Tuesday 6
How to enhance agrifood resilience? - Operationalising resilience approaches
Helena Kahiluoto, Karoliina Rimhanen, Miia Kuisma
› 15:45 - 16:40 (55min)
Making sense of resilience in barley breeding: Towards usability of the concept of response diversity
Sami Paavola  1@  , Sari Himanen  2@  , Helena Kahiluoto  2@  , Reijo Miettinen  1@  
1 : University of Helsinki
2 : MTT Agrifood Research Finland

Resilience is nowadays a widely used concept concerning ecological and social-ecological systems, with different interpretations. Some definitions of resilience emphasize predictability of the systems in question and the return time after disturbances (”engineering resilience”) but the main emphasis has usually been that these systems are non-linear, containing uncertainties, and surprises. Resilience means the ability to cope with these changes and persist (”ecological resilience”). More recent definitions focus on social-ecological systems (and ”social-ecological resilience”) by emphasizing social aspects, social learning and networks, capacity for renewal and re-organization; that is, ”the capacity to buffer change, learn and develop” (Folke et al 2002).

It has been noted that easily either the social side or the ecological side is emphasized and it is challenging to have them working together (Folke 2006). The inclusion of human agency forces us to reconceptualize the concept of resilience. In this reconceptualization concrete means and tools of enhancing resilience are a central challenge. These concrete means of operationalizing resilience are not easy to find in the literature (Cummings et al 2005).

In our paper we analyze a case where the aim is to develop a specific tool for enhancing resilience. Agrifood researchers have been operationalising the ecological concept of response diversity (Elmqvist et al., 2003) to be used as one tool in assessing and managing of resilience in agrifood systems. The ecological concept refers to the diversity of responses to disturbance within functional groups, e.g., among species contributing to the same function (Nyström 2006). We analyze a collaborative study in which a tool and methods enhancing response diversity in barley cultivation in Finland have been developed. The tool is based on empirical assessment on effects of various climate factors on barley cultivars. The aim of the interventionist study is to develop this method forward for specialized tools to be used by breeders and farmers, potentially with other stakeholders of the sector, such as fodder industry, breweries and seed trade. Agrifood researchers, social scientists and barley breeders have participated at the project.

We are analyzing meetings where the tool has been developed as well as tensions brought up during the process. The analysis is based on cultural-historical activity theory, and on the concept of re-tooling (Miettinen 2009). The participants are developing potentially tools for enhancing resilience and a “pidgin” (Galison 1997), that is, an intermediary, operative language that makes the collaboration between partners from different disciplines possible. 

Our study is part of a bigger, four-year project (A-LA-CARTE, 2011-2014). A-LA-CARTE seeks to explore the limits of adaptation to anticipated climate change and explores also options for enhancing resilience in interdisciplinary context. The study aims at defining what resilience is and by what means it can be enhanced through activities of the stakeholders. 

Suggested session: How to enhance agrifood resilience? - Operationalising resilience approaches

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