Conference Call – Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society

A major demographic milestone occurred in May 2007. For the first time in the history of mankind the earth’s population became more urban than rural. This process of urbanization will continue in an accelerated pace in the forthcoming decades: the growth of the world population from 6 billion people in 2000 to 9 billion people in 2050 will mainly occur in urban areas. By 2050 the urban population will approximately be twice the size of the rural population.

However, this does not mean that urban areas are or will become of greater importance than rural areas. On the contrary, the urban and the rural have always heavily relied on each other and will do so even more in an era characterized by rapid urban population growth. Cities will continue to need resources such as food, fibre, clean water, nature, biodiversity, and recreational space, as well as the people and communities that produce and provide these urban necessities and desires. Hence, key questions for the next decades are how, where and by whom these urban necessities and desires will be produced and provided and if and how this can be done in manner that is considered to be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable and ethically sound.

In recent years the concept of multifunctional agriculture has emerged as an important reference in debates on the future of agriculture and the countryside and its relations with the wider and predominantly urban society. This is an expression of the fact that agriculture is not only valued for its contribution to food and fibre production and the economic development of the agro-industry, but needs to be assessed according to a much wider range of social, environmental, economic and ethical concerns. At farm level multifunctional agriculture is characterized by a variety of entrepreneurial strategies and activities, such as processing and direct marketing of food products, energy production, care for elderly and disabled people, and tourism. But multifunctional agriculture is also expressed at higher scales, such as the regional level (e.g. collective nature and landscape management schemes and regional branding) and the national level (e.g. policymaking and implementation).

Due to the multiplicity of activities, the multi-scalar character of multifunctionality and the geographical contextuality of expressions of multifunctional agriculture, research on multifunctional agriculture and changing urban-rural relations is highly fragmented, disciplinarily as well as geographically. Hence, this conference aims to advance the scientific state of the art in research on multifunctional agriculture and urban-rural relations by bringing together scholars of different disciplines (sociology, economics, spatial planning, land use planning, regional planning, urban planning, crop sciences, animal sciences, soil sciences, architecture, etc…) from all parts of the world.

Working group themes
The conference facilities allow for a maximum of 21 parallel working group sessions. The scientific committee has proposed 21 working group themes (see   and is inviting prospective working group convenors to submit a short (max 500 words) call text for the theme they would like to convene. Proposals for a working group call text can be send to the chair of the scientific committee by email ( before the 1st of September 2011. The deadline for submission of abstracts will be 1st of December 2011. Abstracts will have to be submitted to the convenors.

More information

Please check the conference website for more information.