What can we learn from the concept of the commons for collectively managing natural resources? Notes from PEGASUS’ participation in the IASC Congress 2017

By amarechal.

by Anne Maréchal, IEEP

Several members of the PEGASUS team attended and presented papers at the 2017 congress of the International Association of the Study of the Commons (IASC), which took place from 10-14 July 2017 in Utrecht, Netherlands.

The theme of the 2017 IASC congress– ‘Practicing the Commons’ – put an emphasis on the role of practitioners, which strongly resonated with many of us in PEGASUS given our interest in how ‘common pool resources’ can be managed in a collective way and considering that the engagement with practitioners is at the core of the project, especially in the 34 PEGASUS case studies.

The IASC congress provided interesting examples of different types of commons - land or resources managed by a community - their governance and the issues they face in different parts of the world. Commons take various shapes and forms across the world, but their concept as a way of collectively managing natural resources is at threat. Part of this can be explained by the gradual introduction of private property rights which now dominate worldwide. These conflict with common property rights which usually do not define ownership clearly, but govern commoners’ rights (or obligations) to access, exploit or manage a common land or resource. In the EU, few commons are still actively managed by communities, but there are exceptions especially in mountainous and more remote areas (e.g. Scotland, Basque country, Romania, etc.).

What are referred to as ‘common pool resources’ overlap conceptually with the notions of public goods and ecosystem services. The governance of commons is highly relevant to PEGASUS as it reminds us of the ways in which local communities have collectively managed their natural resources in sustainable ways for centuries. Lessons can also be drawn on how the transition away from commons have been managed overtime – not always successfully.  Commons that remain have had to adapt to accommodate modern legal frameworks, for example to maintain the principles of collective action, commons’ governance has usually been formalised through the setting-up an association or a cooperative. Locating the IASC 2017 congress in the Netherlands was thus ideal and the field visits provided many examples of successful cooperatives. 

For instance, some of us went to visit a citizens’ cooperative with about 1,000 members whose objective is to achieve a 100% renewable and independent sourcing of energy. The cooperative’s members all invested a fixed amount which collectively enabled them to build 4 wind turbines, on a piece of land rented from the municipality on a long-term contract. The investment should break even after about a decade and start to provide dividends to the cooperative’s members, in addition to a free supply of electricity from a renewable source.

Although PEGASUS does not focus specifically on the management of commons, many of the lessons relating to the governance of commons resonate with some of the early findings from the PEGASUS research, such as the importance of local leaders in establishing collective initiatives or the role policies (in a broad sense) can play to empower rural actors. Other questions were raised such as the legitimacy of some collective actions, the issue of their durability in the long-term, or the trade-off between autonomy and support from local authorities. Many valuable thoughts which the PEGASUS team is eager to explore in the final steps of the project.  


Balancing markets, traditions and innovations in initiatives where private sector, civil society and policy meet

By amarechal.

by Karlheinz Knickel, IfLS Frankfurt/M.


Two years into the PEGASUS project, a set of 34 sectoral, multi-sectoral and territorial case studies in 10 Member States, focusing on the provision of a range of environmental and social benefits by agriculture and forestry has been completed. These 34 case studies provide a broad appraisal of the connections between farming and forestry systems and the provision of environmental and social benefits under different biophysical, socio-economic and cultural conditions. In 12 of these 34 case studies the analysis has been deepened to better capture the complexity of each single case and to identify and explore, together with practitioner partners and stakeholders, the factors that enable, or limit, an enhancement of the environmental and social impacts of farming and forestry. The approach taken in the case studies has been holistic and exploratory.

The 12 in-depth case studies illustrate the diversity of configurations and approaches taken by the initiatives reviewed in enhancing the provision of environmental and social outcomes in different contexts – and show that there is nothing simple or straightforward! In all cases, we found that there is an intricate, context and location-specific – and dynamic – interplay between different drivers, interests, motivations and mechanisms for delivering environmental and social benefits in different agricultural and forest settings. In some of our case studies, these interactions are mutually reinforcing and beneficial, in others they diverge and may send conflicting signals to practitioners. The PEGASUS case study teams framed their research around social-ecological systems which proved a useful analytical approach to capture this complexity.


