How to utilize SWOT results in a Multi Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) model

How to utilize SWOT results in a Multi Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) model

It is challenging to identify the deciding success factors for an effective and efficient implementation of collective agri-environmental schemes (AES). The relatively short implemantation phase of the  collective model as a nationwide scheme and the diversified environment around the different implementation levels make identifying success factors a rather complex task. We found no common indicators or quantitative data to compare agricultural collectives regarding their performance to realize their environmental targets. So the question for us was: How to make the performance in different cases easily comparable and thus identify the relating success factors via a Multi criteria Decision Making model?

The only available data to tackle this question was qualitative data collected in SWOT analyses at the beginning of the project. Each Contract Innovation Lab (CIL) was asked to complete a SWOT analysis assessing internal and external factors that affect the effective provision of environmental public goods. However, the challenge remained to simultaneously compare the results of several SWOT analyses and use them in a multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) model. To this end, we introduced a new technique: The SWOT scorecard (Rudolf and Udovč, 2022). Here we explain how we developed this new technique.

1. Preparing a decision tree for MCDM

In the first step of our modeling process, we created a decision tree, a decision support tool typically using a tree-like structure to visualize decisions and their potential consequences. We used an individual decision-making approach based on a qualitative analysis of the relevant literature. Using a hierarchical top-down approach, we identified the main goals and the corresponding attributes, criteria, and sub-criteria that should influence the synergy between aspects in the collective case studies.

The criteria are still being investigated and are not yet final. However, for testing the SWOT scorecard technique, they were appropriate.

2. From SWOT Scorecard to MCDM model

The following steps describe how the SWOT scorecard technique can be used to arrange qualitative data to feed into an MCDM DEX model.

Step 1: First, we organized descriptive SWOT results by criteria for every analyzed collective scheme, making sure to keep track of the origin of data (S, W, O, and T factors). This step gives us a set of so-called ‘prime input data.’

Step 2: We applied the SWOT scorecard technique, transforming the ‘prime input data’ with a formula to numeric results. The SWOT scorecard sums the importance of S, W, O, and T factors for the criteria.

Step 3: Transforming the SWOT scorecard results to a descriptive scale that can be used in the DEX model. This gives us options of values of basic attributes and is the input data for the DEX model.

Step 4: In the last step, the descriptive values are fed into the DEX model. The SWOT scorecard keeps track of the results from SWOT analysis. It considers the diversity of collective schemes, which results in the appearance of common variables that can be described with the same name. This is key for comparing the collective schemes regarding environmental public goods delivery. Furthermore, we get results of success factors for any number of collective AES.

3. Towards a decision support tool

The DEX model is a first step towards building a decision support tool for decision-makers dealing with the design and implementation of collective AES, who would like to understand better the success factors contributing to an improved provision of environmental public goods. We are now building a user-friendly interface that links our database and the DEX model to make it accessible for decision-makers.

For more detailed information, check our paper, which was published in Sustainability, vol. 14 (2), 2022.

Written by: Janja Rudolf, Biotechnical faculty, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia)

Webinar: Implementing the Collective Approach – Evidence from Science and Practice

Webinar: Implementing the Collective Approach – Evidence from Science and Practice

On Friday, January the 28th 2022 from 9:30 am – 1:30 pm, the EU-funded research & innovation project Contracts2.0 hosts the Online Policy Event:

Implementing the Collective Approach in Agri-environmental Schemes – Evidence from Science and Practice

Here you find links to the recorded presentations of the Webinar!

Contracts2.0 develops innovative contractual solutions to strengthen participation in agri-environmental measures (AEM) and to improve their effectiveness.

 This event summarizes relevant project results focusing on the collective approach to inform stakeholders involved in implementing the national strategic plans across Europe. The first part will present scientific findings, featuring the effects of collective contracts on cropland birds or a multi-criteria decision support tool for policy makers by example of  selected collective case studies.

