The social dimension is central to sustainable development of agri-food systems. If farmers are not satisfied with their situation or motivated to continue farming, many of today's environmental goals will be impossible to achieve. Between 1997 and 2003, several case studies were carried out on social sustainability, the importance of recognition in the farming system, and the potential role of increased collaboration between actors. The main hypothesis was that improved recognition is a basis for sustainable social conditions. Our findings show that many farmers today perceive an impoverished social situation. They believe they lack control over decisions, which hinders their ability to continue farming. Public images and political decisions show a lack of respect for farmers' skills and knowledge. However, increased collaboration among actors is believed to be one important way forward, creating stronger relationships and networks, as well as a stronger identity for farmers. Our findings emphasize the need for authorities and other organizations to support farmers and to facilitate collaborative learning and decision-making processes for socio-ecological sustainability.
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Vol. 34 • No. 4