Reference : Agriculture Seen Through the Prism of the French Media in Belgium
Scientific congresses and symposiums : Unpublished conference/Abstract
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Human geography & demography
Agriculture Seen Through the Prism of the French Media in Belgium
Dubois, Charline mailto [Université de Liège > Département de géographie > Service de géographie rurale (LAPLEC) >]
Firmino, Ana (2015) Smart answers for a smiling future, pp. 56-57
23nd Annual Colloquium Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems International Geographical Union – Smart Answers for a Smiling Future
27 juillet 2015 - 2 août 2015
Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems of IGU
Faculdade de Ciencias Sociais e Humanas - Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Faculdade de Letras - Universidade do Porto
Lisbonne & Porto
[en] Agriculture ; Inhabitants ; Representations ; Media ; Wallonia
[en] Scholars agree on the importance of the farming activities to maintain the quality (aesthetic environment) of rural areas. The number of farmers in Belgium fall steadily in the recent decades (Van Hecke et al. 2010). In particular, the rural systems of Wallonia transformed, characterized by the increased presence of landscapes of consumption and the influx of urban migrants. Why do they live in the countryside? Do they know the farmers in the area? What are the rural idylls (Yarwood 2005)? The answers to these questions lead to the understanding of perceptions and recognitions of rural spaces among different stakeholders. On another scale, this leads to the need for the improvement of social and territorial cohesion to improve the quality of life and the integration of people into their new living environment. The topics about “to live and to build the countryside” are current (Cawley & Gillmor 2008, Frelat-Kahn & Lazzarotti 2012) and are also concerned with the future of the countryside, of farming, and of the vitality of rural systems that face challenges according to geographic situations. With increasing suburbanization and multifunctionality (Bills & Gross 2005), some inhabitants want to build an interdependent community with authentic values. But the inhabitants’ representations about rural way of life are inexistent (despite some local initiatives such as organic produces) or complex (Dubois & Schmitz 2011, Tencati & Zsolnai 2012). Each person can say that he/she lives in the countryside by considering different space realities, with the risk that farmers could become strangers (Simard & Guimond 2013)! “Each year we organised a party in our street with everybody from the surrounding areas. Some farmers come and it is amazing to socialize more than just pass each other by cars and tractors” (inhabitant in a rural town in Wallonia). This study presents a first step in exploring inhabitant’s representations of the countryside. We analyse here the organic image about agriculture developed by the media that partly influences the people's perception of agriculture. Other than the induced and experienced images, organic image or “those that arise from supposedly unbiased sources” such as books, school education, television, documentaries, newspapers, and word of mouth (Gunn 1972, O'Leary & Deegan 2005) is considered. “People are interested about agricultural features. We speak a lot about that in the media, so people would like to know more about us and our job! That is why they visit us and they are sometimes so disoriented!” (Farmer in Wallonia). The analysis focuses on 3 consecutive even-numbered years: 2010, 2012 and 2014, from January to December. The national online press platform was used to access the articles. This allows for an analytical look at how agriculture is represented in the newspapers: What themes were addressed? How often? And to know the level of importance, in which part of the newspapers did it appear? The study analysed articles from 2 Belgian French newspapers from different media groups (Le Soir, La Libre). Different regions were covered to take into account different agro-geographical landscapes, suburban and rural features of the countryside, and different social and economical realities of Wallonia. For each article, topic selection and content analysis (NVivo ) were undertaken. Bette (2012) made the first analysis of the topic in 2012 and put into evidence 13 different categories in which agriculture has been presented: organic, diversification, legislation, economy, crops, farming, food, biotechnology, energy, animal health, plant diseases, environment, other. However, for this research, we improved the typology and add other topics such as the tourism, the local produces, the (agro-) geographical regions.
Qualitative analysis showed that economic difficulties, economic investment, local produces, slow food, European policies, environment are among the categories frequently explored. All the different categories were represented and were often sensationalised but the level of importance is not high as most news were often found inside the newspaper and not on the front page. These different elements influence the representations of the different readers and give an overview about the influence of images of agriculture on the inhabitants. Agriculture is related to multiple components but some of these aspects are not presented and remain unknown to the common public. A lot of other questions about agricultural and rural systems and agricultural regions are not covered because on-going social, economic environmental and cultural trends tend to influence the information that are found in the newspapers. Agriculture is often simplified in a positive (e.g. local products, organic farming) and in a negative way (e.g. pollutions, bankruptcies, suicides) which implied that it is difficult for laymen to have a valid representation based on newspapers.
Laplec : Géographie rurale ; Lepur : Centre de Recherche sur la Ville, le Territoire et le Milieu rural
F.R.S.-FNRS - Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique ; ULiège - Université de Liège
Researchers ; Professionals ; Students ; General public

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