The second part will shed light on the diversity of collective agreements in practice. Three case studies (UK, BE, and NL) will present different implementation depths of the collective approach. A Q&A session will conclude the event. With a panel and the audience, we want to discuss the potential policy implications regarding the practical implementation.

Here you find the agenda!

The Role of Social Capital in Agri-environmental Collectives

The Role of Social Capital in Agri-environmental Collectives

The network analysis of the Collective Natuurrijk Limburg reveals the various actors involved and their (formal and informal) relations. The well-developed practice of cooperation between the actors contribute greatly to the success of the scheme, even though some challenges could be detected. The social capital (trust, knowledge exchange, social cohesion etc.) within the network is crucial for the effectiveness of the measures and the motivation of farmers to join a collective.

This study focuses on one of the forty existing collectives, located in the South-east of the Netherlands. The collective Natuurrijk Limburg covers the whole area of the Province of Limburg and has about 1300 members, making it the largest of all Dutch collectives.

This research uses Social Network Analysis (SNA) which is an umbrella term for a body of research methods that try to analyse underlying structures of social networks. Important actors, as well as their formal and informal connections, motivations and influences are inquired. Relevant interviewees were identified through referral sampling and eight interviews were conducted in total. Thereby we ensured to cover different views from farmers, representatives of the collective as well as governmental organizations. Five respondents are on the provincial level in Limburg, while three are on the national level of the ANLb (ANLb – Agricultural Nature and Landscape Management).

The research was guided by the following two research questions:

  1. Who are the central actors and how do they interact?
  2. In which way does the presence of social capital influence the functionality of the network?

Governance Tasks are Decentralized and Partly Outsourced from Governmental Responsibility

The formal network representation (Figure 1) shows the decentralized approach of the agri-environmental program. Basically, the framework conditions are set on EU and national level but the province is the responsible authority that carries out the program in collaboration with the collective through the so-called “front-door-back-door”- approach of contracting. However, governance tasks are shared among different actors in a more complex way leading to cross-level feedback loops.

Fig. 1: Network representation of formal relations

The province is involved in decisions on the national framework of the program. There is an execution unit for nature related issues from the 12 provinces (Bij12) that supports them with information exchange and advice. In this way, regional concerns are considered in fundamental decisions. In addition, regional interests from the collectives are represented by their umbrella organization BoerenNatuur through participation in the national steering meetings. They are the voice for the collectives. BoerenNatuur also disseminates information from government or nature conservation organizations to the collectives. As an important service for the collectives, BoerenNatuur runs an IT-system that allows the collectives comfortably to indicate which measures are implemented at plot level. The very well-designed IT-System increases also increases flexibility by enabling a “last minute management”. The role of BoerenNatuur as a linking actor is not to underestimate. Yet, interviewees on local level did not name them as important because they may have no direct contact with them.

Regarding the checking of the agreed measures, there is a parallel structure. Central government authorities (RVO and NVWA) audit the fulfilment of the contract at an administrative level and on a random basis also at the field level (on-the-spot checks). The collective itself undertakes checks at field level which often help to identify difficulties in fulfilling the contract early on when adjustments are still possible. In consequence, the province decides on sanctions in the form of reduced payment to the collective in case the controlling agencies detected errors. The collective however decides how they deal with non-compliance of individual farmers according to their statutes (e.g. “red card” with the requirement to repeat the measure, reduced payment etc.).

The Importance of Social Capital for the Governance Network

Informal relations between the actors make the network much denser (see Figure 2). These relations are important for knowledge and information exchange in parallel to the formal communication channels. They also connect actors who are not connected formally, e.g., the collective and nature conservation organizations, or the regional water board, who have ecological expertise and data that are necessary to plan targeted measures. Another example is the integration of the farmers’ association in Limburg who contribute agronomic expertise and have certain influence on the members. Informal relations can be seen as a complement to the formal ones.

representation of  actors and their relations

Fig. 2: Network representation showing both formal and informal links. Size of nodes indicates how well an actor is connected

The social cohesion within the collective, among members and between members and the organization is important to motivate members to engage in the program. Therefore, the collective organizes meetings and exchange of small groups on the field. Since Natuurrijk Limburg is a large collective, there cannot be personal relationships between all members. The nested structure of four local sub-collectives who can bring members in their territory together helps to maintain connectedness to the collective at the regional level.

