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The conference

+++ The GEWISOLA conference will take place online this year. Registration of participants is open from 6 July to 25 September 2020. +++

The 60th Annual Meeting of the Gesellschaft für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften des Landbaues e.V. (Society for Economic and Social Sciences of Agriculture) (GEWISOLA) will take place online from Wednesday, 23 September to Friday, 25 September 2020. The theme of the conference is:

Challenges for rural development - economic and social perspectives

The annual conference is organised by the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transition Economies and the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.

Explanations about the conference theme

The development of rural areas and the quality of life in rural regions are determined by a variety of interacting factors. These factors include the demographic developments (aging, migration), the economic development, the growth of incomes, the labour market situation (unemployment versus shortage of skilled labour), social structures that encourage or hamper participatory processes, and the quality of the infrastructure and basic public services. The state of the natural environment, which in rural areas is substan-tially shaped by agriculture, also plays an essential role.

At the political level, the prevention of major disparities in living conditions between regions, and in particular between urban and rural areas, is a widely accepted guiding principle. In the past, rural development policies focused on developing earning opportunities and ensuring a minimum standard of basic public services in rural areas. In Germany, this is reflected, for example, in the Spatial Planning Act, according to which balanced infrastructural, economic, ecological, social, and cultural conditions should be pursued across all regions. A similar mission statement is expressed in the 2nd pillar of EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (development of rural areas).

Often, the quality of life in a region is equated with the economic performance measured as GDP per capita. However, science, politics and civil society increasingly question the paradigm that social progress and quality of life depend entirely on material wealth and consumption opportunities. In addition, the question is raised whether nongovernmental actors and collective action could and should play a more important role in improving the quality of life in marginal rural areas in the future. The concept of quality of life is thus understood as a multidimensional concept that includes not only income opportunities but also the social and ecological living conditions.

With regard to the promotion of the quality of life of people in rural areas, there is a multitude of issues that require in-depth scientific discussion and that should be analysed from an economic and social science perspective. These issues are closely linked to the question of the role and the functions of agriculture and its actors in and for rural areas. In particular, these issues are:

  • Demographic developments: out-migration, in-migration, birth rates
  • Aspects of in-migration: urban residents lookingfor housing, agricultural startups, refugees
  • Impact of market mechanisms and competitionon the development of the agricultural sector andrural areas (structural change)
  • Labour market: from unemployment to shortageof skilled-labour
  • Societal and social implications of the distribution of land ownership
  • Role and potential of Corporate Social Responsibility in agricultural enterprises
  • Commons, public welfare, and social participation in rural areas
  • Collective action and quality of life in rural areas
  • New forms of agriculture: from alternative sourcesof finance to supporting community welfare (e.g.Community Supported Agriculture, food-sharinginitiatives, and open source seeds or technology)
  • Negative and positive impacts of agriculture onthe provision of environmental system services invarious domains (e.g. biodiversity, habitats, landscape, and climate change)
  • Ethical dimensions of conflicting objectives inrural development
  • Digitisation as a solution for problems in marginal rural areas
  • New animal welfare and environmental regulation and social protest movements

We look forward receiving contributions from agricultural economics and social sciences as well as from disciplines, such as sociology, communication science, psychology, geography or political science.