The future of farming and agricultural practices in Western Italian Alps
Examensarbete för masterexamen
Mountain areas are recognized to be environments rich in resources and providing uncountable ecosystem services; however, they also host fragile territories and ecosystems that are based on delicate equilibria. Aosta Valley is an excellent example of an Alpine area where the local population lives in close relationship with its territory, as mountains are part of the identity and culture of these communities, as well as their traditional activities related to agriculture. In this context, climate change is expected to affect not only Aosta Valley’s landscape and climate, but also its economic and social structure, by reason of the intimate relationships existing between environment, economy and society. Moreover, modifications introduced by human activities risk to worsen or accelerate the environmental degradation and the draining of natural resources, like urbanization and the development of tourism sector. In this sense, action is necessary to mitigate climate change and even more, at a local level, to adapt to its inevitable consequences. Initiatives and policies from a European to a local level can help steer the economy towards a more sustainable pattern. An extensive literature review and three interviews were carried out for modeling the climatic and socio-economic systems. Ongoing and planned initiatives were categorized by their main objective and then examined for how they can affect the described systems. The analysis shows that the traditional agricultural practices and their high-quality products have a key role in preserving the environment and enhancing the regional cultural heritage; the tourism sector can help in this sense and contribute to the development of Aosta Valley’s economy only if it is diffused on the entire regional territory and respectful of the environment. Initiatives can be taken at a local, regional or national level, and they can tackle different challenges: the availability of resources like water and fertile land, with construction of water storage reservoirs, the conservation and upgrading of the rural context or the introduction of grazing plans for the Alpine pastures; the conservation of the environment and landscape, with the introduction of protected areas or the adoption of innovative farm management systems; the valorization of the cultural heritage with the definition of quality schemes for the traditional products.
farming , climate change , adaptation strategies , environmental protection , economic development