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)

Contracts2.0 at the ESP Europe Conference

Contracts2.0 at the ESP Europe Conference

The Ecosystem Service Partnership Conference offered a welcome opportunity to discuss the topics and research of Contracts2.0. From the 10th until 14th of October, the Ecosystem service research community gathered in Heraklion, Crete, to spend five warm autumn days together discussing transformative ecosystem research, the future of education, and values.

Discussing motivating contract design

The researchers working in the Contracts2.0 project were well represented and hosted several sessions. For instance, the session “Motivating contract design for the provision of ecosystem services and biodiversity in agriculture”, facilitated by Bettina Matzdorf, discussed the development and implementation of innovative contract models to produce more biodiversity and ecosystem services in the agricultural landscape.

Eszter Kelemen talked about the results from the Policy Delphi study, which was carried out as part of the Contracts2.0 project and explored how and under which circumstances novel contractual solutions could be better implemented within the European policy context.

Then, in his talk about farmers’ preferences for new agri-environmental-climate measures (AECM), Wojciech Zawadzki presented the results from the stated-preference-based Discrete Choice Experiment, where farmers could choose between practice-based and results-based agri-environmental measures.

Reflecting the implementation of novel contractual models

In the session on “Results-based approaches and other integrated models as drivers for ecological conservation and policy integration”, István Szentirmai gave a presentation on the case study Őrség National Park where new results-based and value chain contracts were designed together with practitioners. Dieter Mortelmans talked about the experiences from the contract innovation labs in Flanders to shift towards results-based agri-environmental measures and simultaneously achieve policy integration in rural municipalities faced with high land pressures.

Making local knowledge count

The last of the sessions that incorporated the Contracts2.0 project was “Making local knowledge count: co-design principles and practices for agri-environmental programmes”, facilitated by Francis Turkelboom. In this session, Louise Vercruysse presented the lessons-learned regarding practitioner participation in the co-design of agro-environmental contracts. Inés Gutiérrez-Briceño held a presentation on how to find incentives to move towards agroecological transition in the Community of Madrid and Jennifer Dodsworth discussed the mapping processes of co-design within Agri-Environment Scheme Development in North-England. Unfortunately, due to technical problems, these last two presentations were quite difficult to follow. The discussion in this session centred around the question of how to deal with local power dynamics and whose knowledge to include.

 

Food for thought: the role of science and researchers

The conference hosted a number of captivating keynote speeches. On the second day, for instance, Contracts2.0 researcher Ezster Kelemen, gave a talk about the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in Ecosystem Service research.

Who do you include? And how do you navigate the different layers of marginalization?

Her presentation made us reflect on our own position and role as researchers in local power fields. Giving a voice to representatives of local communities may not be enough, and true inclusivity is challenging and requires creative methods. These topics would come back at different times during the conference, and especially in the sessions related to participatory contract co-design.

Another remarkable keynote speech was given by Esther Turnhout about transformative ecosystem services research. She addressed the lack of diversity in the science community and the misconceptions about the science-policy-interface by both scientists and policy makers. There is not enough attention given to the interests and power relations within science, and the dominant framing of research problems. Esther calls for epistemic disobedience, for scientists to claim cognitive justice and integrate a plurality of paradigms. Furthermore, science is not an objective source, but should be part of the “messy, democratic game” that is politics. Definitely one to think about.

All in all…

…it was a successful conference for the Contracts2.0 researchers. Not only to present our work and discuss it with fellow researchers, but also to get inspired by people engaged in similar projects, make new connections and networks, and to reflect critically on our own research.

© Text and Pictures: Louise Vercruysse
To Innovate or not to Innovate? – A Danish Study on Conservation Grazing Schemes

To Innovate or not to Innovate? – A Danish Study on Conservation Grazing Schemes

A study on different options to improve a scheme on conservation grazing revealed that Danish farmers are not hugely keen on adopting innovative contractual approaches. Even though many of the Danish farmers feel the need to increase the ecological impact of the measures, they argue that this could be achieved by improving the existing schemes.

How relevant are findings from the Innovation Lab to the Danish farming community?