In most case studies, if not all, civil society organisations and/or the private sector jointly agree on and work towards a common goal. Reconciling diverging interests and goals, markets, traditions and innovations play a role – sometimes reinforcing each other, and in other instances leading to tensions that require compromise. In all 12 case studies we examined, we could also identify multiple policy frameworks in action, sometimes enabling, and sometimes constraining actions or providing the wrong signals. For example, in the private Liivimaa Lihaveis initiative in Estonia - a label certifying beef fed on biodiversity-rich semi-natural grasslands - an important finding has been that policy support is important but not sufficient in itself to enable a sustained provision of environmental and/or social outcomes and that adding value to products and private sector engagement are equally important. In that case, public and private mechanisms have successfully reinforced each other in enabling collective action and the provision of environmental and social goods and services. In another case, focusing on the tomato supply chain in Emilia Romagna, Italy, the 40-year-long technical and innovation partnership between local stakeholders works on the premise that quality is the key determinant of the supply chain competitiveness. Over the years this has increasingly led to an emphasis on improving the environmental sustainability of tomato production. Governance arrangements and policies, working alongside private schemes are an integral part of the region’s competitiveness strategy.

This is only a very brief overview of the rich case study material PEGASUS has gathered. More information can be found in our synthesis of the case study findings (Deliverable 4.4). An in depth comparative analysis of these findings is now underway. It will deepen our understanding of the interplay of varied factors in delivering environmental and social alongside economic outcomes from agriculture and forestry. In the comparative analysis, we will try to identify where and when problems and conflicts arise when commercial, voluntary and public actors come together. We want to better understand how blockages can be resolved, in particular in regions where under-provision or under-appreciation of environmental and social benefits is observed or where future provision is at risk.  Based on this deeper understanding, especially of factors that are locally or context-dependent, we will be able to elaborate meaningful policy and practical tools and recommendations for decision makers and practitioners at European, national and regional levels.

A first more comprehensive discussion paper on the analysis of these real-life cases with lots of illustrations and references to all case studies is available here.


How is current research on social-ecological systems and participatory methods helping to enhance the sustainable management of natural resources?

By amarechal.

This is the question posed in the Symposium organised by PEGASUS at the upcoming IALE European Congress "From pattern and process to people and action" on 12-15 September in Ghent (Belgium).

In three sessions, international researchers will examine the potential of Social-Ecological Systems thinking to capture the complexity of interlinkages in sustainability challenges and to promote positive action by “linking people and nature, emphasising that humans must be seen as a part of, not apart from, nature” (Berkes and Folke, 1998).

A range of novel methods linked to spatial assessment and stakeholder engagement will be illustrated using more than 20 different case studies, operating in varied contexts. The symposium will include papers from the teams engaged in PEGASUS and other research projects, and a key paper on Japanese experience from the Satoyama Initiative, which aims to promote resilience in high-value cultural landscape management through local action.  Participants will seek to identify common challenges and new and improved ideas for effective action through co-learning by researchers, stakeholders and policy makers, in a closing panel discussion.

For more information, please visit the conference's website or contact Janet Dwyer ( or Marta Pérez-Soba (




Establishment of a consortium to connect the links in the 'mountain wood' value chain in Slovenia

By amarechal.

by Ilona Rac (University of Ljubljana)


On March 31st 2017, representatives from different institutions met in Solčava, a remote village in the Upper Savinja valley in Slovenia, to publicly present their initiative to form a project consortium. The main aim of the initiative will be to establish a wood value chain for mountain wood as a development opportunity for Slovenian hilly and mountainous areas.

 The initiative was presented by speakers from a number of different institutions: researchers from the Biotechnical faculty (Emil Erjavec and Miha Humar) and Forestry institute (Jožica Gričar), representatives from the local community (mayor Katarina Prelesnik) and of the Forest service (Alojz Lipnik), entrepreneurs (Alojz Selišnik and Stanko Kopušar) and marketing (Jurij Pohar), certification (Nace Kregar) and design (Lenka Kavčič) specialists. All interested parties were also invited to sign a Letter of Intent describing the potential of this specific type of wood in Slovenia and the need to cooperate in order to realise this potential. Signatories have committed themselves to participate in the project consortium, which will establish the value chain in the Upper Savinja valley as a pilot project in Slovenia. 