Hence, it is important that the staff at the regional level also tries to be in direct contact with members. In that sense, the fieldworkers play an essential role. They are hired by the regional collective and maintain the direct communication with members through providing advice on site. They do the on-site checking of the agreed measures for the collective. They do this in dialogue with the members of the collective, which contributes to a feeling of trust in the organization and the program in general.

Social capital also facilitates cooperation between heterogeneous actors that differ in organizational backgrounds, interests, or formal power hierarchies. Joint evaluation of collective and province on a regular basis on how the program works is important so that solutions to potential bottlenecks can be discussed. Besides planned budget cuts several interviewees stated a lack of support from the province, meaning rather the decision-makers than the people from the administration, in terms of developing a shared vision and promoting the collectives’ work in the region. However, regarding the formal contracting, the collective and the province work together efficiently. The fact that individual farmers no longer need to negotiate with the government in case of dissatisfaction on how measures were carried out is highly appreciated by all actors.

This text is an excerpt of a research note written by Berner, R. & Barghusen, R. (2022)

 Check out this blogpost featuring the  developments in the two Dutch Contracts2.0-Case studies. 

Photo by Harm Kossen (Natuurrijk Limburg)

Sustainable Value Chains – Framework Conditions for Successful Cooperation

Sustainable Value Chains – Framework Conditions for Successful Cooperation

A student project analysed an organic food value chain by interviewing stakeholders including production, processing and retailing as well as politics. The objective was to find out how relationships within value chains have to be build out to promote a sustainable value chain. The most important result was that cooperation at eye level between all stakeholders is necessary to strengthen biodiversity and ecosystem services in a sustainable organic value chain.

 Organic farming has great potential to contribute to an environmentally sound and sustainable agricultural production. It integrates the objective of conserving natural resources into its core principles, and therefore has a variety of positive effects on the environment. It can also play a vital role in the efforts regarding climate protection and climate adaptation.

The HiPP Contract Innovation Lab of Contracts2.0 focuses on services that can be achieved in organic value chains in addition to those already generated by requirements of organic farming associations. An innovative contract-based approach along organic food value chains could provide support or incentives for farmers to contribute to strengthening biodiversity and ecosystem services in addition to producing food, i.e. integrating them into sourcing and quality strategies within food production.

Exploring the Potential of Sustainable Organic Value Chains

As part of a study project in parallel to the work in the HiPP CIL, students from Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, discussed ways of making organic value chains more sustainable. The students conducted a case study in which stakeholders along the value chain of an organic grain mill were interviewed on the topics of sustainability, biodiversity and ecosystem services. The stakeholders included farmers, mill managers, retail partners as well as staff of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Ministry of the Environment of Lower Saxony. Within these interviews, the following subjects were discussed:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of a sustainable organic grain value chain,
  • Framework conditions to set up a more sustainable value chain from the perspective of the various stakeholders,
  • A theoretical cooperation model which describes the mutual demands and commitments of the stakeholders.

The following sections focus on the description of the cooperation model and the necessary framework conditions that underpin this model.

What are the Necessary Framework Conditions?

Important framework conditions for creating a sustainable organic value chain promoting biodiversity and ecosystem services, are communication, trust and cooperation of all internal and external stakeholders. This includes information exchange, knowledge exchange, the communication of ecological values, and education.

Examples are fair prices and price transparency. For example, the studied grain mill introduced a so-called “base price model” for long-term pricing to counteract market fluctuations. This guarantees farmers greater security in the sale of their products.

