Assoc.Prof. DI Dr. Ika Darnhofer, PhD

Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Economics
Department of Economic and Social Sciences
BOKU - Univ. of Natural Resources and Life Sciences
Feistmantelstr. 4
A-1180 Vienna, Austria

email: ika.darnhofer(a)

Office: Guttenberghaus, first floor, right corridor, room OG1/23

ORCID   //  SCOPUS   //   Google Scholar

Main research focus

My research focus is on decision making on family farms.

Although I appreciate the value of the various tools of neoclassical economics for informing farm management on the short-term and for commercial farms, I find they are limited in their ability to capture the complexity family farmers face, when making decisions over the medium to long term. I am also convinced that limiting ourselves to quantitative data and mathematical analysis curtails our ability to capture important aspects of events.

My research focuses on resilience as a primary management goal of family farmers. Although resilience thinking has primarily been applied at the spatial level of whole social-ecological systems, I believe that many principles can be applied at the farm level, and that these will help us understand how farmers manage their farm under real-life conditions.

While I appreciate the insights that can be gained by various approaches that try to 'measure' the resilience of farms, I think that they often miss the processual aspect of resilience, i.e. the ability to engage with the on-going (and often unexpected) changes on- and off-farm. I am therefore exploring a processual and relational approach to understanding resilience. To do so, I explore insights that can be gained from processual sociology as well as new materialism.

Selected publications on resilience (esp. adaptive capacity) in farming

Darnhofer, I. (2022). Researching the management of family farms: promote planning or bolster bricolage? In: M. Larcher and E. Schmid (Eds.). Alpine Landgesellschaften zwischen Urbanisierung und Globalisierung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, pp. 229-242.

Darnhofer, I. (2021). Farming resilience: from maintaining states towards shaping transformative change processes. Sustainability 13(6): 3387.

Darnhofer, I. (2021). Resilience or how do we enable agricultural systems to ride the waves of unexpected change. Agricultural Systems 187: 102997.

Darnhofer, I. (2020). Farm resilience in the face of the unexpected: lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic. Topical collection 'Agriculture, Food & COVID-19'. Agriculture and Human Values 37(3): 605-606. 

Darnhofer, I. (2020). Farming from a process-relational perspective: Making openings for change visible. Sociologia Ruralis 60(2): 505-528.

Darnhofer, I. (2019). Zukunftsfähigkeit sichern: hilft ein Perspektivenwechsel von einengenden Strukturen zu ermöglichenden Prozessen? Plenarvortrag bei der Tagung der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Agrarwirtschaft und Agrarsoziologie (SGA-SSE), 4. April 2019 in Wädenswil.

Bouttes, M., I. Darnhofer, and G. Martin (2019). Converting to organic farming as a way to enhance adaptive capacity. Organic Agriculture 9(2): 235-247.

Darnhofer, I., C. Lamine, A. Strauss, and M. Navarette (2016). The resilience of family farms: Towards a relational approach. Journal of Rural Studies 44: 111-122.

Schermer, M., I. Darnhofer, K. Daugstad, M. Gabillet, S. Lavorel, M. Steinbacher (2016). Institutional impacts on the resilience of mountain grasslands: an analysis based on three European case studies. Land Use Policy 52: 382-391.

Darnhofer, I. (2015). Socio-technical transitions in farming: key concepts. In: L.-A. Sutherland, I. Darnhofer, G. Wilson and L. Zagata (Eds.). Transition pathways towards sustainability in agriculture. Case studies from Europe. Wallingford: CABI, pp. 17-31.

Darnhofer, I., L.-A. Sutherland, T. Pinto-Correia (2015). Conceptual insights derived from case studies on 'emerging transitions' in farming. In: L.-A. Sutherland, I. Darnhofer, G. Wilson and L. Zagata (Eds.). Transition pathways towards sustainability in agriculture. Case studies from Europe. Wallingford: CABI, pp. 189-203.

Darnhofer, I. (2014). Resilience and why it matters for farm management. Preprint of a manuscript submitted to the European Journal of Agricultural Economics 41(3): 461-484.

Aregu, L., I. Darnhofer and M. Wurzinger (2014). Climate-resilient pasture management in the Ethiopian highlands. In: T. Kohler, A. Wehrli and M. Jurek (Eds.). Mountains and climate change: A global concern. Bern: Centre for Development and Environment, pp. 85-87.

Darnhofer, I. (2014). Conceptual Framework. FarmPath - Farming transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe (2-page fact sheet). FP7 Project (project website).

Darnhofer, I., I. de los Rios, K. Knickel, M. Koopmans, C. Lamine, G. Olsson, K. de Roest, E. Rogge, S. Sumane and T. Tisenkopfs (2014). Analytical Framework. RETHINK - Rethinking the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources. FP7/RURAGRI Project (project website).