The idea to establish a project consortium has grown out from the case study work carried out in Slovenia for PEGASUS. One of the Slovenian case studies led by the University of Ljubljana took place in Solčava, and mountain wood emerged as a currently undervalued ecosystem service provided in the region. The material’s quality and durability is recognized by foresters and artisans locally, but not (yet) by the wider wood supply value chain. The consortium’s mission will be to rectify this to the benefit of all participants, from forest owners to final end users, as well as society in a broader sense, since an important part of the consortium’s activities will be to promote its sustainable consumption.


Environmental and social benefits of mountain ecosystems discussed at the Mountains 2016 event

By amarechal.

by Lauren Mosdale and Marie Clotteau, Euromontana

What is the International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions?

The International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (ICRSDMR) is a scientific event for sharing and discussing methods, tools, results, applications, trends and challenges in research in mountain systems. This event was organized for the first time in Bragança by IPB-CIMO[1] (and other institutions such as Embrapa, the Chair in Mountain Sustainable Development at Perth University, ADVID and Euromontana) in October 2016, under the theme “Ecosystem services and sustainable development”, as part of the Mountains 2016 event along with the X European Mountain Convention. The conference addressed the current state of mountain science and how its latest conceptual and practical developments can support sustainable development. Ecosystem services, given the relevance of the approach and applications, played a central role in the conference. The conference was also the stage for the formal establishment of research networks that are currently under development. One such initiative is the LuMont – Lusophony Mountain Research Network launched recently with the support of MRI, or the Research Network on Mountain Ecosystems established at the end of 2016 in Portugal (see Euromontana’s article).

Ecosystem services and sustainable development in mountain areas

The sustained provision of environmental and social benefits by mountain ecosystems are vital to mitigate the impacts of two main threats affecting mountains which were discussed at the conference: climate change for the environmental aspect and rural depopulation for the social one. Indeed, climate change is a threat to water resources because of glacier-melt and of shifts in precipitation regimes; to biodiversity because of the migration to higher altitudes of plants and animals and the occurrence of new pests, diseases and invasive species, as well as droughts; and finally, to infrastructure and human lives with the increased risk of landslides due to extreme climatic events. On the other hand, rural depopulation has been an on-going phenomenon for decades driven by a lack of jobs and opportunities in remote areas like mountains, as well as basic amenities, even though mountains are full of resources and cultural heritage. The interlinkage between ecosystem services and the current issues mountain areas are facing is clear, which is why projects such as PEGASUS are important to protect and improve the delivery of those services.

The results brought forward during the conference are further confirmed by the PEGASUS project case studies. Approximatively 10 of the PEGASUS case studies are linked to mountain areas in countries such as Austria, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Slovenia or even the UK (see list here). What can be concluded regarding ecosystem services from these case studies, which was also underlined throughout the Bragança conference, is that mountain ecosystems are particularly important in the delivery of the following services: conservation of habitats, populations and genetic resources; protection of landscapes and cultural heritage; rural vitality; protection against natural hazards; food production through water and soil management; and climate regulation through carbon sequestration and storage. Thomas Dax, from BABF, the Austrian partner of the PEGASUS team, presented the rationale of the project and selected results from an Austrian mountain case study specifically during the conference (see our article on that subject).

How can these results be integrated in EU or national policies?

One of the final tasks of the PEGASUS project is to publish policy recommendations. Indeed, at the policy level, the European Union and Member States must give more importance to ecosystem services, and integrate recent research results, in order to protect and improve the delivery of those services and so secure the associated benefits.

At the European level, in 2011, the EU adopted the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 setting out 6 targets and 20 actions to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020. Target 2 of this strategy (COM/2011/0244) calls for ecosystems and their services to be ‘maintained and enhanced by establishing green infrastructure and restoring at least 15 % of degraded ecosystems’ by 2020. DG ENV in the European Commission has begun working on mapping and assessing ecosystems and their services, in the context of the mid-term review of the EU’s 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

