In this contribution we try to look at the new role for agriculture in rural areas by reviewing the concept of multifunctional agriculture as well as the analytical frameworks used. Next, we review the existing evidence about the multifunctional role of farming. Although not overwhelming, the existing literature shows that agriculture contributes to the rural wealth not only through the production of commodities, but also by the delivery of non-tradable goods. This contribution can be both direct through increased values for properties or economic benefits in the tourism sector, but also indirect through conservation of rural heritage or agri-ecological systems. Next we focus on how this role of agriculture can be stimulated. It is argued that multifunctionality can be a unifying principle to bring the productive and non-productive functions into harmony. This requires the development of new institutional arrangements and a major change in policy incentives.
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