Community for applied agricultural sustainability teaching (CAAST)

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The agricultural sector, which includes industrial agriculture, falls far short when it comes to sustainability. Overfertilization is harming ecosystems. Other negative impacts occur through high levels of pesticide use, CO2 emissions, and soil compaction. And incomes – for the people who work the land – are low. Although research has identified numerous solutions to these problems, implementation is slow and not widespread. A major problem is that many actors in the agricultural sector lack the necessary knowledge of how political and scientific sustainability concepts can be translated into practice.

Training “Change Agents” for sustainable agriculture

This is where CAAST (Community for Applied Agricultural Sustainability Teaching) comes in. It enables lecturers at agricultural faculties and on environmental and sustainability courses to provide students with the practical skills needed to shape sustainable agriculture and food systems. After their training, the young people are able to act as “Change Agents” and to drive forward the transformation to sustainable agriculture and equitable food systems.

Sustainable agriculture and food systems require a holistic understanding and a context-specific approach. Project participants learn how to use an innovative didactic concept to bridge the gap between theory and practice – and thus to develop effective strategies and measures for disseminating sustainable practices.

Building a “Community of practice” for teaching

The project aims to establish an active “Community of practice” of university teaching staff, whose members

  • develop teaching concepts and materials on sustainable agriculture
  • provide practical training to agricultural sector actors, on how they can effectively contribute to sustainable agriculture and equitable food systems
  • anchor these teaching concepts within their institutions

Combining macro- and operational analysis

Methodologically, the project builds on successful approaches taken by CDE and HAFL:

  • the Food Sustainability Assessment Framework (FoodSAF) of the CDE project entitled “Towards Food Sustainability”. FoodSAF provides evidence-based support for strategies and policies to improve the sustainability of entire food systems (Macro analysis).
  • HAFL’s RISE (Response-Inducing Sustainability Evaluation) methodology, which strengthens sustainability at the level of individual farms (Operational analysis).

In the CAAST project, the two methods will be combined, developed further, and scaled up and out, to make teaching methods for sustainable agriculture more easily and widely accessible. CAAST will initially be launched in German-speaking countries before being expanded internationally.