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Deliverable 1.1. Report: Initial Conceptual Framework - Synthesis and short note on main implications for SALSA


Deliverable D1.1 provides the initial Conceptual Framework (CF) for the SALSA project. It gives the definitions of the key terms and categories that will be used in SALSA, together with a conceptualisation of the food system used as a frame in the rest of the project.

The structure of the document derives from the overarching research question:

What is the contribution of small farms and of the related food businesses (SF/SFB) to sustainable FNS in a wide range of food systems?

The CF first addresses FNS definitions, adopting the one by FAO, given in the 1996 World Food Summit and then reaffirmed in 2009: “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Four FNS dimensions (availability, access, utilisation and control) will be considered in the field research at different scales (from the global to the individual), according to Work Packages aims and informative needs.

Then the concept of sustainability is considered and briefly explored in its three dimensions: environmental, social and economic. Beyond them, it is argued that the vision of a sustainable FNS must include the utilization phase, and in particular the consumption choices and related diets.

In the following section the criteria for the identification of "small" farms are discussed. Since different structural, economic or social criteria can be used, and different definitions can be used in different regions, the need for an agreed definition, possible with common thresholds, has been emphasized. Three groups of criteria are identified: structural, economic and related to the role of the households. Pros and cons of the various options are discussed, to finally adopt a structural criterion with a common threshold: small farms are those with less than 5 hectares of land. A degree of flexibility is recognised for each region, also with the use of additional economic criteria. A similar analysis is dedicated to the definition of small food business. Inn SALSA, food businesses will be considered as long as they are in some way directly related to small farms.

The largest part of the document is then dedicated to the conceptualisation of "food system" and to the definition of a process of food system mapping, that will be developed at regional level by each partner.  A classic a-spatial definition of a food system, with articulation on activities and outcomes is given. Then the functioning of small farms within food systems is discussed through a scheme highlighting the main income and labour flows centred on the farm/household. It is recognised that food systems differ greatly form one reference region to another, and that the consideration of the geographic space and spatial attributes are crucial for an effective comprehension, and mapping, of the system. It is also argued that the distinction, within a given system, between food production and food consumption sub-systems is useful to better describe flows and patterns. This is particularly true in relation to food consumption patterns, that can be used as a conceptual starting point for the field research and for a detailed map of the regional territorialised food systems. This section ends with a draft exemplary map, suggested as example of possible outcome of the mapping exercise that each team will carry out in WP3.

The following section focuses on the role of governance. A distinction is suggested between internal and external governance (to the food chains) as a useful frame for the analysis to be conducted in each region. The presence of multiple sources of governance and the need to consider them in the analysis is also underlined.

In the last section the focus goes back to SF/SFB, with a preliminary identification of the main contributions they are expected to give to sustainable FNS. The issue of vulnerability is also discussed: in particular, it is argued that a field in which small farms can give a relevant contribution is system vulnerability reduction or mitigation. The set of key SF/SFB contributions to sustainable FNS is only a broad indication, to be validated and integrated through the field research.

Short note on main implications for SALSA

The initial Conceptual Framework (CF), D1.1, has three main roles.

·        First, it provides definitions of the key terms and categories that will be used in SALSA, together with a conceptualisation of the food system used as a frame in the rest of the project.

·        Second, it is the starting point for the development of the analytical framework which establishes principles and procedures guiding the groundwork for the empirical research and analysis.

·        Third, it provides the starting point for the final empirically grounded CF that will reflect the outcomes of all the WPs.

The three roles highlight how the initial CF is deeply linked to the rest of the project. The document provides the general approaches and definitions and the shared understandings upon which the analytical framework (AF) guiding the field research has been produced. In particular, the identification of small farms and small food business, the definition of sustainable food and nutrition security and the conceptualisation of the food system are key elements that will be investigated in each region in WP3. The field research, conducted in WP3, is also aimed at providing information and inputs for the following WP 4, 5 and 6, so that the whole SALSA research process has its roots in this document. The third bullet point highlights an additional implication of the deliverable for the SALSA project: the outcomes of the various following WPs will feed the initial CF to produce the document itself.





This a very good synthesis of the CF and how it links to the Analytical Framework guiding the formulation of field research question. Provides good understandings and insights to the project operations. Has great potential to inform the gender component  of the SALSA Project

In the conceptual framework small farms were defined has having less than 5 ha and a limited economic size, that in the analytical framework was defined has being below 8 UDE.

From my experience with the fied work in Portugal and with the enterviews to key informants it is clear that if we condition since the begining the economic size, the majority of the small family farms in our Portuguese region - Oeste, will be out of our evaluation.

It seems to me that we should not take as a starting point that the small farm does not produce economic profitability. In some regions with good soils and climate, the profitability is quite high, even if they are familiar and even small. I believe that the initial aim of the project was not to assess non-profitable agriculture but rather to assess the extent to which it could actually contribute to SFNS in Europe. If small family farms reveals to be economic profitable it is only a result of research that should not be conditioned from the beginning of the project.

From my point of view criteria choose to define small farms are appropriate for Polish RR's. Majority of farms in Poland having less than 5 ha are below 8 ESU.Most of the area of  2 from polish RR is covered by mountainous and upland areas as well as river valleys. All Polish RR's can be described as typically agricultural. Conditions of agricultural production are very bad, scale of production is rather low, and farmers want to cut the cost of production.Average yearly income on farms per 1 ha high quality soils in 2015 in Poland was about 470 EUROS. In our RR’s soil quality is much more lower than in Poland, and inputs costs are higher so the income is about 1/3 of the average mentioned above.

All the authors of the comments are thanked.

With regard to the last comment, the critical observation is certainly interesting and it raises a relevant point. Small does not necessarily means unprofitable. However, the idea of having an economic threshold alongside a physical one is due to the fact that we don't want to include in the analysis farms that are highly profitable because of the specific high-value products they produce, like for example grapes for quality wines. We know that some small-size farms are highly profitable, and that they can survive and even flourish without specific support. However, the focus of SALSA is on farms which are small also in economic terms, but nevertheless can give a specific contribution to SFNS.