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)

Testing MCDM Model to Evaluate the Potential of the Collective Approach

Testing MCDM Model to Evaluate the Potential of the Collective Approach

The Multi-criteria Decision Making (MCDM) method is an excellent tool to assess different options by evaluating conflicting criteria in order to make an informed decision. In Contracts2.0 we are applying this method on evaluating the performance of two case studies implementing the collective approach. Their results show different levels of fulfilling the (sub-)objectives, contributing to the main objective of providing environmental public goods to a varying extent. Comparing the different results can help to identify the weaknesses of certain options and support the design of effective agri-environmental schemes.

This week, C2.0-partners from University of Ljubljana, working on an ex-post analysis of existing collectives, presented a paper about a multi-criteria decision support system which can inform the design and evaluation of novel contractual models by analysing the potential of existing contracts. This paper was presented at the 16th International Symposium on Operational Research in Slovenia from 22nd to 24th September 2021.

Comparing the Performance of the Collectives

The presented research is exploring the sensitivity of the multi criteria decision making model for comparing the potential of different types of coordinated agri-environmental measures (AEM) or collactives. The Dutch Contracts2.0 collective case studys Limburg and Oost Groningen were chosen as subjects for this study. The results are presented with the help of a web chart (Fig.1 and 2). The test model suggests that the two collectives mainly differ in the attributes “social” and “economic” aspects.

Fig. 1: Web chart for the NL_Limburg – attributes

Fig. 2: Web chart for  NL_Oost Groningen – attributes

Collectives show different Performance Levels

Fig. 3 shows a more detailed breakdown of the differences by criteria. If we take a closer look at the economic factor in both cases, we see that the NL_Limburg case has both criteria for the “economic” attribute very poorly assessed. The SWOT analysis (from which the original information about the characteristics of these two cases stems from) showed that there is practically no cost reduction for farmers in NL-Limburg case arising from joining the collective. In contrast, the NL_Oost Groningen collective provides an organized group purchase of seedlings and seeds to ensure a better price and thus receiving a better economic assessment.

Fig. 1: Web chart for the NL_Limburg – attributes

Weaknesses of the Model Need to be Addressed

In this test model, the equal weight for factors and individual decision-making approach was used, which eventually, reflected in the lack of sensitivity of the test model and should be corrected in the final decision model.

The final decision model will compare nine different case studies implementing the collective approach to AEM. It will not use an equal weight for factors, instead the analytical hierarchy process pair wise comparison method for calculation of weights assigned to factors will be made with a combination of Delfi method. Delfi method includes several expert’s view and can reflect a group decision making effort so at the end a consensus for assigning weights to factors will be made.

The final decision model will be applied for selected case study sites in order to identify the contracts with the highest probability to provide the desired provision of environmental public goods (EPG) and ecosystem services along with marketable agricultural private goods. It will show weaknesses and strengths for each individual case study and it will give insight into the factors that can have greatest effect to the provision of EPG. This will then be applicable as a new knowledge for the design of the novel contracts for EPG that the Contracts2.0 project is all about.

For more detailed information have a look at our paper, which we presented at the 16th International Symposium on Operational Research.

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

Implementing innovative contract models – results from the Policy Delphi

Implementing innovative contract models – results from the Policy Delphi

The second round of our online Policy Delphi study – focusing on opportunities to implement innovative contract models in the current policy arena – was closed during the summer, and the first results are just fresh out of the oven.

A key characteristic of the Delphi method is that it runs in several consecutive rounds. This allows the researchers to use the findings from the preceding rounds to design questions in the forthcoming rounds. This allows to dig a little deeper into the most exciting (often controversial) topics, which is exactly what happened in Contracts2.0. The results of our first Delphi round were analysed to identify converging and contested topics, which were then turned into questions and statements to test in the second round of the survey. 32 experts from 15 European countries participated in the second round, with almost half of them indicated to have direct policy experience at national or subnational level.

Based on the answers from the first round on how the ideal contract would look like to incentivize farmers for more sustainable farming we could synthesize three prototypes: a) a mixed contract combining action-based and result-based elements, signed bi-laterally between farmers and funding agencies for a medium duration (5-7 years); b) a result-based contract, signed between a group of farmers (collective) and the funding agency, with flexible duration (from short to medium or long term); and c) a value-chain contract, signed between farmers and other actors of the value chain (e.g. food processors, retailers, certifiers), which builds on an existing AECM contract and provides a price premium for more sustainable products. As the figure (above) suggests, the majority of the respondents would choose a mixed, action- and results-based contract for an European level contract prototype, but still almost one-quarter of the respondents would suggest alternative contracts, mainly ones which offer more flexibility to choose collective (landscape-level) agreements or different contract lengths from shorter to longer term.

We also asked what the best way is to implement these novel contracts, and there seems to be an agreement about agri-environmental-and climate measures still being the main target area, where innovative contract characteristics can be implemented as top-ups or additional payments to more mainstream conventional (i.e. action-based) contracts. In terms of funding novel contracts through the Common Agricultural Policy, responding experts underlined the outstanding importance of the Pillar 2 payments. Within Pillar 2 policy instruments, almost 70% of the participants pointed to agri-environmental and climate measures, while voluntary interventions in Pillar 2 for investment, knowledge exchange and cooperation, as well as for ecological constraints were listed by 34.5%. Eco-schemes, which is a part of the new green architecture affiliated with the Pillar 1 payments, were also mentioned by 34.5% of the respondents – with this proportion, eco-schemes seem to be the most promising instrument within Pillar 1 with a considerable potential to integrate innovative contracts.

As we learned from the first round of the Delphi study, available budget is a strong constraint for implementing innovative contracts (beside others, like increased transaction costs or higher uncertainties). Financially supporting environmentally friendly farming through different instruments of the CAP, as suggested by the findings shared above, can be a strategy to alleviate the budget burden. However, it raises further questions such as additionality and potential double-payments received for the same result from different schemes. Fostering coherence within the CAP and between the CAP and other policy areas is a key step forward and will also be a focal topic of the third round of our Delphi study.

written by Eszter Kelemen & Boldizsár Megyesi (ESSRG)

 For more information see the Report of the 2nd Round of the Delphi Study.

For infos on tools and techniques for initiating a policy dialogue on innovative approaches check our Practice Abstracts no. 10

Collective AES – exploring Dutch farmers’ motivation to participate

Collective AES – exploring Dutch farmers’ motivation to participate

To address the degradation of the natural environment, agri-environment schemes (AES) have been designed within the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy. AES have been criticised for showing low ecological effectiveness. To improve the schemes’ effectiveness, a collective approach focusing on a landscape level as opposed to a single field or farm level is recommended. So far, this approach has rarely been applied across Europe. The Netherlands is an exception, where all AES have to be implemented collectively since 2016. Participation for farmers in the schemes is voluntary. Therefore, understanding farmers’ motivation to join is crucial as the uptake and implementation of measures is a prerequisite for achieving any effects.

In early 2021, we interviewed 15 farmers from six Dutch collectives about their motivation to participate in collective AES and assessed the advantages and disadvantages of collective AES from the participating farmers’ perspective.

Overview collectives participating in the study

Figure 1. Overview of participating collectives.

Methodological approach

We carried out a Q-study to learn what motivates farmers to join collective AES. Q methodology explores different perspectives on a topic by combining quantitative and qualitative elements within an interview. For the quantitative part, we asked farmers to sort 37 statements into a grid. The grid ranged from -4 (disagreement) to +4 (agreement) and allowed the participants to sort the statements relative to each other depending on their personal level of (dis)agreement. We developed the statements based on an extensive literature review, capturing as many different aspects of the debate as possible. In the qualitative part of the interview, the farmers could comment on the statements, explain their sorting choices and talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the schemes.

Filled in Q-grid

Figure 2. Example of statement sorting, with red (disagree), green (agree) and grey (neutral) statements.

Motivation to join collective AES

The analysis revealed three motivational views: collective-oriented, business-oriented and environment-oriented. Farmers sharing the collective-oriented perspective (‘the collectivists’) feel a stronger connection to the collective and are proud of common achievements. The business-oriented perspective (‘the business rationalists’) is shared by farmers who think rationally about their farm business and how collective AES and other actions fit the overall operative purpose. Within the environment-oriented perspective (‘the environmental optimisers’), farmers care strongest about the environment and how their farm can actively engage in biodiversity or climate protection.

All farmers share great affection and care for nature. They agree that taking care of the environment is part of being a good farmer. They appreciate the collectives’ collaboration with nature conservationists and citizens. Financial compensation for the measures is important, however, it is viewed as a necessity to enable required changes in farming practices rather than an additional source of income. Individual independence is crucial to all participating farmers, yet, they don’t think that cooperation within the collective threatens their autonomy but rather strengthens it. All farmers strongly reject the idea of having joined the scheme because of fellow farmers’ participation. They do not necessarily trust that their neighbours are good partners for cooperation. At the same time, they are not afraid that someone in the collective would benefit without contributing. While it is central for them that people acknowledge their efforts within the schemes, they do not perceive pressure by society that would influence their actions.

Advantages and disadvantages of collective AES

The collective scheme offers many advantages to farmers, notably improved ecological impacts and support from the collectives. Farmers appreciate that the collectives assist with applications and administrative tasks and facilitate exchange with fellow farmers, creating room for discussions, mutual learning, inspiration, and network building. Another significant advantage is the provision of knowledge and advice with close contact between farmers and the collectives’ field workers, who speak the farmers’ language and know what’s going on in the region.

However, farmers still wish for more flexibility and a better integration of their knowledge and experiences into scheme design and decision-making processes. Policy processes should be transparent and promises should be kept to avoid disappointment and mistrust. The consequences of joining the schemes should be communicated openly to prevent farmers’ concerns about raising conservation standards and land possibly becoming protected and excluded from farming activities. It might be worth evaluating the possibility of providing voluntary long-term contract options for certain measures to allow for better planning. Also, the government should guarantee sufficient funding to enable all applying farmers to join the schemes.

Communication with the public can still be improved to better show farmers’ achievements. Also, between the different collectives, communication could be enhanced to allow for a better exchange. A prime example is the approach to tackle predation in meadow bird management, which in some collectives works better than in others.

Outlook

A large-scale survey-based follow-up study, including non-participants in collective AES, would be needed to reach representative results. Many of the caveats for collective AES described in the literature were not confirmed, some of them were even explicitly dismissed by all participating farmers, for instance, the fear of depending on others or the risk of others benefitting without contributing. The findings indicate a potential to promote the Dutch approach to AES in other regions if organisations similar to the Dutch collectives exist (or develop), which would offer the necessary support for farmers.

In Contracts2.0, we will continue to explore how the Dutch approach can be enhanced and how AES can best be implemented collectively in other European regions, such as the French CIL Hautes-Pyrénées, the Belgian CIL Flanders or the German CIL NRW.

For more information, see Margarethe Schneider’s master’s thesis.

“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/