Some Member States have also taken first steps to enhance the provision of public goods, such as in France where the recently adopted “Loi Montagne II” now includes specific payments for ecosystem services (PES) in the endowments granted to mountain communes, or in Italy where the Lombardia Region implements PES schemes in Natura 2000 sites. Also in Italy, but unrelated to PES, the Italian Ministry for Territorial Cohesion presented in 2012 the strategy for the Inner Areas 2014‐2020 to improve the quality of life and economic wellbeing of inhabitants. Based on a comprehensive set of socioeconomic indicators, the concept of inner areas defines municipalities with demographic problems, which are distant from centres of agglomerations and have services with unstable development paths but which are characterised by high attractiveness due to resources not available in urban areas. The Italian Strategy is meant to bring novel means of governance to inner areas and indirectly favour the delivery of ecosystem services through place-based local development plans. In the final phase of its research, the PEGASUS project will make a full review of such existing policy instruments in order to provide policy recommendations for a better and more sustained provision of environmental and social benefits in the EU.


There is no unique solution to integrate ecosystem services in policies, and policy recommendations emanating from H2020 projects such as PEGASUS are a means of bridging the gap between research and policy-making. 


[1] Polytechnic Institute of Bragança - Centro de Investigação de Montanha (Mountain Research Centre) based in Bragança, Portugal


Understanding the relevance of the Biosphere Reserve concept for the provision of public goods in the mountain region of Lungau in Austria

By amarechal.

by Thomas Dax, Ingrid Machold and Thilo Nigmann 


The International Conference on Research for Sustainable Development in Mountain Regions (5-7 October 2016;  Bragança, Portugal) provided an excellent opportunity to present the research objectives and first findings of the PEGASUS case studies carried out in Austria. Speaking during the Symposium on “moving towards sustainable mountain socio-ecological systems: the challenge and promise of cross-level governance”, Thomas Dax from BABF (the Austrian partner in PEGASUS) presented the main conceptual ideas of the project and the first results of one of the 3 case studies in Austria, set in the mountainous Lungau region of Austria.

The Lungau mountainous area is part of a recently approved Biosphere Reserve in Austria. The presentation of the first findings showed that the relevant main environmental and social outcomes of most interest for stakeholders in the case study area are those that are traditionally representative for mountain regions in this region, such as biodiversity, protection of the specific Alpine cultural landscapes and securing an active and socially resilient rural community (“rural vitality”).

Based on the selection of key indicators, the case study found that the Biosphere Reserve designation has had impacts in the region in terms of land use (there is a very high share of organic farmers in the area, about 50%), nature conservation measures and demographic development (e.g. positive external migration balance in recent years).

The case study also found that, in the region, land use is highly dependent upon public support especially funds made available through the Austrian Rural Development Programme, the design of which have a significant impact in the Lungau region as a result. With respect to land use, it seems particularly important to monitor intensification trends in grassland use as well as conversion between agricultural and forest land use.

As tourism is one of the sectors with the highest potential for job development, a thorough investigation of the various dimensions of ‘sustainable development’ seems important if the high-quality goals of the Lungau Biosphere Reserve are to be achieved.

The analysis of the initial phase of the implementation of the Reserve’s objectives show that awareness raising and enhancing local participation processes is crucial for sparking changes towards more sustainable pathways in this mountain context.  


Photo credit: Marie Clotteau


Overview of three PEGASUS case studies in Portugal

By amarechal.

By Rocio Juste, Évora University (Portugal)

The University of Évora, Portugal, as one of the partners of the PEGASUS project, carried out three case studies in Portugal during Spring and Summer 2016. Our team looked at the case of Montado agro-pastoral systems, small scale farming and intensive olive groves.

We can say that these three case studies are representative of the rural reality of this country, characterised by an increasing intensification of farming while, at the same time, traditional farming still remains an important sector of the Portuguese economy. Also, while there is an important migration of people leaving rural areas to cities, in recent years some people have returned to the countryside looking for a better quality life.

What we identify in these first steps of the case study work in Portugal is that in all three contexts, there is some provision of environmental and social benefits – albeit to varying degrees - which contribute to the way of living in the rural Portugal.

One of the case studies (PT-1) focused on the typical Montado landscape. The Montado is a Mediterranean and multifunctional silvo-pastoral land-use system, dominated by cork and holm oaks trees. Traditional production practices in Montado systems often provide biodiversity-rich habitats and support high nature value type of farming. They also enable the maintenance of this highly valued landscape which contributes to a sustainable use of environmental resources, cultural value and attractiveness for leisure.

