Sustainable Agroecosystems and Resilience (SARe)


The course focuses on farming and food systems evolution, identifying:
1) the agroecosystem as the unit for action, a complex system with economic, social, and ecological components;
2) the local community as the main stakeholder relying on the agroecosystem functions and aiming to conserve and improve its ability to resist and respond to changes.


Agroecosystems will be studied as farm and landscape systems delivering important services to societies, and that evolve in relations with agri-food policies and people behaviours. Solutions are proposed for their sustainable management with a focus on biodiversity, water, soil resources, and inputs, also in response to challenges related to climate changes. With a view to agroecological transition, the study programme gives attention to ways to promote stakeholders’ participation and empowerment in agroecosystem planning and management; to develop knowledge and innovation systems in rural areas; to establish agri-food networks driven by green and ethical principles. The course presents methodologies and tools for analyzing agroecosystems and design projects for sustainable development of agri-food sector and communities.

A consistent part of the program is devoted to students’ projects development (individual and team works) and to a research thesis implementation (during the 2nd year).


At the end of the program students will master the system thinking required to understand, assess, and promote agroecosystem resilience, and they will be able to:
- comprehend and analyze the complexity of agroecosystems, their relations with food systems and people’s behaviors, the nature of their development challenges;
- design and drive community development processes according to agroecological principles to build up resilience against bio-physical and socio-economic stresses;
- identify and fill stakeholders’ gaps to facilitate transition to resilient agroecosystems;
- analyze and promote multi-actors’ networks, and agricultural knowledge and innovation systems that support sustainable land management processes, green economy development and social inclusion;
- support community farms towards greater competitiveness and socio-economic sustainability in the agri-food system.
- implement action-research and learning approaches through participation, dialogue and vision building processes; use a range of tools for quantitative and qualitative research in rural areas.


The course is addressed to candidates who have motivations in working in research or services domains, as well as in development programs, oriented to the empowerment of rural communities in sustainable agroecosystem management and who wish to be actively engaged in interdisciplinary and multisectoral challenges.
Candidates may hold different university degrees related to agricultural, environmental, social, and economic sciences, with diplomas awarding at least to 180 ECTS (three-year Degrees). Working experience and other study titles will be evaluated as an added value for selection. Applicants must have a good knowledge of spoken and written English and access to computer facilities.


1st year programme

Unit I – Sustainability and resilience in agriculture and food systems (delivered in distance learning): it frames the concepts of sustainability and resilience applied to agriculture and food sectors. It provides elements for understanding the main agricultural challenges to design solutions and actions towards sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. The multi-dimensions nature of sustainability challenges will be thoroughly analysed, preparing students to reflect on processes for sustainability transitions in agri-food systems.
Unit II – Land and water resources: basic principles of sustainable management: the unit describes land and water resource status in Mediterranean environments and the main challenges for their use in agriculture. Soil genesis and characteristics are discussed, introducing key concepts for resources classification and survey, accomplished by technical field visits and practical examples. Linkages between rainfall patterns, soil properties, land degradation, desertification, drought and land use planning will be discussed. Moreover, the unit focuses on conceptual and quantitative understanding of surface and groundwater hydrological processes and explores the practices, approaches and tools, with regards to an integrated surface and groundwater management in agricultural environments.
Unit III - Agroecology: the unit focusses on the ecological processes at the foundation of agroecosystem functioning to promote agroecological transition to sustainable food systems in the context of the current climate changes and global challenges. It motivates students to comprehend the complexity of the factors and processes that influence the sustainability of agroecosystems. It describes the range of ecosystem services from an agroecosystem perspective, framing them in the farming activities and introducing practices with a special focus on biodiversity management.
Unit IV – Smart technologies: it provides students with basic knowledge on the use of smart tools important for driving decisions towards more sustainable ways of natural resource management in agriculture. Specific focus will be on Remote Sensing, Precision Agriculture, Geographic Information Systems, and Global Position Systems tools for the acquisition, management, processing, analysis and display of spatial data and information.
Unit V – Innovation and markets in the agrifood system: the existence of services that facilitate the generation and dissemination of knowledge, information, technologies, and experiences is functional for increasing farmers and agri-food actors’ capacities. The unit will present how research, extension services, market actors and civil society organisations may work for promoting innovations in rural areas, facilitating the shift towards more sustainable agroecosystems.
Unit VI – Sustainable farm management: the unit presents sustainable farm management as the process of making decisions about the allocation of scarce resources for agricultural production, matching with multiple management goals (economic, environmental, social, cultural). Methods for farm performances analysis are described as tools to drive farmers towards competitiveness and sustainability in the framework of the agri-food system challenges. Students will analyse organic and conventional farms, assessing sustainability levels.
Unit VII – Agri-food networks development: stakeholders’ networks are key tools for engaging rural communities in processes for agroecological transition.

These can be of different nature such as food value chain, farmers’ cooperatives, environmental or social associations. The unit presents the kind of networks important for the sustainability of agroecosystems and resilience of communities, guiding on ways for their analysis and promotion.

Individual project: the student is demanded to undertake an explorative research on a specific challenge related to the course topics, based on literature review and semi-structured interviews to key actors. The research aims at developing students’ capacities to identify research questions, collect primary and secondary data, analyzing and discussing findings, write a thesis report.

Action Learning project: the Action Learning approach sees students divided into groups and working in a real territory to assess how local actors contribute to agroecosystems sustainability. Activities will consist in observation visits, meetings and interviews with key stakeholders. The project will develop students’ capacities to observe, reflect and research on complex systems.
Seminars and laboratories: during the academic year, there will be a series of training activities aimed at integrating students’ competencies on themes and topics related to Community resilience, Green Economies and food systems, Participatory Project Design, Gender issues in agriculture, etc.

2nd year programme

Students who have successfully completed the 1st year will be admitted to participate in the 2nd year programme. For the purpose they must develop a research thesis related to contents identified within the course topics, under an academic supervision. Priority is given to research activities implemented in the students’ home countries, possibly through internships in third organizations. Students will be back to CIHEAM Bari for finalizing the research report and attending additional trainings. Researches might be oriented to analyse specific landscapes/agroecosystems, food value chains, Knowledge and innovation systems for farmers, using a range of investigation tools that may include informants’ interviews and questionnaires, stakeholders' analysis, remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems.

    Education Office

    Head of the Office
    Olimpia Antonelli
    +39 080 4606281


    Silvia Centonze
    +39 080 4606329

    Roberta Cosentino
     +39 080 4606202

    Ivana Pekez
    +39 080 4606299

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