During his junior faculty development research leave, Assistant Professor Dr. Giuliano Martiniello, of the Rural Community Development (RCODE) program, developed a collaboration in research and teaching with the Centre for Rural Studies of the Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Calabria, Italy.
The research goal was to study the functioning of different food systems in the Mediterranean area, including Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Italy, Greece and Spain with focus on the role of family farmers, or near-landless smallholders and migrant laborers in their operations. Specifically, the research aimed to understand and document the transformations occurring in the restructuring of agricultural value chains across the region, and their implications for small, rural producers. The project found significant similarities in terms of the transformations occurring in the food systems, and the social and ecological implications of these processes. In the context of regional insecurities such as war, environmental degradation, and depleted water resources, it was found that the resilience capacity of smallholders to these pressures is increasingly weakened due to the destruction of rural livelihoods. This contributes to swelling the numbers of the urban poor and hungry by increasing migration flows to urban areas and to western countries.
The project points to the need to better understand the type of agriculture, land, and migration policies could improve the adaptability and resilience of small-scale family farmers, helping mitigate the effects of poor rural development policies and neglect of land. The project brought to light the unacceptable working conditions and for migrant workers, for example, in the case of Lebanon, Syrian refugees experience low wages, excessive work hours, lack of legal contracts, and unsafe or unhealthy work conditions. The project highlighted the need to consolidate research partnerships that can advance and consolidate capacity building through international dialogue and a trans-Mediterranean network to promote the respect for human, labor, and socio-political rights in global agricultural production networks and food systems.