the rapidly evolving governance environment reshaping the farming world.