In our case study on small-scale farming (PT-2), the mosaic landscape shaped by small scale farms, visible from the towns, was found to be of foremost importance to the inhabitants, and a core element of their appreciation of the local landscape. We found that the mosaic landscape depends on land use-based activities often not taken in account by policies including at the local scale. Beyond maintaining a cultural landscape, small scale farmers and land managers in this region provide a range of other environmental and social benefits to society. In PT-3, we have analysed the case of intensive olive groves production in an area where extensive practices quickly intensified for a number of economic and social reasons, and have major implications for the sustained provision of environmental outcomes in particular.

In all three PEGASUS case studies, we adopted a participatory approach based on regular interactions with the local stakeholders. For this reason, the choice of pursuing one case study in the in-depth phase has been difficult. At a PEGASUS meeting in Estonia, we finally agreed to the small-scale farming case study was the best for the PEGASUS project as a whole. While this is settled, our main challenge is now going to be how to interact with stakeholders in a way we can get the information for the in-depth analysis while also ensuring the work in PEGASUS benefits them.


For more information about what is the PEGASUS team going to do for the next steps, check this link!


Photo credit: David Cruz


Half-time for PEGASUS case study work!

By amarechal.

by Karlheinz Knickel (IfLS) 

Our recently published PEGASUS report (Deliverable 4.2) presents the main results and insights gained from ‘broad and shallow’ analyses of 34 case studies in ten EU countries (Estonia, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Portugal and the UK).

This first phase of case study research involved two steps:

·         Step 1: Sketching out the particular “social-ecological system” in the case study area; and

·         Step 2: Analysing the conditions for a successful provision of environmental and/or social benefits in that system, checking these against current priorities and determining what changes would be required to enhance the provision of such benefits.

The 34 PEGASUS case studies have generated a wealth of information on the particular situations surrounding the provision of environmental and/or social benefits associated with a range of different farming and forestry systems in the EU. Overall, the case studies are predominantly concerned with biodiversity outcomes (25 case studies), landscape character (22 cases), water quality and/or availability (17) and rural vitality (17). Other important topics include: soil issues, public outdoor recreation, education and demonstration activities. Initiatives which aim to tackle globally relevant issues such as carbon sequestration or the reduction of GHG emissions are less frequent, as their impact/importance is more difficult to grasp at the local level. However these issues often feature as secondary or co-benefits of the initiative.

You can find all the results of the PEGASUS case studies here.

What have we learned so far?

1. Our case studies show that the connections between farming and forestry and the provision of environmental and/or social benefits are complex and dynamic, and are influenced by manifold factors or drivers. Most often we found that different drivers interact, sometimes reinforcing each other, but sometimes neutralising each other’s effects. The Italian case studies are an example as here it is very clear that the application and success of public policy measures is mainly explained by their consistency with the market-driven strategies of local entrepreneurs. In the tomato district case study, the economic rationale and related voluntary, private sector-led certification are reinforced by financial support provided through public policies as well as the adoption of European, national and regional protection legislation and quality standard requirements.

2. Agricultural policy, and here in particular the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and its interpretation and implementation at the level of Member States and regions, plays an important role in our case studies, affecting directly and/or indirectly the provision of benefits. We also found that policies always interact with other drivers in a number of ways.

3. Markets for primary products and changes in markets, can have a massive influence on land use, cropping and land management changes and therefore also on environmental and social conditions. For instance, this is the case in the Montado case study in Portugal where the deterioration of the cork market and coupled payments to livestock had a substantial impact leading to an intensification of the use of land and the degradation of Montado habitats (characterised by holm and cork oaks). Similarly, in the Traditional Orchards case study in Germany, the industrialisation of apple cultivation and processing has led to the abandonment of traditional orchards with lower productivity that in the past surrounded rural villages and towns. The trend has been reinforced by the increasing demand for build land suitable for built development.

4. The private sector can be an important driver, evident in several case studies. An example is the French Volvic Waters Society case where the Public Private Partnership of local authorities and land owners with Danone contributes to sustainable water management as well as income generation and employment, driven partly by the societal and corporate interest in supporting biodiversity conservation. The Dutch Skylark case focuses on a private sector initiative that is fully financed by supply chain companies and participating arable farmers. Skylark has set its own sustainability criteria for arable farming and some supply chain companies create a demand by preferring Skylark farmers.

