Sustainability dimensions of agricultural development in AlmerÃa (Spain): The experience of 50 years
Sustainable management not only constitutes the main challenge for agricultural systems, it is also becoming a driver of development in many regions of the world. As well as guaranteeing the production of food and other basic products, agriculture can foment social progress and economic growth while maintaining environmental quality. On a global scale, sustainable development can currently be said to be one of the main objectives of communities and societies. However, it is subject to different connotations due to the heterogeneous nature of productive systems and of the natural environment. In addition, it becomes difficult to achieve a balance between the three dimensions of sustainability due to a series of problems, including periods of recession, turbulent markets and changes in management policies on both a general and a sectorial level. Analyses of this issue must therefore strive to establish their results in practice and on holistic approaches. Particular emphasis should be placed on the generation of synergies and on the appropriate balance of the essential components that make up sustainable development. Along these lines, different practical experiences on an international level have illustrated the potential of agriculture to fulfil the above-mentioned aims. At the same time this sector currently encounters a series of challenges, among which we should mention growing internationalisation of the agrifood trade, increasing control of the distribution chains and varying strategies of agrarian policy. Indeed, in the context of European rural policy there has been considerable debate in recent years concerning the role of the agricultural sector and how it should face up to the following challenges: productivity-competitiveness, environmental protection and socio-economic development. This paper analyses how this sector in the province of AlmerÃa (Spain), based on small-scale horticultural farms, has risen to the above issues over recent decades. This case study provides some insights into the different synergies between sustainability dimensions. It is particularly interesting to observe how a highly social agrarian system has evolved thanks to the combination of certain factors: the basic structure of family-run concerns, the creation of commercial and financial structures/entities and the generation of endogenous auxiliary industries. An additional point of interest resides in the systemâ€™s manifest capacity to adapt and innovate in practices and technologies that are environmentally respectful. Finally, the fact that this sector, essentially without outside support, provides the basis for economic sustainability of the whole province makes it a paradigm of competitiveness in the European context. The integration of sustainability components observed in the development of AlmerÃaâ€™s horticultural sector may prove useful in helping other regions to adapt and improve their agricultural systems, especially in cases where small-scale farming predominates. Keywords: Sustainability, development, family farms, environment-respectful practices, socio-economic dimension, synergies, AlmerÃa JEL: Q01, Q12, Q13
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