The industrialisation of agricultural activity has had a great impact on the environment and society the world over. In Europe the result has been a profound degradation of natural resources, the landscape and rational agricultural ecosystems, along with a decline in farming's social and economic importance, which has led in turn to a decline in rural communities. These tendencies have not been reversed in the last decades by corrective policies on agriculture and rural development, focusing on post-productivism and the multifunctionality of agriculture.
Agroecology arose in Latin America as a compendium of science and folk knowledge, in response to the symptoms of social and environmental crisis linked to changes in the agrofood system. Although Latin America has considerable experience in this area, attempts to adapt agroecology to Europe have mainly relied on theoretical approaches.
Agroecology has three different dimensions: the environmental-productive dimension, the socio-economic and cultural dimension and the socio-political dimension. In Europe, the incipient empirical experiments and applied research carried out have focused mainly on two of these dimensions: on the one hand, on aspects of single farm production (environmental-productive dimension), and on the other hand, on characterising the expansion of agroecology as a social movement (socio-political dimension of agroecology).
However, the socio-economic and cultural dimension of agroecology has hardly been developed, beyond a few incursions into rural restructuring processes (or deagrarianisation) and the growing role of farming activity as a stimulus for territorial and social cohesion in peri-urban areas.
This dimension (socio-economic and cultural) includes all factors related to the building of local networks and alternative food production; the recovery of folk knowledge about the environment; access to the means of production (especially land, water,energy, genetic resources and financial resources); policies on agriculture and rural development; the role of agricultural activity in peri-urban areas of the major metropolitan regions; and the recovery of self-esteem in rural and agricultural life, as part of the construction of symbolic contexts that are favourable to agroecology.
These problems are likely to persist in the future in rural areas and this, together with the ever-increasing importance of social and environmental sustainability in land-use planning and public policy on rural areas, highlights the importance of training courses like the one presented here. Meanwhile, the growing importance of agroecology and the proposals on rural agro-ecological development in the next implementation period of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (2014-2020) justify the need to train up professionals to implement this approach in land-use policies for urban and peri-urban areas and in rural development policies.
- Bachelor's degree of 180 ECTS minimum, or equivalent.
- Access to this course will also be considered for candidates who do not have the above qualifications, for example, if they have sufficient proven professional experience in the sector. On passing the course, these students will receive a certificate of attendance only.
- Local government officers in rural and peri-urban areas, working mainly in employment, land-use planning, environment, crop and livestock farming, food supplies, etc.
- Regional or national government officers working in crop and livestock farming, rural development, or protected natural spaces.
- Private-sector consultants on sustainable rural development.
- Businesses involved in Social Economics, in particular, ecological agriculture and sustainable rural environment.
- Research in agroecology and sustainable rural development.
- Civil society agencies involved in agroecology and sustainable rural development.