Achieving Sustainable Agriculture Role of Sociology

Sociologists and other social scientists have played a significant role in the emergence, institutionalization, and design of sustainable agriculture. Sociologists and other social scientists have done particularly significant research on the adoption of resource-conserving practices. They have also made major contributions through their research into identifying user needs and implementation strategies relating to sustainable agriculture technology (Buttel 1993). For many scholars, sustainable agriculture lies at the heart of a new social contract between agriculture and society (Gafsi et al. 2006).

This paper argues that sociology and the other social sciences play an equally important and constructive role in understanding and achieving agricultural sustain-ability. Buttel (1993) suggests that this kind of application of sociology may be referred to as the sociology of agricultural sustainability. The major contribution of the environment-development debate is the realization that in addition to or in conjunction with these ecological conditions, there are social conditions that influence the ecological sustainability or unsustainability of the people-nature interaction (Lele 1991). Sometimes, however, sustainability is used with fundamentally social connotations. For instance, Barbier (1987) defines social sustainability as "the ability to maintain desired social values, traditions, institutions, cultures, or other social characteristics." This usage is not very common, and it needs to be carefully distinguished from the more common context in which social scientists talk about sustainability, viz., and the social aspects of ecological sustainability.

Sustainability as a social vision is, on the one hand, not only potentially acceptable, but does, in fact, meet with correspondingly broad approval across all societal groups and political positions, nationally and internationally. On the other hand, sus-tainability's conflict potential cannot be overlooked. As soon as relatively concrete goals or even strategies of societal action for attaining sustainability are put on the agenda - at the latest - it becomes obvious that the usual antagonistic societal values and interests are lurking behind the programmatic consensus (Grunwald 2004).

Despite the diversity in conceptualizing sustainable agriculture, there is a consensus on three basic features of sustainable agriculture: (i) maintenance of environmental quality, (ii) stable plant and animal productivity, and (iii) social acceptability. Consistent with this, Yunlong and Smith (1994) have also suggested that agricultural sustainability should be assessed from ecological soundness, social acceptability, and economic viability perspectives. "Ecological soundness" refers to the preservation and improvement of the natural environment, "economic viability" to maintenance of yields and productivity of crops and livestock, and "social acceptability" to self-reliance, equality, and improved quality of life (Rasul and Thapa 2003). Sociology of sustainable agriculture deals with the following issues:

Paradigms used to interpret sustainability

Sociological models developed to explain attitudes and behaviors toward sustainability Adoption of sustainable agriculture practices Gender and sustainable agriculture Social impact assessment and sustainable agriculture

These issues will be briefly dealt with in the following sections.

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