Darnhofer, I., C. Lamine and K. Knickel (2013). Conceptual Framework. RETHINK - Rethinking the links between farm modernisation, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources. FP7/RURAGRI Project (project website).

Diaz, M., I. Darnhofer, C. Darrot and J.E. Beuret (2013). Green tides in Brittany: What can we learn about niche-regime interactions? Environmental Innovations and Societal Transitions 8: 62-75.

Darnhofer, I. (2013). Resilience: a contribution to more 'dynamic' farm economics? Presentation. Resilienz und der Umgang mit dynamischen Rahmenbedingungen. Die Sicht der Betriebe. Präsentation.

Darnhofer, I., D. Gibbon and B. Dedieu (2012). Farming Systems Research: an approach to inquiry.

Milestad, R., B. Dedieu, I. Darnhofer and S. Bellon (2012). Farms and farmers facing change: The adaptive approach. In: I. Darnhofer, D. Gibbon and B. Dedieu (eds.). Farming Systems Research into the 21st century: The new dynamic. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 365-385.

Schiere, J.B., I. Darnhofer and M. Duru (2012). Dynamics in farming systems: Of changes and choices. In: I. Darnhofer, D. Gibbon and B. Dedieu (eds.). Farming Systems Research into the 21st century: The new dynamic. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 337-363.

Darnhofer, I., J. Fairweather and H. Moller (2010). Assessing a farm's sustainability: Insights from resilience thinking. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 8(3): 186-198.

Darnhofer, I., S. Bellon, B. Dedieu and R. Milestad (2010). Adaptiveness to enhance the sustainability of farming systems. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 30(3): 545-555.

Darnhofer, I. (2010). Strategies of family farms to strengthen their resilience. Environmental Policy and Governance 20(4): 212-222.

Darnhofer, I. (2009). Strategies of family farms to strengthen their resilience. Paper presented at the 8th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, held in June 2009 in Ljubljana (Slovenia).

Dedieu, B., I. Darnhofer, S. Bellon, K. de Greef, F. Casabianca, L. Madureira, R. Milestad, M. Paine, P. Steyaert, D.J. Stobelaar and S. Zasser-Bedoya (2009). Innovations in farming systems approaches: An introduction. Outlook on Agriculture 38(2): 108-110.

Darnhofer, I., S. Bellon, B. Dedieu and R. Milestad (2008). Adaptive farming systems - A position paper . In: B. Dedieu and S. Sasser-Bedoya (eds.) Empowerment of the rural actors: A renewal of the farming systems perspective. Proceedings of the 8th European IFSA Symposium held July 2008 in Clermont Ferrand, pp. 339-351.

Darnhofer, I. (2006). Can family farmers be understood as adaptive managers? In: H. Langeweld and N. Röling (eds). Changing European farming systems for a better future. New visions for rural areas. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp. 232-236.

Milestad, R. and I. Darnhofer (2003). Building farm resilience: The prospects and challenges of organic farming. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 22(3): 81-97.

Selected publications on organic farming

Darnhofer, I., S. D'Amico, E. Fouilleux (2019). A relational perspective on the dynamics of the organic sector in Austria, Italy, and France. Journal of Rural Studies 68: 200-212.

Darnhofer, I., S. D'Amico, E. Fouilleux (2017). Insights from the trajectories of organic farming in Austria, Italy, and France. Paper presented at the XXVII Congress of the European Society of Rural Sociology, 24-27 July in Krakow, Poland.

Darnhofer, I. (2014). Contributing to a transition to sustainability of agri-food systems: Potentials and pitfalls for organic farming. In: S. Bellon and S. Penvern (eds). Organic farming, prototype for sustainable agricultures. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 439-452. (book)

Sutherland, L.-A. and I. Darnhofer (2012). Of organic farmers and 'good farmers': Changing habitus in rural England. Journal of Rural Studies 28(3): 232-240.

Darnhofer, I., T. Lindenthal, R. Bartel-Kratochvil and W. Zollitsch (2010). Conventionalisation of organic farming practices: From structural criteria towards an assessment based on organic principles. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 30(1): 67-81.

Schmid, O., S. Padel, N. Halberg, M. Huber, I. Darnhofer, C. Micheloni, C. Koopmans, S. Bügel, C. Stopes, H. Willer, M. Slüter and E. Cuoco (2009). Strategic research agenda for organic food and farming. Technology Platform "Organics" (TP Organics).

Roitner-Schobesberger, B., I. Darnhofer, S. Somsook and C. Vogl (2008). Consumer perceptions of organic foods in Bangkok, Thailand. Food Policy 33(2): 112-121.

