“Food provision in the 21st century” – How Contracts2.0 contributes to the scientific discussion

“Food provision in the 21st century” – How Contracts2.0 contributes to the scientific discussion

Food provision under ever more challenging environmental conditions might soon become a central subject for decision-makers worldwide. In June 2020, Contracts2.0 researchers participated in the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (EAERE) conference. The session “Food provision in the 21st century”, organized by Prof. Mordechai Shechter, brought together researchers from different disciplines examining how to feed the world’s growing population sustainably. In Contracts2.0, we research value chain approaches to support the transformation of the agricultural production system.

Food provision challenges

By 2050 the world’s population is projected to reach a staggering 10 billion people. To keep pace with the growing population’s demand for food, supply must grow by 56 percent by 2050. At the same time, the farming system needs to reduce its impact on the environment.1 Currently, half of the world’s food is produced in an unsustainable way, which in the medium term will further deteriorate natural systems’ productive capacity. Declining biodiversity, water overexploitation and pollution, and the loss of fertile soils are symptoms of the current agricultural practices. Therefore, it is a pressing question whether it is possible to provide enough food for a growing global population while maintaining environmental goals?2

Food gap

Figure 1. By 2050 global food production needs to increase by 56 percent. Source:

wri.org/sustfoodfuture

Scenarios and solutions

The session presented solutions that included the consumption side (e.g., diet changes, reduced food waste) and the production side (e.g., water use, fertilizer use, land management changes, irrigation). Prof. Dieter Gerten (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) showed scenarios under which on-farm water management can simultaneously boost crop yields and decrease water use. Dr. Claudia Ringler (International Food Policy Institute) emphasized the critical functions of groundwater and presented possible scenarios for its conservation. Yael Pantzer (Slow Food Europe) focused on access to good, clean, and fair food, also highlighting cultural and political aspects. International social justice plays a critical role, as the needs and objectives of low-income countries might differ substantially from those of European countries. She stressed that food security is not only about the production of sufficient amounts of food but also about its quality and accessibility.2

The presented scenarios and solutions show that it is possible to halt environmental deterioration from agricultural activities and maintain food security for a growing population. However, the question remains how mankind will make the necessary changes to deal with the many challenges. Notably, biodiversity loss and climate change are the most burning topics and call for immediate radical changes in food production and consumption. If we continued business as usual, we will soon transgress planetary boundaries.3

Contracts2.0 research on eco-labels

In Contracts2.0, our research supports the necessary transformation towards a more sustainable food system. One example of our work is creating collaborative models to include the value of agri-environmental public goods in product prices. Accomplishing this requires understanding consumers’ demand for environmentally-friendly practices in food production. In 2020 we carried out qualitative interviews with experts in the food industry to explore their preferences and expectations for labeling products for ecosystem services and biodiversity. Labels could signal to consumers the types of public goods produced by farmers, whose work and fields they usually cannot observe, potentially increasing their willingness to pay a price premium. The results, presenting the food industry’s views of product labeling for the effective and efficient provision of ecosystem services, will be published in a paper under the lead of Christoph Schulze.

Currently, we are conducting a study assessing consumers’ willingness to pay a price premium on grocery products labeled as produced by farmers who engaged in nature protection activities. So-called eco-labeling can help to increase the market share of environmentally friendly products, create bottom-up pressure, and incentivize food producers to change their practices. We will assess the demand for eco-labeled products and how they relate to organic products.

Achieving change

The research on industries’ and consumers’ demand for eco-labels is only a snap shot of all of our efforts in Contracts2.0. Together with stakeholders across Europe we develop agri-environmental contracts that fit regional contexts and objectives. With our research we make a small contribution to the sustainable transformation of the agricultural production system in Europe. However, to achieve lasting global change much effort is needed from all of us to reduce the growth in food demand, increase food production without expanding agricultural land, reduce emissions from agricultural production and protect and restore natural ecosystems.

To learn more about the innovative contract designs in Contracts2.0 follow these links:

  1. Limburg – Netherlands
  2. Groningen – Netherlands
  3. Koolstofboeren – Belgium
  4. Gulpdal – Belgium
  5. Northwest England – UK
  6. Hautes Pyrenees – France
  7. Madrid Region – Spain
  8. Bornholm – Denmark
  9. Agora Natura – Germany
  10. Hipp – Germany
  11. North Rhine Westphalia – Germany
  12. Örseg National Park – Hungary
  13. Unione Comuni Garfagnana – Italy
References:

1 Searchinger, T., Waite, R., Hanson, C., Ranganathan, J. (2019). Creating a sustainable food future. A menue of solutions to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050. World Resources Institute, Washington DC.

2 Policy Session: Food provision in the 21st century, Organizer and Chair: Prof. Mordechai (Moti) Shechter

3 Gerten, D., Heck, V., Jägermeyr, J., Bodirsky, B. L., Fetzer, I., Jalava, M., … & Schellnhuber, H. J. (2020). Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries. Nature Sustainability, 3(3), 200-208.

Written by Katarzyna Zagórska from the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. This note was taken based on presentations given during selected sessions at the 26th Annual Conference of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, which took place online on June 23 – June 25, 2021. The conference was organised by Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (HU Berlin). More information and the full programme available at the conference website: http://www.eaere-conferences.org/

Contracts2.0 at the EAERE conference

Contracts2.0 at the EAERE conference

Researchers from the Contracts2.0 project participated in the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economics Conference (EAERE), presenting the food industry’s preferences for environmentally-friendly practices in food production. The virtual congress took place in Berlin from 23–25 June 2021.

