Contracting on the Commons – Insights from a Multi-Stakeholder Meeting

Contracting on the Commons – Insights from a Multi-Stakeholder Meeting

In July 2022, an Inter-CIL-Meeting gathered members of the Contract Innovation Labs in the Hautes-Pyrénées in France to learn with and from each other about “Agri-environmental contracting on the Commons” – experiences of contracts implemented on common land. 10 project partners from France (GIP-CRPGE, CIRAD), the UK (Natural England and Aberdeen University) and Belgium (INBO) as well as farmers, elected local officials, representatives of pastoral groups, hunters, environmental NGOs and a national park participated in the two-day-long meeting.

Do you prefer to watch videos? 

Braving the hot French summer, the project partners discussed similarities and differences in the management and institutionalised administration of their common lands. The discussions and participants impressions were captured on video. You can watch a summary of the fields trips by following this link to the Parc de Néouvielle or this one to Aulon.

Do you like reading? Great, continue below and enjoy the key messages of the meeting!

Existing approaches to collective land management should be recognized in future contracts

Collective approaches to agri-environmental contracting take several forms in Europe. One example are the collective contracts resulting from the implementation of AECMs on common land, where land management has been organised by collective entities long before the CAP entered into force. it is important to consider them as such and build on their experience once considering “collective approaches of AE contracting” at EU scale. The summer grazing highlands in the Pyrénées and the UK commons share such a farming system on marginal hill land, with a history and culture of pastoral grazing that goes back centuries. In this context, increased ecosystem services (ES) provision must be contractually ensured while also recognizing the already existing ES provision resulting from collective management.

Collective approaches of AE contracting can build on the experience of existing collective contracts

In Flanders, in Belgium, no extensive grazing on highlands exists, nevertheless, there are common grazing areas, where more and more municipalities allow shepherds to graze their herds. The Belgian example represents a European tendency towards the development of grazing to manage high nature value communal areas (wetlands, or protected areas, for example) Therefore, the experiences of collective uplands management can be useful even though the socio-ecosystems are quite different.

The value of informal relationships in managing the Commons and in AE contracting

In France, farmers are formally organized through collective structures, but social pressure has been lostIn the UK, on the other hand, commoners are linked through a social contract (cohesion). Most commons do have a ‘Commoners Association’, but this Association only takes on a legal form through the implementation of an AE contract. There is often a reluctance to formalize these associations, as the relationships between commoners are often fragile, and the current types of contracts (with one representative signing to the AECM and a second legal document between commoners) have a litigious dimension which can play a role in upsetting the local social balance. In Flanders, farmers are not formally organised as well, they need to recognise the value of this, to then be able to replicate it.

Other key actors involved in AE contracting on the Commons are communes, shepherds, and intermediaries

Other significant differences, which we have uncovered in our Inter-CIL, are about:

  • Additional key actors to be considered in AE contracting alongside farmers in France are: i) the landowners (the commune) who have an important role in land management, administrative tasks and decision making, and ii) the communal shepherds in charge of implementing the contract.
  • Where facilitation/ advice sits in the collective contract process. Intermediaries take several roles that vary given institutional and policy context. To fill these roles, they need to acquire important skills (communication, adaptability, translation, support). They also need time and financial support. For example, the design of England’s Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund (CSFF) provides an opportunity for funding more innovative and experimental forms of collective AECMs.

 

If you want to know more about the meeting, have a look at the full meeting report

© Text: Céline Dutilly (CIRAD)

© Picture/Videos: Emmanuelle Cheyns

Beyond Research: What’s your favourite contracts2.0 case study?

Beyond Research: What’s your favourite contracts2.0 case study?

Over the past 3.5 years, Contracts2.0 partners have worked on agri-environment-climate-measures in and with various regions and its stakeholders. Many valuable professional but also personal relationships have formed. Some of these unique regions, its people, products and measures are portrayed in these photographs, accompanied by their origin story. 

Vote for your favourite picture and story here! The poll is open until April!

 

The Small Heath

Germany © Picture: HiPP GmbH & Co. Vertrieb GmbH

The picture shows a Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) at HiPP’s model farm for biodiversity, the Ehrensberger Hof. Value chain approaches have great innovation potential: They have a strong bottom-up approach and can be adapted to the local situation in a targeted way. HiPP and many other organic food companies have been committed to respectful interaction with nature and natural resources for many years. They follow a multifaceted engagement for biodiversity and ecosystem services along their value chains.

