Iofrida, Nathalie, Anna Irene De Luca, Giovanni Gulisano, & Alfio Strano (2018, May). An application of Q-methodology to Mediterranean olive production––Stakeholders’ understanding of sustainability issues. Agricultural Systems, 162, 46-55.

Abstract: Olive growing is one of the most significant sources of income for agricultural areas in the Mediterranean basin, and a characteristic element from environmental and landscape perspectives. Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil; this cultivation represents the nation’s most important supply chain, especially in the southern Italian Calabrian region, contributing to both local and rural economies. However, in a Calabrian context, olive production underperforms due to structural and managerial weaknesses, and farming techniques’ potential impacts are not properly addressed due to farmers’ poor knowledge of agricultural sustainability techniques. Therefore, Calabrian olive growing requires innovation, especially to respond to new sustainability requirements, currently claimed by public policies (eco-conditionality), and consumers and citizens increasingly concerned with environmental quality, human health and social liveability. This paper analyses the aspects that require innovation towards sustainability aims by exploring the perceptions of various actors, including local and supply chain stakeholders, and highlighting and suggesting new pathways to be introduced in Calabrian olive growing. The application of a mixed qualitative/quantitative statistical method, or the ‘Q-methodology’, small and medium-sized farms, academic experts, technicians and consumers have been interviewed to investigate their perceptions and interpretations of sustainability issues. Further, their opinions on possible weaknesses and areas of improvement are examined, highlighting either a consensus or diversity regarding their points of view. The results indicated that all actors perceived a need to orient Calabrian olive growing towards more sustainable management practices by better exploiting its potential and focusing on product quality. Sustainable innovation, in this sense, would increase production efficiency and economic performance, thus satisfying the need for employment and fairer remunerations.

Anna Irene De Luca <anna.deluca@unirc.it> is in the Department of Agriculture (AGRARIA), Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Reggio Calabria, Italy.

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