Contracts2.0 aims to develop innovative contracts between farmers or land managers and other public or private bodies, which help to strengthen the implementation of agri-environmental measures in agriculture. This is done mainly in the Contract Innovation Labs (CIL), which have a regional or local base. In our Danish case, innovative solutions for contracts on conservation grazing have been developed on the island of Bornholm, which covers 1.3 % of the Danish agricultural area and is the home of 1.2 % of the Danish farmers.

In our CIL, the farmers of Bornholm expressed interest in the integration of innovative components to boost the impact of the existing measures. However, are the novel solutions developed in a specific region also applicable in national contexts? To check the national applicability of the innovative approaches, we initiated a survey addressing affected farmers all over Denmark. 370 farmers, a little less than 10 % of all farmers currently participating in a scheme on conservation grazing, provided answers.

 

The Top 4 preferred options are old acquaintances

The question we considered as the most important, dealt with potential options to provide farmers with additional payments for additional efforts. Six different options were listed, and each farmer could choose up to three favoured options.

The option that farmers point to as most interesting actually already existed earlier (albeit to a limited extent) in older versions of the Danish scheme for the management of grassland and natural areas. More than four out of ten farmers indicate that they would be interested in obtaining additional payment for small areas and areas with difficult access, i.e. areas with relatively high management costs.

The second most popular option is to get extra payments for more specific requirements. Again, this is an option previously available in the Danish scheme with differentiation according to, for example, the use of fertilisation and grazing pressure at different levels.

Thirdly, a little more than one in three farmers is interested in obtaining additional pay out for following a management plan for the contracted area. Today, management plans are already a reality for a number of farmers managing publicly owned land, but the support scheme is currently not directly linked to the plan. The most frequent model in these situations is that the authorities lease the land to the farmer and that the farmer holds the contracts on conservation grazing and gets the payment for this.

In fourth place is a bonus payment for maintaining areas of high nature value (HNV) according to the map of the Agricultural Agency. At present, aid is not differentiated according to the HNV-levels of the land, as the HNV feature is only used to determine whether land outside Natura 2000 areas is eligible for enrolment in conservation grazing schemes or not.

What about the rest?

Only slightly more than one farmer in five would opt for a scheme offering an additional payment when meeting certain nature quality indicators. Slightly fewer than one in five farmers would like to see a bonus payment for high local contract coverage (agglomeration bonus). The latter has been tried for a period of time with a small additional payment of 10% for local coverage of more than half of the eligible area.

Additionally, two thirds of the farmers are interested in improving the management of grasslands in the conservation grazing scheme to improve or secure the nature content. Apparently half of these farmers are even interested in improving management without additional payments.

Conclusions from the Danish Survey

Three observations can be made from the results presented here. Firstly, none of the presented options alone would be attractive for the majority of farmers. Secondly, the contract option featuring an individual management plan, developed in the Innovation Lab Bornholm, scores relatively high in the survey among the farmers from other parts of the country. Thirdly, the options with innovative elements, like results-based payments or collective implementation score relatively poor.

For further reference, see our survey results in the Graph below.

Bottom line…

…tweaking the existing schemes can bring about desired results in terms of conservation grassland management. Many farmers are generally interested in improving management to improve or secure the nature content of the grasslands under agreement. The Contract Innovation Lab on Bornholm suggests integrating the innovative approaches in the implementation of nature protection management plans in the agri-environmental schemes on conservation grazing under the Common Agricultural Policy.

The survey which also covers farmers’ views on other issues of agri-environmental programs (e.g. checks/controls, advisory services) is reported in Andersen, E.: Landmændenes syn på tilsagn om pleje af græs- og naturarealer (original, in Danish). A reviewed English translation is available here

Willingness to collaborate in agriculture?  A behavioural experiment shows positive results

Willingness to collaborate in agriculture? A behavioural experiment shows positive results

Many environmental objectives in agriculture can be better achieved at larger spatial scales through cooperation among farmers. In the Netherlands agri- environmental measures are implemented exclusively within farmer collectives (“Dutch modell”), which develop regional management plans together with the authorities. In a behavioural experiment, we investigated German farmers’ willingness to collaborate with the aim to introduce such an approach to Germany.