Food production depends on numerous biodiversity and ecosystem services. One example is pollination services provided by insects. Insect biodiversity has declined severely in recent decades in Central Europe. For this reason, the HiPP company, in collaboration with the Bavarian State Collection for Zoology (ZSM) and the Bavarian Natural History Collections (SNSB), initiated a study to investigate the impact of organic and conventional farming on insect diversity.

This study was the first to quantitatively and qualitatively demonstrate the effects of different agricultural practices on biodiversity using molecular methods (cf. Hausmann et al., 2020). At HiPP’s model farm for biodiversity, the Ehrensberger Hof near Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, 260 % more insect biomass was detected compared to the conventional trial farm in 2018.

This shows the importance of promoting organic farming and other biodiversity measures as part of value chain approaches. Please visit the website for more details.

Text: Birte Bredemeier, LUH

Contract Innovation Lab Flanders 

Belgium © Boerennatuur Vlaanderen

Three pictures were created in our case study regions in Flanders, Belgium. In Voeren, a western part of Belgium (where the white cow unsuccessfully tries to escape the camera by hiding behind a tree) we aim to preserve the landscape, biodiversity, and agricultural values by including grasslands and woody elements.

Our CIL-case Koolstofboeren (carbon farming) aims to increase the organic matter content in soil by incorporating wood chips from landscape management in the soil, which has a positive effect on the soil structure, water infiltration, erosion control and soil biodiversity as can beautifully be seen in the two pictures showing the soil.

Castiglione di Garfagnana in Early Summer

Italy © Cinzia Lenzarini, Unione Comuni Garfagnana

This small and rare plain enclosed by mountains still offers a manicured and harmonious agricultural landscape, just as we would like our territory to continue to be. In the background, the Apuan foothills give an idea of the orographic complexity and great expanse of the forest, where Chestnut groves survive with centuries-old majestic plants, interspersed with small, ancient orchards rich in biodiversity.

To the right, the Omo Morto chain (Apuan Alps) which dominates the landscape, with its unmistakable silhouette of a sleeping giant.

In the field in the foreground, alternate horticultural species of local varieties now at risk of extinction such as the Nano di Verni corn, the Rossa di Sulcina potato, the Rossetto wheat, the Giallorino della Garfagnana bean, and finally the bales of hay, ready to feed the small flocks and herds of local breeds: white Garfagnina sheep and Garfagnina cow.

In this valley farmers are the custodians of an endangered animal and plant genetic heritage, which has survived the great social and economic changes. It has now fallen to us to capture its flavours, agronomic traditions, myths, and tales that have sprung from it.

In this snapshot we see much of the agricultural Garfagnana, rich in biodiversity and culture, sculpted by the strong identity and tenacity of its inhabitants. It is preserved by the will and passion of custodian farmers, suspended between abandonment and difficult enhancement and redevelopment of life in mountain and interior areas.

Gentian Caching

Hungary © Eszter Cibik, Őrség National Park

Here we are in a molinia meadow, in the Őrség national park. Every condition favours species-rich grassland: high annual rainfall and humidity, mild temperatures, soil moisture…
What other things are necessary for long-term nature conservation? Good relationship and communication with farmers. Results-based payment (RBP), as a planned contract type was discussed and chosen with local stakeholders, including farmers. RBP focuses on species-rich hay meadows in Őrség and some of the farmers take part of the testing.

In the picture, you can see a caught moment, when the farmer and me are monitoring the unmown parcel of the meadow. He was obliged not to cut 5% of the grassland in order to enhance seeding. The marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe), one of our protected species, is a defined indicator, that scores in RBP. Bingo! We have just found several ones in blossom in the unmown area in that moment. Thus, we are on the right path to increase their numbers.

In the field visit, structure elements, plant and butterfly species are monitored – following an indicator check list. The butterfly net functions also as a modern shepherd’s crook as you can see. Farmers are usually surprized at first, then enthusiastic about counting butterflies.
Farmers are more positive towards AECMs, if they are part of the planning process. They are also willing to and capable of measuring indicators.

Fuenlabrada Agricultural Park

Spain © Inés Gutiérrez Briceño, UAM

Given the paradigms of global change, Fuenlabrada agricultural park was created to support peri-urban agriculture in the metropolitan region of Madrid. Despite the strong urban sprawl during the last decades, horticultural production has been maintained in the area. The agricultural park strengthens this production from an integral perspective and articulates actions based on the needs of the agricultural sector. The maintenance of this activity has also allowed the conservation of traditional varieties and the traditional agricultural practices associated with them, as is the case of the local Fuenlabrada chard.