Another point that was addressed is the buying behaviour and the appreciation of organic products by consumers. On the one hand, consumers must be convinced and informed that organic or regional products could be more expensive and it is worth paying this extra effort. On the other hand, farmers must be made aware of the added value of sustainable projects, both ecologically and economically.

Last but not least, political funding and financing plays an important role. This funding can support pilot projects testing pathways to sustainable organic value chains. An example of such a promotion of regional initiatives is the producer association “Kostbares Südniedersachsen”. Here, public funding has been successively discontinued and replaced by retailers’ initiatives. This is a rare example, because until now such approaches have been financed predominantly by food processors from their own funds.

In addition, policies contribute to the adherence to the principles of a sustainable value chain and production security for the various stakeholders through guidelines and operation standards, such as the “Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supple Chains”.

Developing a Cooperation Model to Identify Needs and Commitments of the Stakeholders

The outputs generated through the interviews were visualized in a cooperation model. The following figure shows the complex interlinkages between the stakeholders within this cooperation model of the sustainable grain value chain. The individual needs and commitments of the stakeholders are shown and describe the most important topics of cooperation among the various stakeholders.

The model also shows that the stakeholders mainly share the same beliefs. An example is the desire for closer cooperation and the development of joint projects as well as a transparent, reliable and trustworthy communication.

Fig. 1: Framework conditions for a possible cooperation model between stakeholders within a sustainable grain value chain and their cooperation, mutual needs and demands as well as offerings and commitments (Hoffmann et al. 2021).

According to this cooperation model and the underlying interviews, different recommendations for action are made to the respective stakeholders. In the area of finance, these refer, for example, to the topics of price transparency, pricing and funding. Farmers demand more price transparency from processors (Figure 2) or listing and promoting additional services provided by them on their products (Figure 3).

Fig. 2: Pricing structure for milk (© Initiative ‘Du bist hier der Chef’, available at: https://tinyurl.com/2p8cyvs5

Fig. 3: Promotion of a nature conservation measure on noodle packaging [“For this pasta an insect friendly meadow was created”] © Hoffmann et al. 2021

Another field of action is the marketing and purchase of regional products via producers, processing companies and food retailers as well as the communication between all stakeholders along the value chain. For this reason, all stakeholders, from farmers to retailers, demand a direct exchange of information among themselves, within their own companies, and also with external stakeholders such as nature conservation associations, advisory bodies and scientists. Besides promoting additional environmental measures on products and at the point of sale, it is important to communicate the environmental value of organic products to all stakeholders in a sustainable value chain.

Outlook

The considerations described refer exclusively to regional grain value chains. More work could be done to value chains with direct marketing or inclusion of international supply chains to see if the model is transferable. Moreover, the developed model is theoretical and thus the results do not allow any conclusions about the concrete arrangement and funding of the additional services and the necessary framework conditions.

Written by: Louisa Hoffmann, Kristina Bastian, Maike Barsties, Madeleine Brockmann, Michel Graas, Sara Grzywatz, Lara-Sophie Hinz, Pauline Kehl and Clara Lütgendorf (Leibniz University Hannover – LUH)

Supervision: Birte Bredemeier, Sylvia Herrmann (LUH)

To cite: Hoffmann et al. (2021): Nachhaltige Lebensmittelproduktion und Ökosystemleistungen. Masterprojekt an der Leibniz Universität Hannover, Sommersemester 2021.

Collective Action for Biodiversity – Update  from Innovation Lab NRW

Collective Action for Biodiversity – Update from Innovation Lab NRW

The Innovation Lab North Rhine-Westphalia (IL NRW) focuses on developing the theoretical underpinnings of a concept featuring the collective approach for the implementation of agri-environmental measures (AEM). This article sums up the development in the IL NRW, discusses the main barriers of the current system and outlines the challenges regarding a potential application of the collective approach in Germany.

German Version/Deutsche Fassung

Collective Approach in Focus

The Innovation Lab NRW (IL NRW) gathers various stakeholders in regular meetings to discuss the way forward towards a more attractive and more effective funding scheme for voluntary agri-environmental engagement. In this regard the collective approach, especially for biodiversity-related measures, seems to be a promising option. It has the potential to increase the effectivity of interventions, while reducing barriers which deter farmers from participating in agri-environmental schemes. In agreement with the participants of the Innovation Lab NRW this innovative contractual solution is in focus regarding the development of a suitable concept, which could serve as a blueprint also for other areas in Germany.

The Innovation Lab North Rhine-Westphalia splits up into the Contract Innovation Lab (CIL NRW) and the Policy Innovation Lab (PIL NRW). The CIL NRW summons regional stakeholders (mainly farmers, advisers and regional administrative representatives) and deals with contract related issues and implementation barriers, while the PIL NRW addresses supra-regional/national policy makers and other relevant stakeholders (NGO´s, Associations etc.) and discusses the broader policy environment accompanying the funding programs.

A Survey Reveals Farmers´ Motivations and Main Concerns

There have been five CIL-workshop and three PIL-workshops conducted to this date. After switching to a digital format due to the Covid-19 situation the attendance of farmers at the CIL-workshops dropped considerably, while the participation of administrative and advisory representatives in the PIL workshops seem to have even grown. To make sure farmers´ perspectives are included in the further development of a concept that should be especially attractive to practitioners, a survey was conducted asking specifically farmers of the region for their opinion on a favourable future agri-environmental funding programme. Altogether 74 farmers from North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) completed the survey, making also good use of the open comment section available for each multiple-choice question, contributing to a rich pool of “in between the lines” ideas and opinions.

Fig. 1: Most important aspects for an increased uptake of AECMs (own survey, completed by 74 farmers of NRW-region)

When asking about the most important aspects that influence the decision to join a scheme, the argument of a less bureaucratic handling of agri-environmental contracting tops the notion of a sufficient financial compensation, making this the most important barrier (see figure 1).

Another important aspect is the need for greater flexibility when implementing measures. Rather than adhering to strict deadlines, there should be some room for pragmatic decision-making especially for some weather-dependent treatments (e.g. sowing or mowing) when meteorological circumstances indicate adverse outcomes. Sometimes also small spatial discrepancies (regarding not only to little but also too much area used for the measure) can lead to rather drastic sanctions. Some farmers noted that especially this strict handling of even minor discrepancies (mostly caused unintentionally) prevents them from joining a scheme. They simply do not want to invite hassle.

Experience from Pilot Projects as a Base for Discussion

Within Germany there are already a few regional pilot projects operating, implementing the collective approach to a varying extent. The last CIl NRW-Workshop mid-September 2021 featured the presentation of a collective action project in Rhineland-Palatine and another one in Saxony-Anhalt. This way the CIL NRW participants were allowed a glimpse into the practical implementation of this approach along with its merits and challenges. Altogether 22 participants joined this 5th (digital) CIL-workshop representing farmers, (regional) agricultural and environmental administration as well as nature conservation organisations. In the discussion part of the workshop, aided by the whiteboard app Mural (see title picture), participants tried to identify the must-have components of an “ideal” collective contract.

Components of the Ideal Contract

There was agreement, that the necessary controls/checks should be reduced to a minimum, since they constitute a considerable hassle for the farmers which costs them time and nerves. The way a pilot project (Saxony-Anhalt) organizes the checks within their collective (checks are carried out, during a time when potential mistakes or failures can still be corrected) is seen as a favourable option by many farmers. To exploit the full potential in terms of farmer support that a collective approach, in theory, has to offer, practitioners feel that a close contact to an assigned field officer/advisor, who “speaks the language of the farmers” would be very helpful.

Another important topic was also the possibility to develop a feasible and fair sanctioning mechanism within a collective. The potential participation in making up the collective´s own general rules or statues has been welcomed by the farmers. The buffer effect, which a collective could potentially introduce to lower the risk of excessive sanctions for the individual farmer, is also a very well perceived advantage of being part of a collective.

How Important is Trust for the Motivation?

Picking up on the argument (“when joining a collective, one is depending on other farmers doing their part”) often used by opponents of a collective, the results of the survey allow for a more optimistic perception of the group effort. Regarding a possible influence of the collective approach on the reliability of the correct implementation of measures, half of the participants say that they feel that their feeling of reliability would rather increase (see Figure 2).

This seems to indicate a general trust towards fellow farmers or at the very least a trust in the mechanisms of social control. This corresponds to results of a study asking Dutch farmers similar questions (see related blogpost). In Contracts2.0, there has been also a scientific study conducted that approached this topic using an experimental setup (“Public Good Games”). The results show that here the willingness to cooperate and the trust among farmers was even greater than experts had predicted (see blogpost).

Fig. 2: Influence of  the collective characteristic on reliability. (own survey, completed by 74 farmers of NRW-Region)

How can Policy Help to Create a Conducive Environment for Collective Action?

The PIL NRW-workshop in November 2021 discussed administrative issues, which are relating to the main barriers regarding a potential implementation of agricultural collectives in Germany. Setting the broader goals and developing a shared vision regarding a certain region and its stakeholders can be challenging when diverse interests have to be taking in account. Ecological necessities need to be aligned with agronomic and economic aspects in order to legitimize the work of the collectives in the eyes of all actors involved. Another important guard rail for this process is the imperative to administer the measures without excessive bureaucracy.

Concerning the documentation and control processes practitioners as well as administrators stressed the need to simplify processes, in order to make participation in agri-environmental programmes more attractive. But contrary to the intention, the New Delivery Model of the Post 2023 CAP will not necessarily offer the longed-for simplification. As one PIL member puts it: “The wish for flexibility is the enemy of simplification”. Under these circumstances the role of the collective in supporting the individual farmer and alleviating the bureaucratic burden, becomes all the more important.

Social Capital and Self-regulation

When thinking about efficient control mechanisms, another thought comes to mind: increasing confidence in a collective’s ability to self-manage and self-regulate would not only help reducing the costs (of multiple reviews of the same aspects), but also increase the bonding social capital of the group (social cohesion; social control; farmers’ trust in the collective to represent their interests) (see blogpost on the topic). To exploit the full potential of a collective implementation in terms of its environmental advantages, but also its socio-economic dynamics, a transfer of more responsibility to the collective could be helpful.

Increased efficiency through Results-based Documentation

In order to ensure that the goals agreed between the collective and the administration are achieved and that the collective approach is thus legitimized and supported by all stakeholders involved, efficient monitoring mechanisms need to be installed. There is still some work to be done here. In order to minimize the on-site inspections of the administration, which are costly for all sides, the use of new technologies (GIS, remote sensing, sentinal data, etc.) should be greatly expanded. These data could be fed into a (further developed) IT-supported and user-friendly documentation and communication system with a uniform frame of reference, which should also be the basis for reporting to the respective higher administrative level (with an increasing degree of abstraction). In this way, the flexibility, but also the efficiency and accuracy of the documentation can be increased and time-consuming micromanagement can be avoided.

Outlook

A question, which needs to be openly discussed, when thinking about rolling out/scaling up the collective approach: what is the advised impelemention depths to enable the full potential of the collective idea. The “exclusiveness” of the Dutch model (to take part in AECM programs at all, farmers need to join a collective) induces some hesitation within German adminstratitive structures as well as with some farmers. Building/maintaining parallel structures, on the other hand, also holds some  disadvantages. This issues needs to be recognized and adressed, before real progress can be made.

The survey addressing farmers of NRW showed a peculiar result regarding the question of how likely it is, that they would join a collective (see figure 3).

