Title: Rethinking the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources

Funding: EU 7th Framework programme and RURAGRI ERA-NET project

Implementation period: 2013-2015

Coordinator:  Institute for Rural Development Research (Germany)

Latvian partners: Baltic Studies Centre; Latvia University of Agriculture, Faculty of Economics

RETHINK is a transdisciplinary research project supported by the European Commission and funding bodies in 14 countries under the umbrella of FP7 and the RURAGRI ERA-NET. The project addressed a number of key issues: How do market forces, societal demands and resource constraints interact to create opportunities and constraints for agriculture and rural areas across Europe? Where are the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience and how can we shape positively? And, how can we develop the relationships between rural areas and urban centres in ways that increases overall resilience?

In addressing these questions the RETHINK project also explored the meaning of agricultural modernisation. It did so at a time of potentially profound change – when the agricultural sector must finally respond to increasing resource scarcity and distributional demands, and when economies, production systems and lifestyles must be transformed. RETHINK explored the connections between the development of agriculture and the wider societal and policy goal of vibrant and prosperous rural areas, explicitly recognizing the complexity of the challenges, the diversity in situations, and the multidimensionality of strategies for a more balanced development.

The project’s set of common research questions was used to select 14 major case studies, one in each participating country (Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, France, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Sweden, Lithuania, Turkey and Latvia). Each case was an expression of an innovative development trajectory, highlighting potential synergies between farm modernisation and sustainable rural development. The Latvian case study was focused on small farm development. The results are presented in the national report and a book – "Resilience of Latvian small farms" (in Latvian).

The Latvian team in collaboration with the German team was leading the analysis of one of the four cross-cutting themes – knowledge and learning. The results of this analyses are summarized in the presentation at the final RETHINK  conference and in the paper Šūmane. S., Kunda, I., Knickel, K., Strauss, A., Tisenkopfs. T., des Ios Rios, I., Rivera, M., Chebach, T. and Ashkenazy, A. (2018) "Local and farmers’ knowledge matters! How integrating informal and formal knowledge enhances sustainable and resilient agriculture",

The project’s major results are presented in the special section Rethinking the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience (guest editors: Karlheinz Knickel and Hilde Bjørkhaug) of the Journal of Rural Studies: Publications with BSC’s authors:

See blog entry by Sandra Šūmane on farmers' knowledge: