Agriculture and rural development

Agriculture and rural development

Communication for the development of agriculture

Agriculture is a powerful matrix-tool able to bring together - with a common focus on the quality of human, plant and animal life - the rationales behind social, economic, and above all cultural projects that place Man at the center of truly sustainable development. Agriculture - if considered as a complex system that (adopting the generative paradigm of communication) maintains relations with areas that are only apparently distant (health, education, welfare, etc.) - can be an important engine of innovation to favor collaboration between vision and mission. An outlook toward creating new alliances between vision and mission, values and possible practices, and Man and the environment.

CfGC's vision

Agriculture as a powerful tool for systemic intervention in a territory

The CfGC believes that agricultural activities, if well communicated, can be a powerful tool for systemic intervention in a territory.  We define territory as an expression of infinite forms of activity: social, economic, and cultural. Indeed, agriculture presents characteristics which – as undervalued as they may be – can  today be especially key in redrawing the future of our nation, the European Union, our planet.And yet, despite its fundamental strategic value, agriculture struggles to express itself effectively to others – for example to institutions, companies, associations, research centers – that in any case derive, or could derive, immense advantage from agriculture’s development. These entities often do not understand the potential web of resources that sustainable rural development can activate and add to a system.

The generative paradigm to communicate innovation in agriculture

Today more than ever, we need to pay attention to the communicative potential of agriculture which is too often not recognized or undervalued.  By adopting the generative paradigm of communication it is possible to activate systemic development strategies capable of aggregating a vast network of relationships and resources (not only economic ones) around agricultural practices and agri-food products. 

The most effective way to achieve this result is to involve various subjects around innovation projects via community building practices. 

In short, the most effective strategy to overcome the current problem of “uncommunicative agriculture” is to highlight differences within the context of a common development project whose effects concern not only the agricultural sector but the quality of life of the whole community.

Innovation comes from listening to the needs of farmers

Innovation is fundamental in every sector and particularly in agriculture. 

Indeed, innovation is not only technical and technological, although these aspects today play a leading role. With regard to new technologies (e.g. precision farming, etc.) it is essential to explore all the potential while bearing in mind the objective: technology at the service of agriculture and farmers, not technology-driven agriculture. Human beings, their needs, and their potential must be the ultimate goal of every innovation process, not only in the field of agriculture and rural development.

Moving towards an increasingly sustainable model of agriculture

Industrial agriculture contributes in large measure to the unsustainability of our development model and, in turn, is one of the sectors most deeply affected by its associated risks (consider the impact of climate change). But agriculture can also be a fundamental part of the solution, promoting innovative, sustainable and environmentally, socially and economically resilient solutions. Thus, agriculture as a way to rebuild a social, economic, and cultural fabric capable of facing global challenges and able to guarantee the centrality of Man and the quality of human life can become one of the main contributions to collectively design and implement a truly sustainable development.

Our research mission

Shared development

With regard to agricultural policy, the CfGC’s commitment is to support decision makers who govern public resources, especially through community building processes that bring together all current and potential stakeholders involved in agricultural and rural development policies.

Through these activities it has been possible to collect knowledge from operators and various stakeholders about the real conditions in which they work. This information has become very useful in improving communication between those having the authority to govern and those working, or who would like to work, in the field.

What are the real conditions of people involved in agriculture, forestry, agri-food and fishing? What problems do they face? What is the relationship between public administration, politics, and the daily life of those working in various economic activities? 

And especially, what communication strategies are needed for public administration and small, medium and large, private and public businesses to reinforce the community that is often proclaimed loudly but not practiced? How can economic and social development be reinforced if there is no life-giving communication that strengthens the community?

Sustainability: community building that aspires to become a system

The CfGC has embarked on a line of research that focuses on the sustainable scope of the agricultural sector. This research has brought scientific evidence to the surface regarding the fact that agriculture places itself in the driver’s seat for sustainability only when it is able to create networks between the many players that give it life and benefit from its existence. 

Agricultural sustainability depends on the sector’s ability to construct, around the various activities, a dynamic and collaborative community of interests and expertise able to succeed on the economic and social plane, whether it’s at a local, regional, national or European level. 

To achieve this goal we need a radically different communication. By adopting this new approach, agriculture can become a powerful resource to deal with the most demanding challenges of our contemporaneity, like food security and the wholesomeness of what we eat, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, migration movements and the crisis of the technocratic paradigm.