Fig. 3: Willingness to join a collective (own survey, completed by 74 farmers of NRW-Region)

The relatively evenly distributed responses indicate a strong heterogeneity in attitudes regarding this novel contracting solution. In addition to pronounced agreement, some farmers appear to have some reservations about this approach. Taking a closer look at the comments on this question in the survey, it appears that these reservations are mainly rooted in concerns about additional bureaucratic (and the corresponding financial) burden.

It would therefore be important to provide farmers as well as administrations with objective information on the subject as well as findings from research & practice and to support the initiation of further pilot projects. Even if this promising approach is not applied across the board in Germany in the foreseeable future, there are some regions which, due to the lack of existing structures, could benefit from an increased effectiveness of agri-environmental funding by applying the cooperative approach. For the farmers, for nature.

Results of the survey (Englisch)

Umfrageergebnisse (Deutsch)

Written by: Christine Hamon, German Farmer´s Association (DBV)

Knowing farmers’ motives helps to strategically address participation

Knowing farmers’ motives helps to strategically address participation

What are the most important motives for farmers to participate in collective schemes? Researchers from Leibniz Centre of Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) collaborated with BoerenNatuur to ask people involved in the Dutch agricultural collectives about their perception.

Being in close contact with the farmers, the agricultural collectives play a key role in motivating farmers to participate in decision-making, knowledge and capacity building and carrying out measures. For successful landscape management with improvements for nature, it can be important to motivate the “right” farmers. For example, those who manage lands in focus areas or those who always lived in the region and have the best local knowledge. The expectations of the collectives on farmers’ motivations make a difference in the way they approach and recruit farmers.

 

Identifying Key Motives

In order to support the targeted approach in “pushing the right buttons”, researchers from ZALF (Germany) and BoerenNatuur (Netherlands) collaborated on a study to identify the most prominent aspects motivating farmers to enroll in Agri-environmental programs. While the relevant categories for different motivations (Figure 1) were identified via a literature review, their applicability was pre-tested in a workshop. After the relevance of the individual aspects of motivation was confirmed, the framework was the basis of a survey asking the people involved in the collectives to rank the different aspects according to their importance.

Figure 1: Categories of farmer motivations to participate in collective agri-environmental schemes (Barghusen et al. 2021).

Intrinsic Motivation is Equally Important

The results revealed that farmers can be motivated by thinking of costs and benefits from participation: that can be the payments directly, or indirect benefits like support from the dairy sector. But an economic motive is in most cases not the only explanation. Intrinsic motivations, such as personal awareness of nature and problems like biodiversity decline as well as a feeling of personal responsibility can be quite powerful. Respondents of the survey were convinced that these motivations play an equally important role.

Three other categories of motivation were analyzed: There is first the belief in the groups’ effort, that farmers working together can have a greater impact. There is also the aspect of having had long-term experience with working together of some of the agricultural collectives. They often share norms like commitment to nature. And then there is also the aspect of perceived peer pressure, when a farmer is motivated due to the wish to be seen as a good farmer by colleagues.

 

Understanding the Motives Better Helps to Increase Enrollment

We assume that these socially influenced motivations are essential in the collective system, although, in this survey, it remained rather unclear to what extent. Moreover, it may depend on the degree of interaction between actors. Practice, however, shows that many agricultural collectives already strategically engage in facilitating personal exchange and cohesion in the collectives, but also in connecting with local citizens or companies.

The question is whether all collectives are well aware and strategic about diverse motivation of farmers, especially the social dimension? Findings from the survey suggest, that collectives differ in awareness of their role in developing social capital. They could further engage in exchange among each other on how to address economic, personal, and at the same time also social ways in which farmers relate to biodiversity preservation.

For more information as well as details regarding the underlying data please check out the full article.

Written by Rena Barghusen (ZALF, DE)

Photo by Annemieke Dunnink (BoerenNatuur, NL)