5. A combination of policy support with private sector and market mechanisms can be particularly effective. A typical example is the private marketing initiative on organic grass-fed beef meat in Estonia. This private sector initiative controls the whole supply chain with joint standards and labelling while being strengthened through various public funds like organic support, semi-natural habitat management support and marketing support and the quality of the meat is championed by well-known chefs in the region. The Austrian Murau case focuses on a private labelling initiative and successful marketing project that would not be possible without basic public support (through the Rural Development Programme) which accounts for a substantial share of mountain farmers’ income.

6. Looking across all 34 case studies, four broad types of determinants emerge as playing a more important role in enabling and indeed fostering transformative practice. These are: engagement of people - at an individual level as well as in the form of collective action; institutional factors and policy frameworks; good and effective communication within initiatives and with external audiences; and the ability to learn and innovate. Governance arrangements and institutional frameworks and the interplay between different actors also play a very important role. For instance, the Hope Farm case study provides a rather telling summary statement: “It’s about people, persuasion, networks, knowledge, trial and trust”.

Importantly, these preliminary findings will be investigated further in a more in-depth comparative analysis as well as the 12 in-depth case studies in the coming months.

When selecting the case studies to be subject to more in-depth analysis, we have prioritised initiatives which apply a ‘social-ecological systems’ perspective, i.e. where human/social system is considered alongside the natural system under one holistic frame. This should allow us to simultaneously pay attention to economic, social and environmental interactions within the same area, as well as related areas such as public health and rural vitality.

In the next phase of the case study work, together with practitioners and other stakeholders, we will continue to apply action-oriented research methods to explore potential pathways towards an enhanced provision of environmental and social benefits from agriculture and forestry (scaling-up, multiplication, etc.). Particular attention will be paid to the interplay between different factors, settings and conditions that stimulate collective or other innovative actions, the role of the private sector and its interplay with civil society, institutional and policy frameworks.



The influence of market, socio-cultural, institutional and policy drivers in our case studies

By amarechal.

by Francesco Mantino (CREA)

The report on “Socio-political, economic and institutional drivers. A cross-country comparative analysis” concludes an important phase for the PEGASUS project.  We sought to understand better the main market, institutional, policy and other socio-economic settings that influence the provision of environmental and social benefits from agriculture and forestry in a variety of different situations in ten different EU countries. A draft of this report was first discussed at an EU-level seminar in Brussels (April 2016), where the authors received many useful inputs and comments from a wide range of stakeholders.

To investigate the range of drivers and factors which may influence the provision of environmental and social benefits, we looked at the situation in 34 case studies in ten different countries, and complemented the findings with a literature review.

Influential “market factors” investigated included: (i) drivers linked to the demand for sustainable food (such as organic, integrated, healthy food) and (ii) drivers linked to certification schemes that farms and agri-food firms may adopt to differentiate their products. By looking at 34 different situations in the case studies, it is clear that understanding what influences the provision of environmental and social outcomes from farming and forestry activities cannot be explored and analysed only by looking at the production sphere and at the primary sector, but must also consider the relationship that farming and forestry has with the processing industry, retailers, the public sector as well as with final consumers. In addition, in many of the case studies examined, private and ‘public’ goods and services are produced jointly. Creating the right market signals is key to achieving win-win solutions, generating economic, social and environmental outcomes from farming and forestry systems.

A further set of socio-cultural drivers were identified which can be grouped as follows: (i) social and cultural dynamics, (ii) institutional change and (iii) demand for leisure/recreation, health and education. A favourable social and cultural context may lead to increased awareness and knowledge from local communities about environmental and social issues faced by farmers and foresters. In turn, this may empower local actors to take responsibility for the development of local initiatives aiming to enhance the provision of environmental and social benefits. These drivers show that it is too simplistic to suggest that the provision of environmental and social outcomes from farming and forest systems are supported by the government while private goods are delivered by the market. Often, it is necessary to adopt more innovative approaches, based on mixed public-private arrangements and on solutions which directly involve the population in the definition and delivery of environmental and social benefits. One example of this is the increasing demand for leisure/recreation, health and education which provides opportunities for rural tourism, which in turn could be a source of potential growth for rural areas.

