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AGRISOCIAL: Towards a socially sustainable green transition for agriculture and rural communities

Alternative title: Agrisocial: Fram mot eit sosialt berekraftig grønt skifte for norsk landbruk og norske distrikt.

Awarded: NOK 11.9 mill.

Norway is heading towards a green transition which aims to ensure a sustainable future. A key element of this transition will be the use of the renewable natural recourses that are to be found across Norway’s rural areas. The major focus on the green transition has been on creating an environmentally sustainable society with low to zero carbon emissions. However, there is also a social aspect of sustainability. At a general level, social sustainability means the ability for people to live meaningful and good lives. In recent years there have been several signs that social sustainability in Norwegian rural areas and farming is faltering. We have seen this for example through the series of rural rebellions that has swept the country during the past couple of years, and in the emergence of the farmers rebellion in 2021. The Agrisocial project seeks to lay the ground for a green transition in Norwegian rural areas that is also socially sustainable. This will be done by breaking down social sustainability into three component parts; equity, quality of life, and societal resilience. From this, the project will co-develop social sustainability indicators with a range of actors from Norwegian rural areas. The indicators will be tailored to a Norwegian context.

Ensuring a sustainable green transition in the agriculture and food sector in Norway requires that ALL aspects of sustainability – environmental, economic and social – are addressed. However, it is widely acknowledged that concept of social sustainability is relatively poorly understood. This is problematic. Authorities in Norway observe a sustainable green transition is reliant on the social processes that ensure sustainable and thriving rural communities and businesses. To address this gap, AGRISOCIAL focuses on three of the key aspects of social sustainability that recent events in Norway (The Rural Rebellion (2017-2019) and The Farmer’s Rebellion (2021-)) suggest may prove problematic for the green transition, namely: equity, resilience, and quality of life. Working closely with stakeholders AGRISOCIAL examines (1) the policy framework around equitable rural communities (2) the relationship between economic performance, social sustainability indicators, and the green transition (3) how the green transition might support social sustainability in farm families (4) how the green transition influences quality of life in rural communities (5) practical social sustainability indicators for the green transition and (6) possible policies for promoting a socially sustainable green transition. AGRISOCIAL will produce internationally relevant research that addresses the issue of how social sustainability in farms and rural communities supports and is supported by the green transition. At the same time, engagement with rural businesses and stakeholders via a transdisciplinary living lab ensures policy outcomes that are tailored for Norway – in particular, the co-development of social sustainability indicators for industry application. In this way, it will help ensure that the green transition addresses today’s sustainability challenges and creates rural communities that are equitable, resilient and offer a high quality of life.

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