Darnhofer, I., M. Schermer and W. Schneeberger (2008). Editorial: Continuity and change in organic farming - Philosophy, policy and pratice. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 7(1/2): 1-4.

Darnhofer, I. and W. Schneeberger (2007). Impacts of voluntary agri-environmental measures on Austria's agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 6(3): 360-377.

Darnhofer, I. (2006). Organic farming between professionalisation and conventionalisation. The need for a more discerning view of farmer practices. Proceedings of the European Joint Organic Congress "Organic Farming and European Rural Development", held 30-31 May in Odense, Denmark, pp. 156-157.

Darnhofer, I. (2005). Organic farming and rural development: Some evidence from Austria. Sociologia Ruralis 45(4): 308-323.

Darnhofer, I., W. Schneeberger and B. Freyer (2005). Converting or not converting to organic farming in Austria: Farmer types and their rationale. Agriculture and Human Values 22(1): 39-52.

Vogl, C. and I. Darnhofer (2004). Organic agriculture in Austria. The Organic Standard 34: 2-5.

Darnhofer, I. and C. Vogl (2003). Certification and accreditation of organics in Austria: Implementation, strengths and weaknesses. In: W. Lockeretz (ed.). Ecolabels and the Greening of the Food Market. Proceedings of a conference held in Boston, USA, 7-9 November 2002, pp. 11-20.

Schneeberger, W., I. Darnhofer and M. Eder (2002). Barriers to adoption of organic farming by cash crop producers in Austria. American Journal of Alternative Agriculture 17(1): 24-31.

Selected publications on other issues

Darnhofer, I. (2021). Towards a process-relational approach to farming. PhD Thesis. University of Innsbruck.

Lamine, C., I. Darnhofer, and T.K. Marsden (2019). What enables just sustainability transitions in agrifood systems? An exploration of conceptual approaches using international comparative case studies. Journal of Rural Studies 68: 144-146.

Darnhofer, I. (2018). Using comic-style posters for engaging participants and for promoting researcher reflexivity. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 17(1): 1-12.

Sherren, K. and I. Darnhofer (2018). Precondition for integration: In support of standalone social science in rangeland and silvopastoral research. Rangeland Ecology and Management 71(5): 545-548.

Knickel, K., M. Redman, I. Darnhofer, A. Ashkenazy et al. (2018). Between aspirations and reality: Making farming, food systems and rural areas more resilient, sustainable and equitable. Journal of Rural Studies 59: 197-210.

Darnhofer, I., M. Schermer, M. Steinbacher, M. Gabillet, and K. Daugstad (2017). Preserving permanent mountain grasslands in Western Europe: Why are promising approaches not implemented more widely? Land Use Policy 68: 306-315. (blogpost with ARC2020)

Aregu, L., I. Darnhofer, A. Tegegne, D. Hoeckstra, M. Wurzinger (2016). The impact of gender blindness in social-ecological resilience: the case of a communal pasture in the highlands of Ethiopia. Ambio 45(Suppl. 3): S287-S296.

Aregu, L. and I. Darnhofer (2015). Enhancing social-ecological resilience through social learning: A case study of communal pasture management in the Highlands of Ethiopia. African Journal of Agricultural Research 10(51): 4681-4698. (online)

Cunguara, B. and I. Darnhofer (2011). Assessing the impact of improved agricultural technologies on household income in rural Mozambique. Food Policy 36(3): 378-390.

Cunguara, B., A. Langyintuo and I. Darnhofer (2011). The role of nonfarm income in coping with the effects of drought in southern Mozambique. Agricultural Economics 42(6): 701-713.

Giri, K. and I. Darnhofer (2010). Nepali women using community forestry as a platform for social change. Society & Natural Resources 23(12), 1216-1229.

Giri, K. and I. Darnhofer (2010). Outmigrating men: A window of opportunity for women's participation in community forestry? Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 25(Supp 9), 55-61.

Darnhofer, I., I. Auer, O. Eckmüllner, V. Gaube, A. Kirchengast, W. Loibl, U. Pröbstl, A. Prutsch, U. Seebacher, S. Vospernik and G. Weigelhofer (2008). Research-Education-Cooperation: Early experiences with schools as partners in transdisciplinary research projects. International Journal of Sustainability Communication (formerly: CCP - Communication, Cooperation, Participation) 2: 45-59.

Darnhofer, I. and M.C. Loibl (2007). Experiences from transdisciplinary workshops: Co-learning about the effects of global change on farming and rural areas. Paper presented at the XXII Congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology, held 19-24 Aug. 2007 in Wageningen.

Darnhofer, I. (2006). Understanding family farmer's decisions. Towards a socio-economic approach. Introductory section of the Habilitation Dossier. Habilitation, Univ. of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna.

Darnhofer, I., R. Gretzmacher and W. Schneeberger (1997). Modelling farmers' decisions: a comparison between HDM and CART for oats-vetch adoption in the Ethiopian highlands. Die Bodenkultur 48(4): 271-280.

Current and recent research projects

IBeSt - Innovationen für bestehende Aufzucht- und Mastställe - zum Wohl von Tier und Mensch (Dec. 2021 - Dec. 2025)

RECOMS - Building resourceful and resilient communities through adaptive and transformative environmental practice (Mar. 2018 - Aug. 2022)

RETHINK - Rethinking the links between farm modernization, rural development and resilience in a world of increasing demands and finite resources (Aug. 2013 - Jan. 2016)

REGARDS - Resilience of marginal grasslands and biodiversity management decision support (Nov. 2012 - Dec. 2015)

FarmPath - Farming transitions: Pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe (Mar. 2011 - Feb. 2014) - Conceptual Framework (full; 2-page summary)

Development trends in organic farming: conventionalisation or professionalisation? (2007 - 2009)

future.scapes: Global change and its influence on landscape and society. Scenario of future transition and solution strategies to mitigate negative effects (2005 - 2008)

Organic farming in Thailand (2005 - 2007)

Suppy chains of a non-timber forest product in Lao PDR (2005 - 2007)

(Co-)Supervision of PhD theses

Pakashtica-Hajdari, Nermine. Potentials and barriers for exporting certified organic medicinal and aromatic plants from Kosovo to the EU. (Sept. 2021 - on-going)

Leung, Kei Yan (2022). Body-mind and art as inquiry: how do they meet up with human-environment relations in sustainable farming? Supervisor: I. Darnhofer (Sept. 2018 - Nov. 2022).

Behailu, Lemlem: Adaptive management of communal grazing land in Amhara region, Ethiopia. Supervisor: I. Darnhofer (Sept. 2011 - Sept. 2014)

Coquil, Xavier: Transition des systèmes de polyculture élevage laitiers vers l'autonomie. Une approche par le développement des mondes professionnels. Supervisor: P. Beguin and B. Dedieu (INRA) (Mar. 2009 - Mar. 2014)

Nkala, Peter: Assessing the impacts of conservation agriculture on farmer livelihoods in three selected communities in central Mozambique. Supervisor: M. Hauser (Feb. 2008 - Nov. 2011).

Huber, Wolfgang: Waldbezogene Objektwelten und Handlungsmuster von WaldbetriebsleiterInnen. Auf Basis von Fallstudien in Österreich. Supervisor: P. Schwarzbauer (Oct. 2007 - May 2012)

Cunguara, Benedito: Assessing strategies to reduce poverty in rural Mozambique. Supervisor: I. Darnhofer (Oct. 2008 - Jun. 2011)

Lalisa Alemayehu Duguma: Agroforestry as a tool for integrated land management approach: Improving farmers' livelihood, providing wood products and mimimizing forest encroachmemt. Supervisor: H. Hager (Oct. 2007 - Dec. 2010)

Baguma, David: Rainwater harvesting and household water management in rural Uganda. Supervisor: W. Loiskandl (Mar. 2007 - Apr. 2010)

Giri, Kalpana: Male outmigration, women's roles and forest management in Nepal. Supervisor: I. Darnhofer (Oct. 2006 - Oct. 2009)

Ribeiro, Maria Miguel: Modelling factors influencing the commercialisation of paper mulberry bark. A supply chain analysis of a non-timber forest product from Oudomxay, Lao PDR. Supervisor: I. Darnhofer (Feb. 2005 - July 2008).

Brief biography

I grew up in the Sahel and East Africa, where I attended a series of French schools. Upon completion of my Baccalauréat, I returned to Austria to study agriculture at the BOKU. I specialised in agricultural economics, spent 6 months at the International Centre for Agroforestry (ICRAF) in Nairobi to work on my master thesis and completed my MSc in 1994. As I longed to return to Africa, I started a PhD which allowed me to spend 2 years at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Abeba. Upon completion of my PhD in 1997 - and a bit disappointed with the direction of 'development' in Africa - I turned to work in the private sector (in Austria and in Missouri, USA). In late 2000, I returned to academia and have been at the BOKU ever since. My research now focuses mostly on farm management in Austria, but I keep in touch with the countries of the South through PhD scholars. I completed my habilitation in 2006. In 2008 I enjoyed the opportunity to spend a 6-month sabbatical at Lincoln University in New Zealand; and in 2015 I spent a 6-month sabbatical at the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. To deepen my understanding of sociology and futher my theoretical foundations, I completed a PhD in sociology at the University of Innsbruck in 2022.