Sustainable Development of Rural Communities in the Mediterranean Region

Woodgate, Graham; Lamberti, Lamberto; Belsanti, Virginia; Bessaoud, Omar and Levidow, Les (2013). Sustainable Development of Rural Communities in the Mediterranean Region. CIHEAM-IAMB, Bari, Italy.


The growth of agro-industrial practices, global climate vulnerability and policies that favour the dominant global food regime all threaten regional food security. Smallholders can contribute to ameliorating food insecurity and achieving food sovereignty, i.e. control over food production and supplies.

Agriculture is still the main activity in rural communities but, their livelihoods and environmental resources are being undermined by the dominant global food regime, agro-industrial development and land grabs. A socially just solution needs a careful combination public and private investment to assist smallholders to lift themselves out of poverty, improve incomes and secure their access to good-quality culturally and ecological relevant food. Furthermore, such support is also important in terms of allowing certain sectors of rural communities to diversify into non-farm activities. Agroecology has emerged in response to the negative impacts of the first Green Revolution and has matured in response to proposals for a new Green Revolution. Agroecology offers an alternative agenda for addressing poverty and hunger through food sovereignty.

Rural development has a multi-dimensional nature that encompasses economic, social, political and environmental sustainability. Smallholders need empowerment to take action and participate in all development processes. Such action can be fostered by appropriate institutional arrangements, including the engagement in political activity and the design and implementation of relevant public policy.

Rural communities are confronted with multifaceted challenges and vulnerabilities – demographic, economic, social, environmental (climate change and natural resource degradation and depletion). A more context specific and participatory research is needed and a more targeted set of policies need to be designed and implemented under good governance regimes involving innovative institutional arrangements and decentralisation.

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