One of the main transformations of the Portuguese society during the last 60 years is related to the changes observed, with higher or lower intensity, in rural areas, as well as with the subsequent restructuring of rural-urban relationships, promoting the vulnerability of many rural territories, through the accentuation of the declining demographic and socioeconomic dynamics and the reinforcement of the asymmetries between the inland and the coastal areas of Portugal.
There is a consensus regarding the direction and content of rural changes mainly understood as consequence of the loss of the social and economic relevance of agricultural activities. The transformations of this activity have contributed to reconfiguring rural territories which have been transformed from places of production into multifunctional spaces especially oriented to consumption activities. In these processes, the contribution of national and European development policies has been decisive. In the multifunctional rural, agriculture, combined with other activities (e.g. forest production, environmental protection and tourism) is regaining relevance, namely through the production of local or typical food products and its certification.
Like in other European regions, there is also a growing interest, by Portuguese consumers, on traditional, locally produced and quality certified, either officially or not, food products as well as an increasing number of urban located specialty stores that sell these products. Such processes may decisively contribute to inducing and/or reinforcing new rural-urban relationships, as well as to reducing the persistent inland-coastal asymmetries through the valorisation of local products, fostering agricultural production and the interest on rural territories. These aspects may induce a larger economic diversification and foster sustainable development of rural communities. However, there is a limited set of studies on these processes. Based on multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches, STRINGS aims at filling this gap by analysing the role that ‘gourmet’ or specialty urban stores may have in promoting new rural urban relationships, as well as touristic attractiveness, socioeconomic restructuring and valorization, sustainability and territorial cohesion in Portugal, through the promotion and sale of traditional and locally produced foodstuffs. STRINGS uses a multi-level approach to typify stores and understand the commercialization processes in their globality; to understand and map these processes and outline the paths taken by local products – in a detailed manner based on selected cases – from its production to its consumption. STRINGS aims at producing innovative knowledge to improve local food chains of production, commercialization and consumption unveiling new opportunities for rural development and to reduce rural-urban asymmetries in Portugal.
Mónica Truninger (coord.), Elisabete Figueiredo (coord. geral), Paulo Morgado, Fernando Jorge Pedro da Silva Pinto da Rocha.