Contracts2.0 contributions to the conference

We presented work on developing value chain approaches for the increased provision of environmental public goods by farmers. Our work focused on the food industry’s preferences for product labelling for the provision of ecosystem services. We carried out qualitative interviews with experts in the food industry to explore different labelling options. Labels could signal to consumers the kinds of public goods farmers can provide and allow the industry to sell its products with a price premium. They would also add transparency to the purchasing process as consumers usually cannot observe farm work and fields. The study’s final results will be published later this year.

Further, Christoph Schulze introduced the Q-methodology approach, which he used to explore stakeholder preferences for agri-environmental contract design. Related to these findings, our latest Deliverable synthesises practitioners’ evaluations of innovative contract approaches and provides insight into ideal contracts.

Presentations given by Jens Rommel (SLU), Julian Sagebiel (SLU), Mikołaj Czajkowski (Universtiy of Warsaw), and Wiktor Budziński (University of Warsaw) focused on methodological aspects of stated preference methodology. We will use this methodology to inquire about farmers’ environmental preferences. In this line, early research results on the potential to introduce collaborative agri-environmental contracts are now available. Soon, we will launch an international study on farmers’ preferences for result-based contracts to protect biodiversity that we hope to present during the next EAERE conference!

Written by Katarzyna Zagórska (University of Warsaw) and Laszlo Beer (ZALF), Photo Title: ©Ingo Joseph on Pexels

Innovation in the field: The Bornholm CIL visit farms to explore Carbon Farming

Innovation in the field: The Bornholm CIL visit farms to explore Carbon Farming

On May 26, the CIL of Bornholm arranged visits to farms practicing non-tillage faming, Conservation Agriculture and holistic grazing. Twelve participants, farmers, advisors, authorities and researchers, visited three farms to learn more on these practices in relation to Carbon Farming. The participating farmers, both hosts and others, were very enthusiastic about these farming practices in relation to reducing the impact of farming on climate and for making future farming on Bornholm more resilient to climate changes. However, when discussing trade with CO2-certificates as a tool to support the farmers economically in adopting these practices, the farmers were very skeptical. They identified six major reasons for not contracting reductions in emissions and increased storage of carbon in order to sell CO2-certificates:

  • The economic incentive is far too low with currently expected prices of certificates
  • The administrative work is too time-consuming
  • Long-term contracts limit the room to maneuver in the strategic management
  • The model-based calculation of certificates is not reliable
  • The reduced emissions and increased storage of Carbon should be kept in the farming sector
  • Uncertainty of fit of certificates with future changes in the subsidies and regulations
Simplicity is key for an attractive scheme

Instead, the farmers want simplicity. They would like to see non-tillage systems, Conservation Agriculture and holistic grazing acknowledged as practices contributing to climate-neutral and climate-resilient farming and included in a Carbon Farming eco-scheme in the next generation of support under the Common Agricultural Policy. A few ticks in the right boxes of the yearly application for support should be sufficient paperwork.

In need for fresh ideas

In the CIL of Bornholm, we had the idea of developing new innovative contracts as an add-on/extension to an existing scheme on CO2-certificates, improving and adding elements to increase the uptake and the outcomes in terms of climate impacts of the contracts. However, the farmers currently do not see contracts based on the sale of CO2-certificates as an option for funding farming practices contributing to the development towards a climate-neutral agriculture. Therefore, for the Bornholm CIL the next steps of the Carbon Farming track is currently unclear. Bottom-up innovation is challenging and not always a straightforward process. 

Written by Erling Anders (University of Copenhagen), Photo: © Vivi Granby

Co-designing experiments – EFFECT and Contracts2.0 discuss experiences

Co-designing experiments – EFFECT and Contracts2.0 discuss experiences

Contracts2.0 and EFFECT projects discussed in a jointly organized 3-hour workshop their experiences with co-designing behavioral experiments and discrete choice experiments on 23 April 2021. Following an introduction round, two short presentations from each project reflected on the experience of involving stakeholders in experimental research design. In the second part of the workshop, the participants deepened the exchange on experimental methods in four breakout groups. Finally, the breakout groups reported back to the plenum and discussed the next steps.

Some of the discussed advantages of co-designing experiments were:

  • access to unique knowledge and new ideas,
  • co-learning opportunities,
  • increased relevance and impact,
  • acknowledgement of diverse perspectives,
  • greater accessibility and acceptance.

Some of the discussed challenges of co-designing experiments were:

  • simplified abstract experimental design are difficult to communicate,
  • reluctance to engage in something perceived as a threat (e.g., increased monitoring or sanctions),
  • “speaking the same language”,
    clarifying mutual expectations and motivations,
  • different time horizons and resource availability.
Biodiversity in Tuscany: Strengthening the custodian farmer’s role

Biodiversity in Tuscany: Strengthening the custodian farmer’s role

On April 23, 2021, the University of Pisa organized a discussion about the “Strategy for an evolution of Custodian farmers’ role” in the Tuscany Region to protect regional genetic resources from extinction – an important pillar for protecting crop and species biodiversity. Our researchers Francesco Riccioli and Roberta Moruzzo, with the help of their action partner representative Cinzia Lenzarini, presented the current situation of custodian farmers in Tuscany and discussed strategies to improve the role of these farmers in the Rural Development Plan.

The in situ conservation of genetic resources at risk of extinction is a critical pillar for preserving the biodiversity of regional crops and species. As previous successful experiences (e.g., Aglione (garlic) della Chiana, Farro (emmer) della Garfagnana) lead the way, the next step for Garfagnana will be to start the valorization of the farmers’ efforts through the activation of a value chain specializing on regional crops and species. Remuneration of the extra effort will help to keep the local knowledge, traditions and methods alive. Protection by utilizing!