Agriculture is an ideal environment to build an unprecedented relationship between past and future, between tradition and innovation, and a progressive and not merely conservative relationship aimed at redefining symbolic as well as physical aspects of what is possible to imagine and how much can actually be realized.

Thus, system sustainability with communication lending an irreplaceable contribution to its creation: from health to tourism, from manufacturing 4.0 to artisanal production and craftsmanship, from service industries to cultural heritage and landscapes, and to every spin-off that derives from them.

Communicating agriculture: from listening to participation

A fundamental aspect of CfGC research concerns the way agriculture is portrayed in the media. There’s no doubt that the future of the sector, as well as its potential, is deeply entrenched in the knowledge it disseminates in the social fabric. 

Our researchers have intervened with regard to information systems, providing food for thought and collecting the most suitable contents to generate attention, involvement and concrete credibility in daily practices. In other words, bringing stakeholders together in an active community that can build a support network able to not only deal with crises but also take action before they happen. 

In a knowledge-based society, information can represent the most precious asset but it’s necessary to nurture it by engaging the world of research to guarantee its reliability, authority, and truthfulness. 

Agriculture and innovation: the need to redefine the relationship between scientia and usus

As part of a university research unit, CfGC researchers ask themselves about the most appropriate interpretation of the university’s Third Mission with regard to agriculture. The CfGC’s objective is to put researchers in a position to give value to that which agriculture represents for the reference territory. For this reason, the CfGC is developing, in collaboration with important players and various agricultural associations, a specific model of innovation transfer that can be a reference model at European level.

The challenge is to overcome the model that sees farmers as mere implementers of knowledge and innovations produced elsewhere and to guarantee to all those involved in the communication process a proactive role as co-designers of innovation. It is therefore a matter of involving subjects with different knowledge and skills – preserving their different roles and their legitimate interests – in a common and shared process of economic, social and political development of the territory. This means that the CfGC’s commitment, also in this area, can be summarized as an attempt to redefine the existing relationship between scientia (the production of knowledge) and usus (its application).

Texture

Our milestone

In 2014, the CSL collaborated with the Tuscany Region to define a participatory model for managing the communication of the Rural Development Programme (RDP), with the aim of actively involving agricultural entrepreneurs and integrating their feedback in the implementation of the program. In Communication strategy, information and publicity of the Rural Development Program (PSR) of the Tuscany Region 2014-2020, in fact, we read that “On the new website dedicated to the RDP 2014-2020 […] the visitor will also have the possibility of dialoguing with the Tuscany Region in a participatory and collaborative way. In these pages, in fact, a ‘participatory environment’ was created, conceived according to the model of ‘generative communication’ (explained in the homonymous volume; Toschi 2011) which aims to formalize all the knowledge, skills and needs of the subjects involved in the RDP.” 

 

In the following year, the San Casciano Smart Place App was realized. The app is the result of a project started in 2013 in conjunction with the 500-year anniversary of publication of Il Principe (The Prince) by Machiavelli. Starting from that occasion, the CSL team designed and developed, in collaboration with a large group of partners led by the Municipality of San Casciano Val di Pesa, a rural development project based on the use of new technologies (georeferenced app and augmented reality ) to enhance the cultural, landscape and food and wine heritage of the Florentine Chianti area.

 

In 2016, the CSL concentrated part of its activity on identifying and surveying the training, innovation, and communication needs of the plant nursery sector, also organizing a study day entitled “Uncommunicated agriculture. Information, communication, and media in agriculture “.

 

In the same year, the CSL also developed the project Generative communication for organic agriculture in collaboration with the Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale (Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification, ICEA), choosing to go beyond the simple communication project of the “certification product” to concentrate its energies on strengthening relations between the Institute and its stakeholders: communication that has focused on strengthening existing relationships – some of which are already active, others dormant, others still not fully expressed – in the product, which is in the certification process. The idea was to go beyond the objective of redesigning the aspects linked to the image of the Institute and to instead strengthen the whole system in which ICEA operates.

 

In 2017, the CSL started a collaboration with Coldiretti Toscana within the Operational Groups of the EIP-AGRI, funded by Measure 16.1 of the 2014-2020 RDP. In this context, it carried out a functional analysis to quantify the possible social impact of Precision Agriculture in Tuscany and, more generally, in Europe.

 

Finally, in 2018, the CfGC also concentrated its research activity on the design of AGRAIM and AGRI RESo-lution projects: both projects include the definition and implementation of community building-oriented communication and awareness strategies to develop forms of sustainable, resilient agriculture and, at the same time, address the root causes of some of the greatest challenges we are called to face: migration and climate change.