The photo shows the mountainous area in the north of the region in the background, the city of Fuenlabrada nearby, and in the foreground one of the horticultural productions that make up the agricultural park. Among the chards, a strip of calendula flowers, can be seen, which is planted to attract beneficial insects for the orchard such as pest controllers or pollinating insects. In addition, these flower strips bring many other values, such as cultural and aesthetic values. Furthermore, by strengthening the multifunctional role of this activity and the restoration of the agricultural landscape, these areas are a space where it can be developed for environmental, sports and educational activities. These activities must be compatible with sustainable and local production, which will help to empower farmers who work there.

Will & Zac

England © Annabelle LePage, Natual England

Will is a hill farmer in the Yorkshire Dales. He has a commercial sheep and cattle enterprise based on hardy crossbreeds. He runs his upland farm alongside his brother, and their family have farmed in the valley for many years.

Will is also an active participant in the development of England’s innovative new agri-environment schemes. He was a member of the grassland results-based pilot, and is pictured here with sheepdog Zac in one of his best fields for breeding waders, in which he has seen around 70 curlews at once present in the spring.

In the background behind Will, Zac and their quad bike, we can see some of the excellent habitat qualities like the varied sward and plentiful tussocks which provide shelter for the birds. On the horizon, we can see the dramatic, rolling hills of the beautiful yet challenging Yorkshire Dales landscape in which these farmers provide so many benefits for natural and cultural heritage.

Will is an inspiring example of a hill farmer who is working well for both his own business, for the public, for other farmers and for nature.

Text: Jennifer Dodsworth

The Sunshine Island

Bornholm, Denmark © Louise Vercruysse (left) and Lisa Sharif (right)

One of contratcs2.0’s case study regions is the Danish Island of Bornholm. After the 2022 Consortium Meeting in Copenhagen a few colleagues visited this unique part of Europe. We spent a beautiful sunny day hiking along the coast, inspecting the landscape (we found an orchid!), watching birds, discussing our research, and even taking a dip in the clear cold sea.

The picture of the ocean, taken on an analogue camera by Louise Vercruysse, marks the start of our hike – the dinner plate full of exclusively local products the end of it.
It was a humbling full circle moment: to have spent the day walking through the region where farmers produce the foods on our plates and seeing the positive effects of their landscape management.

International research projects are no walk in the park (neither is hiking with Francis by the way), I learned that much very quickly. But today, it brought us here today, from all over Europe, brought us closer together as colleagues and friends. Let’s remember why it will be worth it: we are working on securing the possibility for future generations to take the same photographs as us on this day – of wonderful local food products, blooming landscapes, and clear water.

Text: Lisa Sharif, DBV

The Danish Jersey Cow

Bornholm, Denmark © Louise Vercruysse, INBO

We encountered these lovely cows during a day-long hike on the island of Bornholm – the Sunshine Island. It was late June, just after the Contracts meeting in Copenhagen, when some of the meeting attendees wanted to explore the natural surroundings where the Danish Contract Innovation Lab was situated, where sustainable grassland contracts were created.

Bornholm carries a fascinating history, as the island has been fought over for centuries. It used to be a Viking stronghold, and we saw some children on a school trip, dressed up as Vikings, as living remnants of that era. Bornholm belonged to Sweden for a while, before becoming Danish territory somewhere in the 17th century. During the second world war, the island was occupied by the Germans and bombed by the Russians. A lot of violence happened on the island. However, when walking the trails, one can only feel a strong sense of peace, being surrounded by the deep blue Baltic Sea and granite rocks. And this peace and joy is what we – humans anthropomorphizing everything – think to see in the faces of the cows we passed.

The Danish jersey cow, lounging in the shade with her new-born calf, seemed pleased. What must she think, overlooking the sea, likely never having touched the salty water? Does she see the humans walking the fields she’s grazing as belonging to a world separate from her, a culture opposed to a nature? Does she see her existence and the birth of her calf as being made possible by humans? Is she biodiversity, part of an environmentally friendly farming system, or quite the opposite, a burden?
Live and let live would be a part of the agriculture that Contracts2.0 aims to contribute to: co-designing contracts with practitioners to sustainably co-design farming systems with all human and non-human actors involved.

And so we continued our hike, finding ourselves a shady spot next to the water to take a rest.

We hope you enjoyed this small insight in our project and its regions and people!

We love them all, so we need you to GIVE YOUR VOTE to your favourite case study picture and story!
Combining collective agri-environmental contracts with a payments-by-results approach

Combining collective agri-environmental contracts with a payments-by-results approach

In his Master thesis, Max Sonntag analysed the potential for combining collective and payment-by-results elements for agri-environmental contracts, based on interviews with ten intermediaries from England. These intermediaries are facilitators of farmer groups who receive funding from the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund (CSFF) for their work to align the management options of farmers on largely adjoining holdings.