The role of policy in providing environmental and social benefits is a complex matter: in a same area or territory, several institutional actors as well as different types of policies may have overlapping competences. This is true, for example, in the tomato food chain in Italy where in spite of high productivity and intensive production practices, this supply chain as a whole organised itself to collectively initiate the changes needed to address pressing water and soil issues in the area and to ensure long term compliance with European and national rules on water, nitrates and pesticides use. There is a broad spectrum of policy instruments used by farmers and the tomato industry in this area to support the process of reorganisation towards more sustainable practices and technologies, especially through structural measures in the regional Rural Development Programme. This is also true in a radically different situation such as the extensive Landscape Protected Area of the White Carpathians in Czech Republic. Here, dry meadows support local beef production while national law regulates the intensity of fertilisers and pesticide use and grazing. The maintenance of dry meadows is strongly related to the continuation of beef production over time. Farmers can receive payments for tailored management of the most environmentally valuable sites in this protected area. The role of different policies is pivotal in many of the PEGASUS case studies, including for instance in the Slovenian municipalities of Ljubljana and Celje, where peri-urban forests are developed and used for public health and leisure. In this case, the initiative has been driven by the national regulatory framework (the Forest Act grants free access even to private forest land) as well as by the national forest management plan, and is included as a priority in the plans of the two municipalities. The most relevant difference with the previous case studies is that in this peri-urban setting, local municipalities play a major role in the definition and the management of policy instruments targeted to ensure access to all recreation facilities. The case studies show that the relevant policy mix may vary according to the type of “socio-ecological” system and the type of environmental or social benefit targeted.  Within a given policy mix, overarching regulatory frameworks often play a crucial role, not only at the European level, but also at national/regional level and sometimes at local level too.

Public policies are not the only available mechanism to enhance the provision of environmental and social benefits. There is a wealth of literature on the different types of market-based mechanisms and in particular on the use of payments for ecosystem services (PES). We can distinguish at least four market-based mechanisms:

a)      Premium price payments;

b)      Compensation for additional costs;

c)       Certification schemes;

d)      Integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs).

The co-existence of public and private payment schemes in the same area is very frequent in PEGASUS case studies. According to our classification, premium price payments and compensation for higher costs can be defined as types of private PES. Private schemes are not only driven by market forces, but also by civil society demands for public participation, natural resource conservation and social cohesion. These motivations are more evident in ICDPs. Both in PES and in certification schemes a crucial variable emerges as a key to success: the capability of setting up better contractual agreements between producers within the supply chain and between producers and final markets. This implies that PES or certification schemes alone are unlikely to be sufficient to influence sustainable outcomes.

Finally, the effectiveness of both regulating public policies and market-based mechanisms is highly dependent on institutional and governance settings - some of those we have found are quite innovative - and on the different ways in which public and private actors cooperate. Regarding the concrete provision of environmental and social benefits, collective action involving groups of citizens, farmers, environmental stakeholders and institutional actors were often found to be particularly beneficial. According to institutional economists, collective action becomes advantageous when the potential benefits of cooperating outweigh the transaction costs of developing and setting up the new form of organisation. The initiatives studied in the PEGASUS case studies are characterised mainly by the presence of multiple cooperating actors with a will to enhance the provision of public goods and ecosystem services in their area. An important difference is in the type of actors promoting/coordinating the action, and the setting up of the organisation needed to carry out the project. In the private-driven cases NGOs and supply chain actors (in partnership) often play dominant roles, suggesting that farmers and food industries may create new alliances to cope with environmental challenges and competitiveness. These cases are of considerable interest in the next steps of the research.



Working with stakeholders: How to get access to the field

By amarechal.

by Kerstin Huelemeyer, Institut für Ländliche Strukturforschung (IfLS, Germany)

To be honest: What's in it for us? We have been researched last year by another research project; I as the initiative’s secretary had to fill out hundreds of questions, work hard to resemble all information they asked for, and haven’t heard anything since.