The participants’ willingness to collaborate was high and exceeded the expectations of experts. These results provide first positive indications regarding the potential of collaborative agri-environmental schemes (AES) in Germany.

(German version /deutsche Version)

Motivation and goals

There is great interest in the “Dutch approach” of collectively implementing agri-environmental schemes (AES) , since many measures are more effective, when coordinated on a landscape scale, e.g. rewetting of peatlands, protection of habitats or erosion control. The  2019 report of the Scientific Advisory Council at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture therefore also recommends: “(1) Examine the extent to which elements of the Dutch system of collective nature conservation arrangements could also be applicable in Germany; (2) improve the institutional prerequisites for the implementation of collective models of environmental and climate action; (3) in pilot projects in the current finance period, support the grouping of relevant local actors into ‘biodiversity-generating communities”.

However, little is known, about the willingness of farmers to collectively pursue environmental goals. We have investigated this basic willingness in a so-called public goods game.

The public goods game

The public goods game is a concept from game theory (theoretical framework within the field of economics). Players have an initial monetary endowment that must be divided between a private account and a group account. The money in the group account is multiplied by a number that is lower than the number of participants but greater than one. Thus, although it is in the interest of the group, players have no individual incentive to contribute to the group account, although this is in the interest of the group. The game can be used to abstractly study free-rider behaviour and cooperation. Thousands of laboratory experiments show that many people are willing to cooperate with strangers. A typical result is that participants contribute about half of their initial endowment to the group. The figure (above) shows an example with four players and an initial endowment of 10 euros.

The experiment and the survey of experts

Public goods games have already been carried out in many different versions in the laboratory. In our study, we discussed a selection of possible treatments against the background of collaborative agri-environmental schemes at a workshop during the Green Week 2020 in Berlin. In addition to a baseline version, four treatment versions of the game were selected from 17 alternatives for a study with German farmers:

(1) Baseline: four participants must allocate 50 euros between a group account and a private account. The amount on the group account is doubled and divided equally among all players.

(2) Heterogeneous initial endowment: participants have either a high or a low initial endowment;

(3) Leading by example: three participants can first see the decision of the first player and only then make their decision;

(4) Social norm: participants receive the information that many other participants have contributed high amounts to the group account;

(5) Social optimum: participants receive the information that it is in the interest of the group that everyone contributes as much as possible to the group account.

More than 350 farmers participated in our online experiment. Participants were randomly presented with one of the five options. Every tenth participant received a real payment depending on his/her own behaviour and the behaviour of the other participants.

Parallel to the study with the farmers, we asked more than 200 experts from science and practice to predict the behaviour of the farmers in our experiment. Three participants were randomly selected and received a payment depending on the accuracy of their estimate.

Results

For each of the five treatments the figure shows in orange the distribution of the percentage that participants contributed to the group account. In all treatments the average is higher than 50% and, thus, higher than in typical laboratory experiments. The contributions do not differ between the treatments, with the only exception of the social optimum, where contributions are significantly higher and reach 80% of the initial endowment.

The distribution of experts’ predictions is shown in green. Experts underestimate the contributions of farmers by an average of more than twenty percentage points.

Diagram showing farmers' contributions to public good and expert predictions of farmers' contributions to the public good.

Figure 1 Distribution of contributions (orange) and expert predictions (green) Source: own calculations

First conclusions and outlook

The most important conclusion is that participating farmers show a high basic willingness to cooperate under experimental conditions. It has also been shown that experts assess the cooperation behaviour of the participants too pessimistically. In the Contracts2.0 project, we will now discuss these results with practice partners and gather insights into the potential of collaborative agri-environmental schemes and the so-called “Dutch model” in further studies. Among others, similar studies are planned in the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland. An English-language report describing this process is available for download:

Rommel, J., van Bussel, L., le Clech, S., Czajkowski, M., Höhler, J., Matzdorf, B., … & Zagórska, K. (2021). Environmental Cooperation at Landscape Scales: First Insights from Co-Designing Public Goods Games with Farmers in Four EU Member States. https://pub.epsilon.slu.se/23419/

Publication update: The full study has now been published (August 2022).  https://academic.oup.com/qopen/advance-article/doi/10.1093/qopen/qoac023/6677430?login=false

Title Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash