Half-time for PEGASUS case study work!


by Karlheinz Knickel (IfLS) 

Our recently published PEGASUS report (Deliverable 4.2) presents the main results and insights gained from ‘broad and shallow’ analyses of 34 case studies in ten EU countries (Estonia, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Portugal and the UK).

This first phase of case study research involved two steps:

·         Step 1: Sketching out the particular “social-ecological system” in the case study area; and

·         Step 2: Analysing the conditions for a successful provision of environmental and/or social benefits in that system, checking these against current priorities and determining what changes would be required to enhance the provision of such benefits.

The 34 PEGASUS case studies have generated a wealth of information on the particular situations surrounding the provision of environmental and/or social benefits associated with a range of different farming and forestry systems in the EU. Overall, the case studies are predominantly concerned with biodiversity outcomes (25 case studies), landscape character (22 cases), water quality and/or availability (17) and rural vitality (17). Other important topics include: soil issues, public outdoor recreation, education and demonstration activities. Initiatives which aim to tackle globally relevant issues such as carbon sequestration or the reduction of GHG emissions are less frequent, as their impact/importance is more difficult to grasp at the local level. However these issues often feature as secondary or co-benefits of the initiative.

You can find all the results of the PEGASUS case studies here.

What have we learned so far?

1. Our case studies show that the connections between farming and forestry and the provision of environmental and/or social benefits are complex and dynamic, and are influenced by manifold factors or drivers. Most often we found that different drivers interact, sometimes reinforcing each other, but sometimes neutralising each other’s effects. The Italian case studies are an example as here it is very clear that the application and success of public policy measures is mainly explained by their consistency with the market-driven strategies of local entrepreneurs. In the tomato district case study, the economic rationale and related voluntary, private sector-led certification are reinforced by financial support provided through public policies as well as the adoption of European, national and regional protection legislation and quality standard requirements.

2. Agricultural policy, and here in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and its interpretation and implementation at the level of Member States and regions, plays an important role in our case studies, affecting directly and/or indirectly the provision of benefits. We also found that policies always interact with other drivers in a number of ways.

3. Markets for primary products and changes in markets, can have a massive influence on land use, cropping and land management changes and therefore also on environmental and social conditions. For instance, this is the case in the Montado case study in Portugal where the deterioration of the cork market and coupled payments to livestock had a substantial impact leading to an intensification of the use of land and the degradation of Montado habitats (characterised by holm and cork oaks). Similarly, in the Traditional Orchards case study in Germany, the industrialisation of apple cultivation and processing has led to the abandonment of traditional orchards with lower productivity that in the past surrounded rural villages and towns. The trend has been reinforced by the increasing demand for build land suitable for built development.

4. The private sector can be an important driver, evident in several case studies. An example is the French Volvic Waters Society case where the Public Private Partnership of local authorities and land owners with Danone contributes to sustainable water management as well as income generation and employment, driven partly by the societal and corporate interest in supporting biodiversity conservation. The Dutch Skylark case focuses on a private sector initiative that is fully financed by supply chain companies and participating arable farmers. Skylark has set its own sustainability criteria for arable farming and some supply chain companies create a demand by preferring Skylark farmers.

5. A combination of policy support with private sector and market mechanisms can be particularly effective. A typical example is the private marketing initiative on organic grass-fed beef meat in Estonia. This private sector initiative controls the whole supply chain with joint standards and labelling while being strengthened through various public funds like organic support, semi-natural habitat management support and marketing support and the quality of the meat is championed by well-known chefs in the region. The Austrian Murau case focuses on a private labelling initiative and successful marketing project that would not be possible without basic public support (through the Rural Development Programme) which accounts for a substantial share of mountain farmers’ income.

6. Looking across all 34 case studies, four broad types of determinants emerge as playing a more important role in enabling and indeed fostering transformative practice. These are: engagement of people - at an individual level as well as in the form of collective action; institutional factors and policy frameworks; good and effective communication within initiatives and with external audiences; and the ability to learn and innovate. Governance arrangements and institutional frameworks and the interplay between different actors also play a very important role. For instance, the Hope Farm case study provides a rather telling summary statement: “It’s about people, persuasion, networks, knowledge, trial and trust”.

Importantly, these preliminary findings will be investigated further in a more in-depth comparative analysis as well as the 12 in-depth case studies in the coming months.

When selecting the case studies to be subject to more in-depth analysis, we have prioritised initiatives which apply a ‘social-ecological systems’ perspective, i.e. where human/social system is considered alongside the natural system under one holistic frame. This should allow us to simultaneously pay attention to economic, social and environmental interactions within the same area, as well as related areas such as public health and rural vitality.

In the next phase of the case study work, together with practitioners and other stakeholders, we will continue to apply action-oriented research methods to explore potential pathways towards an enhanced provision of environmental and social benefits from agriculture and forestry (scaling-up, multiplication, etc.). Particular attention will be paid to the interplay between different factors, settings and conditions that stimulate collective or other innovative actions, the role of the private sector and its interplay with civil society, institutional and policy frameworks.