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Report2021Open access

Socio-economic impact of ecological agriculture at the territorial level

Bailey, Alastair; Davidova, Sophia; Henderson, Stuart; Ayouba, Kassoum; Bakucs, Zoltán; Benedek, Zsofia; Billaudet, Larissa; Bruma, Ioan-Sebastian; Chitea, Mihai; Doboș, Sebastian; Eckart, Laura; Gerner, Ludwig; Fereira, Joana; Florian, Violeta; Gouta, Penelope; Hansson, Helena; Jeanneaux, Philippe; Jendrzejewski, Blazej; Kantelhardt, Jochen; Konstantidelli, Vasilia;
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This deliverable investigates the socio-economic effects of ecological approaches to farming through implementing two participatory approaches, namely Delphi exercise and Q-method, at the level of a case study area (CSA). The focus is on how people and other productive assets are employed and remunerated by ecological approaches to agriculture, particularly those aspects that can influence employment, and drive the prosperity and vitality of local communities and some rural businesses. It is based on the collaborative research on Task 4.2 ‘Socio-economic impact of ecological agriculture at the territorial level’ of the LIFT project between UNIKENT (United Kingdom-UK) (Task Leader), BOKU (Austria), INRAE (France), VetAgro Sup (France), DEMETER (Greece), MTA KRTK (Hungary), UNIBO (Italy), IRWiR PAN (Poland), IAE-AR (Romania), SLU (Sweden), SRUC (UK). Beginning with the Delphi exercise, this deliverable presents qualitative information extracted from stakeholders in the following four steps. First, the researchers build a presentation of differences between ecological and conventional farming approaches in each CSA. Second, stakeholders elaborate on how they understand ecological farming approaches to exist in each CSA. Third, stakeholders develop a scenario of adoption of ecological approaches to farming depending on two factors: pattern (ecological farms forming clusters or randomly spread within the territory) and rate of adoption 10 years in the future. After establishing this scenario across two rounds, the stakeholders explore the socio-economic effects of their adoption scenario. The Q-methodology then presents a Q-set of statements that the Delphi has developed and, through factor analysis,studies the key stakeholder perspectives of the socio-economic effects of the perceived adoption of ecological practices in 10 years in the future. Four key results can be derived from the Delphi exercise and the Q-methodology. First, a higher adoption of ecological farming approaches, especially so at a 50% adoption rate, is mostly thought by stakeholders in the Delphi Exercise to lead to an increase in skill level and quality of life in on-farm employment. This is as a result of an increased diversity of farming enterprises on farms using ecological farming approaches, the interest generated from this, the knowledge of natural processes and biology required, engagement with nature and change in machinery that is coming into the industry. Strongly related to this need for skills is a predicted increase in the number of advisers and civil servants to deal with more complicated farms and incentives as well as monitoring of ecological effects on farm. An increase in required skill level is repeated across all Q-studies. Second, especially where farms are clustered together, Delphi Exercise respondents predict an increase in the trade of inputs such as manure and compost replacing synthetic fertiliser, as well as more sharing of capital and labour. Q-methodology highlights that these clusters may support a stronger social movement, more consumers buying local food and increase collaboration between farmers. Supply chains are expected to become shorter as farmers sell more directly and there are fewer intermediaries upstream of the farming sector. As farmers collaborate more with each other on environmental objectives, trading inputs and sharing best practices, farmer relationships should improve in rural communities. Third, Delphi exercise finds that contracting, machinery purchasers, and machinery traders and dealers could increase, decrease or display no change – the anticipated effects are mixed. Stakeholders are in no doubt that machinery use will change and therefore new skills will need to be learnt, but the wider effect on machinery purchase is uncertain. However, stakeholders conclude that a greater specialisation in machinery will occur leading to changes in farm management as well as the suppliers of this machinery. Q-methodology highlights that ecological practices will not mean the end of machinery and a lot more labour – often machinery will be useful in weeding and reducing physical labour as technology has significantly improved and skills are improving too in order to use these technologies. Fourth, Delphi respondents argued that although rural populations might be little affected by ecological farming, a shift in people moving from urban to rural settlements, and thereby a higher rural population density, seeking a more attractive rural environment, might contribute to higher local consumer demand. The Q-methodology highlights that where there is high adoption, rural areas are expected to become more attractive, as landscapes will have a much greater variety of crops instead of fields of monocrops. This variety of crops may include agroforestry (farmers interested in ecological approaches to farming may also be interested in agroforestry as a way of boosting their yields and protecting crops and livestock from the elements) as well as intercropping.

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Publisher: Zenodo