The key research question of this study was “What are potential benefits and challenges of combining a collaborative payment for ecosystem services approach with results-based measures?” The particular focus was the role of the intermediary, here the facilitator of a Facilitation Fund group in England (see Practice Abstract 2 here).

Facilitators are responsible for bringing together a group of (at least four) farmers, covering at least 2,000 ha of (largely) adjoining land. They organise group meetings and farm walks, invite expert speakers and align the Countryside Stewardship management options that farmers enrol in. CSFF is technically not a collective contract, as the payment is transferred only to the facilitator. The degree to which the farmers collaborate depends on their individual engagement in the group. There tends to be less cooperation when there is a high proportion of pre-existing individual agri-environmental contracts within the group (Jones et al., 2020, p. 65) as farmers cannot change their contracts before the agreed end date.

Facilitators in this study worked with groups in the regions where the Results Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS) pilot in Northern England (Wensleydale) and East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) was implemented. Therefore, they had an awareness of what a results-based approach could entail, and some farmers in these areas had made positive experiences with the pilots (more information). 

Combination is promising…

In general, facilitators thought that a combination of collective and results-based elements was a good idea and would work well. Five interviewees commented that the Facilitation Fund groups could be used as a platform by farmers to exchange and share knowledge on how to achieve results, and farmers in the group could more easily be trained to undertake self-assessments of results achieved. Alternatively, the facilitator would be on hand to help with the assessment of their plots. Three interviewees stated the result-based approach could enhance friendly competition among members, and access to results-based payment options could encourage more farmers to join the group. There was also the view that farmers who are members of Facilitation Fund groups already demonstrated an interest in learning and innovation regarding environmental activities and therefore would likely be keen to explore result-based options.

…but are there enough trained facilitators? 

Facilitators stressed that results-based payment are not suitable for every case. Indicators needed to be carefully chosen to ensure they are reliable and do not result in a high administrative workload for the farmers, and results-based payments needed to be coupled with a base payment (e.g. via an action-based measure) to reduce the risk to farmers. Current facilitation fund facilitators were seen to be well placed to work with groups to expand into result-based schemes. However, some interviewees had doubts whether there are enough facilitators with the right skills available to be able to advise farmer groups on results monitoring and effective group work at the same time. This suggested additional training for facilitators would need to be made available if such a combination of approaches was to be rolled out.

Onerous paperwork is a barrier 

Interviewees had concerns about the amount of paperwork. Five facilitators already perceived the administrative work related to the Facilitation Fund as onerous, and were weary of an increase if a results-based approach added to this load. In addition, many Facilitation Fund groups currently have no monitoring activities in place, neither with regard to the outcomes of their agri-environmental management, nor the success and social capital of the group as a whole (Prager, 2022). This lack of experience may be a particular hurdle for setting up a result-based approach and the related assessment and reporting activities.

In a scenario of combined collective and result-based elements, a majority of the interviewed facilitators believe that assessing results of management activities, helping with monitoring and providing 1-to-1 advice would be a key aspect of their new role. Others felt their role would not change much: they would continue to facilitate the group’s work as a neutral third party, organise training and help with spatial targeting.

Facilitator role is similarly important in other countries

In conclusion, facilitators have an important role in supporting farmer groups in environmental management. This is in line with observations from other agri-environment climate schemes, such as the Dutch national collective scheme (Berner, 2021), or the result-based Burren Programme in Ireland (Nietzschmann, 2021, Master thesis, more information), where facilitators are involved in multiple roles. These include, for instance enabling communication and coordination among participating famers, offer advice and extension services, assist with the spatial targeting of measures to the most suitable areas in the landscape, join in the monitoring activities, or re-distribute and administer payments to farmers received from the government.

Facilitators view a combination of collective and results-based approaches favourably and most are ready to embrace the challenge of this innovation. Nevertheless, a number of design and administrative challenges remain to be tackled.

 

To cite: Sonntag, M. (2021): Combining a collaborative PES approach with a payments-by-results approach in England: Process Net-Map interviews with Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund’s intermediaries. Master thesis in Integrated Natural Resource Management at Humboldt University Berlin, December 2021.

Supervision: Claudia Sattler (ZALF) & Martin Scheele (HU)

Blogpost written by: Katrin Prager & Claudia Sattler 

Pictures: Jennifer Dodsworth & Katrin Prager (taken at a contracts2.0 stakeholer workshop in Ireland)

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!