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How Scottish farmers and crofters are changing food systems with agroecology

A croft in the Scottish Highlands
"This research shows that farmers, crofters, land managers and growers across Scotland can be a force for change, adapting to new practices to develop resilient and diverse businesses fit for the future"

New research by James Hutton Institute scientists and partner organisations explores the use of sustainable farming practices in Scotland and how these support long-term land productivity and resilience amongst agricultural businesses.

The work, funded by SEFARI Gateway, and the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC), and in collaboration with the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS) and Soil Association Scotland (SAS), was conducted by Dr Luz-Maria Lozada, a social scientist, and Dr Alison Karley, an agroecologist, both based at the James Hutton Institute. They carried out an online survey of 192 respondents and ten one-to-one interviews to understand whether farming practices classed as agroecological are commonly adopted in Scotland and whether they provide benefits for the environment, farm productivity, and ability to cope with external stresses such as climate change.

Agroecology embraces multiple alternative farming approaches and practices, including regenerative, organic, permaculture, and Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF). The research showed that many respondents farmed using an approach that could be classed as agroecological.

"Our analysis shows many Scottish farmers and crofters are innovating in the way they farm and produce food, motivated by the desire to improve soil health and biodiversity, and reduce inputs", explains Dr Lozada.

"They also see wider social benefits from creating closer links between their farms, local communities, and the consumers of their farm products."

Dr Karley added: "Agroecological farming approaches are knowledge intensive, and we need to think creatively about mechanisms to support the transition, whether through advice, training, incentives, or other means."

The research highlights how Scottish agriculture can lead the way in food system transformation to create socially and ecologically sustainable systems that are also economically viable.

Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, welcomed the report: "This research shows that farmers, crofters, land managers and growers across Scotland can be a force for change, adapting to new practices to develop resilient and diverse businesses fit for the future.

"Our Farming for Change evidence shows agroecology works - now it's time for government to show support for finance, knowledge and skills that meet the needs of these innovators and address the triple challenge of the nature, health and climate crises."

Prof Lorna Dawson, SEFARI Gateway and James Hutton Institute, added: "The outcomes of this interdisciplinary collaborative work are already informing a wide range of stakeholders, such as the Scottish Parliament's Cross Party Group on Food, where the role of agroecology is being recognised for many benefits such as in creating alternative food production systems, supporting rural livelihoods and promoting healthy diets while adapting to and mitigating climate change”.

The full research report can be found on the SEFARI website, along with recommendations for supporting broader uptake of farming approaches using agroecology principles.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, James Hutton Institute, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/how-scottish-farmers-and-crofters-are-changing-food-systems-agroecology on 19/05/22 11:11:53 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.