This research cluster embraces a very specific meaning of ‘territory’, namely: « une portion d’espace terrestre envisagée dans ses rapports avec des groupes humains qui l’occupent et l’aménagent en vue d’assurer la satisfaction de leurs besoins ». The concept of territorial transition embodies new local forms of development, which emphasize sustained well-being of the population, congruent with environmental care.

In this research cluster, we argue that a harmonious evolution of towns depends on a redefinition of rural development, which focuses upon both the specificities and primary functions of rural life : providing a quality environment, offering a sustainable agriculture and food, fostering a culture of participation…

Ontologically, we do not see a separation between Humans and Nature (the concept of Nature subsumes the concept of Humans), or Nature and Culture. We aim at developing systemic approaches, focusing on links and relationships between entities rather than on entities themselves. We generally adopt a post-normal science research posture, where researchers admit their non-neutrality and place their expertise at the service of society, in face of urgent interacting socio-environmental stakes (e.g. the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity). This cluster therefore mobilizes participatory approaches (e.g. research co-construction) in order to ease and foster transition processes, notably by means of developing networks of (transitioning) stakeholders. Specifically, we rely on approaches such as the integrated valuation of ecosystem services and political agroecology. Societal impacts relate to the restoration of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural territories and to the re-territorialization of food systems for increased sustainability.

Examples of main research questions:

  • How can broad values of Nature better be incorporated into decision-making for sustainable management of territories?
  • What are the main lock-ins and leverages to agroecological transitions?
  • How can we develop socially fair and environmentally sustainable food systems?

These questions can be and are addressed within European (e.g. Biodiversa calls, Axis-JPI climate or water calls), Belgian (e.g. Belspo, FNRS) or Walloon-region (SPW) funded projects. In the future, we hope that a broader financing of participatory action research will be adopted by the SPW, as a result of Get Up Wallonia and the post-covid development phase.

Ongoing research projects