Archive for October 2016

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.