Wow. This was the first reaction of the secretary of a German initiative for traditional orchard cultivation – tough start for trying to get this initiative to work with us in PEGASUS as a case study. And I think, this is the downside of the actually positive fact that interaction with stakeholders is now often called for in Horizon 2020 and other research funding programmes. Researchers can easily burn the ground for future research with practitioners: if you hold a workshop with different stakeholders and don’t facilitate it well, you may stimulate conflicts among different groups; if you go into the field and think you already know it all, stakeholders note down that researchers are arrogant and will not open up; and, as we see here, if people devote their time to you and you never get back to them, the chances decrease considerably that they will do it again.


Coming back to the woman I am just talking to on the phone and her question. What's in it for stakeholders? Well yes, that can be a tricky question. And I know, it is more than giving a good answer: I need to be personally convincing, because it all depends on this first call if we will be able to work with them or not. To be upfront with it, this initiative ultimately became one of our PEGASUS case studies. And here I tell you how.


Explain in simple words what you do 

The acronym PEGASUS (Public Ecosystem Goods And Services from land management – Unlocking the Synergies) doesn’t even translate well into German, and the message the project title tries to get across -  that we look at the concepts of public goods and ecosystem services in a different way - simply sounds as if somebody didn’t pay enough attention while translating it. Besides, can I really convince people to work with us by explaining the theoretical background our consortium has put a lot of effort in? Instead, I started by explaining what we do in PEGASUS and what our objectives are: we know that agriculture and forestry produce more than food, fodder and timber, and that those activities can also deliver a broad set of environmental and social benefits to society. In PEGASUS, we want to analyse how new forms of land management can help stimulating or at least maintaining the provision of these benefits. We want to know what the challenges and barriers are to this improvement, as well as the supporting factors. Also, PEGASUS aims to ensure that land managers learn from each other to be able to promote better what they do.


The secretary of the initiative stays on the phone, so it seems I haven’t put her off so far. Maybe she feels that I believe in the PEGASUS approach and that we may really have something to offer that will benefit them.

Judge realistically the role you can play for them

Though it is tempting to think so, most of the time researchers (like me) are not perceived by stakeholders as saviours. Still there is a lot I can offer this time: in PEGASUS we have agreed to implement action-oriented research, which means there are resources to work with the people on a question or burning issue they have themselves, and then, following our own research agenda, meta-analyse the processes and interactions as well as the framework conditions in which they happen. So here we are and during our talk it turns out that the initiative has recently been faced with a difficult issue: this traditional orchards project heavily depends on voluntary work, and volunteers are either aging or are workers who are not able to carry on with this side activity. They have been thinking about setting up a project group for exploring the future of the initiative, but didn’t have anybody who would be able to initiate and run such a process.


What a brilliant opportunity for us to come in, I think. 

Listen to stakeholders

We continue talking and I get a lot of information about the history of the initiative (one of the first surcharge initiatives for orchard meadows in Germany, which is by the way one of the reasons we have selected this initiative), the current set-up of the initiative and the problems of the secretary as well as the challenges of orchard cultivation. As we speak, it becomes obvious that there is a broad set of factors which will be relevant for the future of the initiative, and that there are a number of players in the field who need to get involved. There seems to be differences between the secretary and the executive board; the initiative covers a broad territory and most of the members don’t even know each other; there are networks which are not working anymore and initiatives which might be relevant for networking in the future. There are funding programmes which haven’t been checked out as they were perceived as too complex etc. While we slowly unveil all these issues, the secretary seems to become more relaxed, opens up and obviously starts to trust us and the benefit our work might have for them. In the end we agree that we will set up together a project group on the future of the initiative and that we will facilitate and manage the whole process.

Perfect for PEGASUS

After the call is finished I am euphoric. Not only that we now have an initiative to work with, it is perfect for PEGASUS. We have an example of a collective action, which has been started with a lot of enthusiasm and now, after 25 years, is facing the problem of finding successors who will continue the work – which is probably an issue for a lot of brilliant initiatives which have been set up on the shoulders of one or two engaged people. And, interestingly, while the environmental beneficial outcomes of traditional orchards have been the motivation for starting the initiative, the social benefits have not been recognised so far. Great, there is so much interesting stuff in there – I am looking forward to start working.


As I am writing these lines, we already had the first workshop with them. It lived up to my expectations and brought already good results. But that will be the content of another article. Meanwhile, you can consult the results of the 34 PEGASUS case studies are available here.



Comment on our articles and interact with our authors. See also discussions on our LinkedIn account.