Linking sustainability between places: increasing institutional compatibility with sustainability in the agro-food and rural domain.

M. Mikkola, S. Pascucci

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Sustainable development, argue Morgan and Sonnino (2008), is a normative concept rather than a technical specification. This does not undermine the basic thrust of the concept as promoting more equitable economic development across space and time, proposing a model of interconnected and participatory communities with individual autonomy and involvement as well as integrating environmental considerations into economic developments. The normative character of the concept needs to be implemented contextually according to perceived sustainability deficits in accordance with socio-cultural developmental options, turning the sustainability discourse into speech and action for the better living conditions of the local people, across the globe. Political recommendations lean readily on the concept of sustainability (Getting more from less, 2005) without analysing institutional environment as more or less enabling such developments. In short, the concept of sustainable development calls for compatible institutions for enhancing sustainability at the different levels of economic, social and environmental human activities. From the perspective of sustainable development, it is interesting to examine, whether economic institutions align with this ‘ideal and uniform’ conceptualisation of sustainability within the sphere of consumption and production of food in rural domains. Can we find economic institutions, assumed to be powerful organizers of the exchange activities and economic life, to support sustainable development or introduce contradictory developments in terms of consumption and production of food? This research question becomes particularly interesting when focused on the ambiguous case of rural depopulation and migratory labour supporting European agricultural production, and hence consumption. This paper reviews case studies dealing with migrant labour in different European countries such as Finland, France, Greece, Ireland and Italy. The question is interesting since often sustainability and ‘fairness’ becomes the axis of discourse pertaining to relations between the South and the North, rather than within the respective domains (Jaffee et al., 2004). This paper aims to identify the institutional settings such as market competition, labour market, health care, income structure and housing as well as unemployment benefits prevailing within rural communities and to ‘X-ray’ these settings from sustainability point of view. The paper results in indicating compatibility vis-à-vis incompatibility of the institutional settings with the sustainability ideal in terms of the migrants and the receiving rural population. This analysis yields concrete understanding of the state-of-the-art of the work of immigrant labour in European countries and suggests that in stead of happily living with the current situation, “inter-mediate mediating strategy” (Deane-Drummond, 2006) must be built in order to remedy perceived sustainability deficits. Likewise, there may be sustainability ‘credits’ deserving appreciation; furthermore, they may be used as benchmarks for sustainable policies. Furthermore, the analysis makes visible the ambiguities of migrant labour for which the moral sensitivity, inherent in the concept of sustainable development, has so far paid some attention but created few solutions. The paper serves as a pre-study for informed comparison between prospective Finnish and Italian case studies, focusing on institutional developments, sustainability, and their increased alignment in rural domains within agro-food industry.


Seminar119th EAAE Seminar: Sustainability in the Food Sector: Rethinking the Relationship between the Agro-Food System and the Natural, Social, Economic and Institutional Environments

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