Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 305–322 | Cite as

Multi-functional landscapes from the grassroots? The role of rural producer movements

  • Abigail K. Hart
  • Philip McMichael
  • Jeffrey C. Milder
  • Sara J. Scherr


Around the world, agricultural landscapes are increasingly seen as “multi-functional” spaces, expected to deliver food supplies while improving rural livelihoods and protecting and restoring healthy ecosystems. To support this array of functions and benefits, governments and civil society in many regions are now promoting integrated farm- and landscape-scale management strategies, in lieu of fragmented management strategies. While rural producers are fundamental to achieving multi-functional landscapes, they are frequently viewed as targets of, or barriers to, landscape-oriented initiatives, rather than as leading agents of change. In reality, however, rural producers in many areas have embraced elements of multi-functional land management. In this paper, we explore the role and recent evolution of producer movements in influencing multi-functional farm and landscape management. We explore these roles through six case studies, including a land reform movement in Brazil, indigenous territorial development in Bolivia, conservation agriculture associations in Canada, environmental cooperatives in the Netherlands, indigenous and biocultural heritage associations in Peru, and Landcare groups in the Philippines. These experiences suggest that producer movements are playing pivotal roles in supporting landscape multi-functionality, not only through agroecological farming practices but also through off-farm efforts to conserve ecosystems and support multi-stakeholder landscape planning. On the other hand, interests of producer movements are not always fully aligned with multi-functional landscape management approaches. The contribution of producer movements to multi-functional landscapes depends on these movements including farm and landscape stewardship in their values and goals, and having the political support and capacity to engage meaningfully in multi-stakeholder processes.


Agriculture Agroecology Diversified farming systems Farmer organization Landscape Multi-functional Producer movements Integrated landscape management 



Asociación Nacional de Productores de Quinua, The National Quinoa Producers’ Association


Alternative trade organization


Best management practice


Community Conserved Area


International Potato Center


Cooperativa dos Assentados da Reforma Agraria do Pontal, Agrarian Reform Settlers’ Cooperative in the Pontal


Canada–Saskatchewan Farmer Stewardship Program


World Agroforestry Center


International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements


Institute of Ecological Research


Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, Rural Landless Workers’ Movement


Northern Friesian Woodlands Agricultural Cooperative


Non-government organization


Natural vegetative strips


Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act


Natural Quinoa Production Standard


Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association



We thank KC Alvey for her excellent research assistance. We also thank David King, Claire Rhodes and Robin Marsh for their helpful input on the manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Environment Programme. This study is a contribution of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abigail K. Hart
    • 1
    • 2
  • Philip McMichael
    • 3
  • Jeffrey C. Milder
    • 1
  • Sara J. Scherr
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.EcoAgriculture PartnersWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Development SociologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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