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Evaluating of the sustainability of complex rural ecosystems during the transition from agricultural villages to tourist destinations and modern agri-food systems


Many agricultural villages have transformed from traditional agricultural communities into tourist destinations to eliminate the progressive degradation, abandonment, ecological and social crises that threaten sustainable development. Today rural villages are complex ecosystems that represent the result of the historical relationship between man and nature in the socio-economic dimension. A tool for assessing the sustainability of rural villages is the analysis of the interaction between man and the environment. Preserving healthy rural ecosystems, in dynamic balance with the interrelation between social development and the functioning of the natural ecosystem is an indispensable goal of sustainable development. All this leads to what the current traditional economic studies have ignored namely the study of the reasons of the economic reference indicators to suggest technical solutions, change strategies and sustainability for rural governance systems within of social development. This article proposes an economic study approach that integrates social and economic evaluation to research sustainable development models and socio-economic factors to achieve the well-being of the rural system. Considering Borgo Parrini, located in Sicily, the historical analysis has been combined with the social-economic one and linked to models of social development (traditional agriculture, industrialized agriculture and commercial tourism). Based on the methodology, economic indicators of the crops implemented in the countryside surrounding the rural village under examination were obtained and the corresponding socio-economic factors that have characterized the village from its birth to the present day were also reconstructed. The results show that the Borgo was born with the aim of being at the service of the agricultural activity of the neighboring countryside. The evolution of historical facts and the changes induced by the economic development models adopted in Italy have led to a transformation from a neighborhood agriculture to an industrialized agriculture. This model of agriculture adapted to the studied area had a negative impact and led to the impoverishment of the countryside and the removal of man from the territory. The potential impacts were explored with the evolution of the agricultural landscape and with the analysis of the economic activities in the area. The changes in the use of resources on the welfare of the system and their results indicate that technical solutions must be integrated with a governance system based on the relations of production, community and culture. To adopt a sustainable development model, it is recommended to use environmentally friendly agricultural techniques, methods of ecotourism and participatory governance between agriculture and tourism. The method proposed here for integrated governance provides a new perspective for the implementation of technical solutions in human society and the formation of sustainable development models that are positive for the rural, social and economic environment.