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Social sustainability in the agricultural field

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

The Humus Job platform to fight “Capolarato”

By Noemi Nardi

Noemi Nardi is a first-year student of the Master's Degree program in European and Global Studies at the University of Padua, specifically in the "Global social policies and Security issues" curriculum. Noemi's ambition in contributing to the dissemination of justice and sustainability values led her to join the SET Members Team in November 2021.

Her article takes part in the social sub-track of the blog's section - 'EcoVirAl'.

‘EcoVirAl’ is an acronym for the ‘Economic, EnVironmental, and SociAl’ dimensions of sustainable development. Professor Robert Goodland proposed such a categorization in three dimensions in 1995. The European Union adopted it in its definition of sustainable development.

‘EcoVirAl’ will publish blog articles on all those three dimensions. Each week focuses on one of them. The pieces are not fully-fledged scientific ones, but they retain a degree of technicality. The language of the articles is usually English, even if it is possible to publish in Italian too occasionally. In such a case, the editors will provide a translation.

Enjoy your reading!

Introduction: socially sustainable agriculture.

The agricultural sector is a “fertile” ground where social sustainability can be implemented, and some Italian realities want to carry this out concretely. In fact, agriculture's multifunctional role is resulting in the creation of new potentials, which are closely connected to its ability to create benefits for the poor and vulnerable, particularly through innovative services. (1)

Sustainable agriculture can be put into effect by the enhancement of workers’ and producers’ living conditions, by the extensiveness of fair and non-exploiting market access to more producers, particularly the most vulnerable. Furthermore, there is the need for dissemination of knowledge about exploitative economic systems and consumer awareness of an alternative economic model to the prevailing one. In a few words, sustainable agriculture means the advancement of social justice and the protection of fundamental human rights. (2)

Nowadays, the implementation of social sustainability is a key action that cannot be separated from the economic and environmental one. Several Italian realities are approaching alternative and ethical models that enable labourers to be informed and formed, supplying, at the same time, enterprises with regularized manpower. (3)

In Italy, between 400,000 and 430,000 male and female agricultural workers are vulnerable to irregularities and exploiting venues such as “capolarato” (3), which consists of establishing an organised activity of labour intermediation that takes advantage of people in need or necessity (immigrants, refugees) to exploit them with means of violence and intimidation.

The Humus Job case.

A perfect example of ethical and socially sustainable activity is that undertaken by Humus Job.

Humus Job was created in 2019 as an innovative and social start-up born in Valle Grana, in the province of Cuneo with the aim of enabling network contracts amongst local farmers. (4)

It is a national business network of farms founded by a psychologist, an anthropologist (both coming from the social advancement association MiCò), and an ex-educator now working in the agricultural field. (5)

The three founders of "Humus Job". Retrieved from:

Committed to social, environmental, and economic sustainability through a ‘job sharing’ approach, it is organized into territorial groups that allow the shared allocation of information, tools, structures, projects, and workforce, and thus provides a solution to the problem of economic sustainability and the most common challenges farmers face when employing and regularizing workers. (6)

In fact, the online platform has been the product of an equity crowdfunding campaign launched only in May 2020 in response to the Covid-19 emergency and it has benefited the support of other responsible players such as NaturaSì. (7)

Retrieved from:

Inside the platform, workers can sign up for free, submitting their documents and providing acknowledgment about their agricultural skills. In the same way, the platform is a showcase to enterprises which may request a match by indicating the type of contract they are looking for. However, firms must guarantee their ethical commitment through the signing of a transparency protocol based on ethical principles of contracts and employment and on the prohibition of illegal venues of “capolarato”.

This method would favour the sharing of foreign laborers' workforce in accordance with a contract and labour transparency policy and workers can obtain regular one-year contracts by employing at various firms among those participating, thanks to settlements and network monitoring. (5)

Additionally, companies who exhibit social sustainability and respect for their employees receive the 100% ETHICAL designation from Humus Job and promotion on social media, on its website, and other ethical marketing channels. This tool can also be translated into an ethical recognition for the consumer so to know that what he/she pays for entails a fair salary for the employees too. (3)

Sample monitoring activities are also conducted by the Humus team, with potential support for relationships companies-workers that do not adhere to the concept of complete ethics. (5)


The aforementioned project is an example of local responses enabled with no institutional or public aid, promotion, or finance. This needs to be underlined since undertaking such an ethic and regularized activity makes State gaps, as well as those of civil society and market, come to the fore. (5)

Summing up, the plan is to establish major projects that assist businesses in improving their competitiveness while also assisting them in breaking out of informality, creating fair and sustainable workplace conditions, providing informative tools such as workshops about rights and duties of workers (3), combating 'caporalato' and grey labour drifts, stabilizing employment, and fostering worker integration into regions. (5)

Written and edited by Noemi Nardi

Pictures courtesy of

Noemi Nardi is a first-year student of the Master's Degree program in European and Global Studies at the University of Padua, specifically in the "Global social policies and Security issues" curriculum. Noemi's ambition in contributing to the dissemination of justice and sustainability values led her to join the SET Members Team in November 2021.

To find out more about 'The Student Engagement Team | Padova':

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(1) “Sostenibilità sociale: per un’agricultura responsabile”

(2) “Agricultura sostenibile: significato, principi e tecniche”

(3) “Humus Job: la piattaforma per trovare lavoro in agricultura”

(5) Donatiello, D., Mostaccio, F. (2021). Figure eroiche e terreni fertili per la sostenibilità sociale delle filiere agricole. I casi di Spartacus e di Humus nel panorama italiano, Fuori Luogo Rivista di Sociologia del Territorio, Turismo, Tecnologia. Volume 9 – Issue 1/2021. Pages 45-57. DOI: 10.6093/2723-9608/7618

(6) “Esiste una sostenibilità per le aziende e i lavoratori dell’agricoltura? La proposta di Humus Job”

(7) “Aziende agricole e professionisti insieme per ridare dignità al lavoro nei campi”

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