22 May 2024

Marion Banide

Farmer Protests: When sustainability collides with economic reality- Part 3

Cultivating the resilience of the sector through innovation.

The agri-food sector stands out as one of the most dynamic fields in terms of research and the adoption of advanced technologies, with a key goal of optimising land use while developing more productive, nutritious crops.  

In urban areas, vertical farming is emerging to address space constraints and meet the demand for locally sourced products, reducing CO2 emissions from transportation. Meanwhile, in rural areas, the (re)introduction of abandoned and new climate-smart agricultural practices such as the cultivation of drought-resistant crops, the implementation of water-efficient irrigation systems, or the utilization of carbon sequestration techniques, aims to mitigate the impact of climate change on local food production. These practices also offer new opportunities for farmers to reduce their dependency on weather variability or intrants inputs. Many of these solutions are simple, cost-effective and yield rapid positive impact on production on farming revenues.

Importantly, they are accessible to farming communities worldwide, fostering greater economic resilience and sustainability, regardless of scale. 

Government support is crucial to facilitate access to innovation and educate farmers on these options, but policymakers may present obstacles. For example, French and European laws restrict the sale and distribution of untested and uncertified seeds, imposing financial burdens on farmers interested in using endemic crops. Organizations like Kokopelli, the French seed bank, have long challenged these laws, advocating for greater seed diversity and the rights of small-scale farmers to save and exchange seeds freely, promoting organic and traditional farming practices and biodiversity conservation.

From a consumer standpoint, promoting local and regional food systems can reduce the environmental footprint associated with food transportation as mentioned in the previous section. Supporting local economies and enhancing food security can be achieved by encouraging the production and consumption of locally sourced and seasonal foods. This approach also fosters a stronger connection between consumers and producers, promotes community resilience, preserves cultural food traditions and addresses the need to boost food supply close to consumption areas.

However, for consumers, this emphasis on local and regional food systems may result in fewer choices and less variety if far-remote foods are neglected. For farming communities reliant on exports from the other side of the world, this shift can pose an existential threat. In practice, while regional and local food systems play a crucial role, they may not be sufficient to feed local populations entirely. Resorting to global food systems will remain a key component in feeding an ever-growing population.

Again, it’s essential to set limits to enable the agri-food sector to achieve equilibrium between environmental and economic sustainability.


The recent protests highlight a growing sense of discomfort among farmers. These protests compel us to reconsider the relationship between producers and consumers, farmers and industrial groups, the dynamics between conventional and modern farming as well as our relationships with the land, our food systems, and the preservation of nature. These protests underscore the interconnectedness between environmental protection, community well-being, and agricultural practices.

The current food system exacerbates inequalities and tensions among farmers, whereas global collaboration and knowledge sharing would be essential for addressing shared challenges. Ongoing and new regulations can lead to antagonizing farmers from one country to another, when international cooperation, increased dialogue, research partnerships, and technology transfer should facilitate the exchange of best practices, innovation to support sustainable agriculture and food systems worldwide.

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22 May 2024

Marion Banide

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