Forestry and agriculture form core parts of Europe’s economy and society, creating millions of jobs for European citizens. Around 70 % of land across the EU is dedicated to forests or agriculture, providing a vast amount of natural capital. Nevertheless, there is a need to innovate in the delivery of agri-environmental-climate public goods (AECPGs), such as clean water, and landscapes that harbour and boost biodiversity. These are especially important in light of recent initiatives launched by the European Commission, including the European Green Deal, the farm to fork strategy, and the biodiversity strategy for 2030. “Public goods are usually not provided enough through the market, so public policy intervention is needed,” says Davide Viaggi, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Bologna. “Innovative solutions are needed,” he adds.
Developing a community of practice
In the EU-funded CONSOLE (CONtract SOLutions for Effective and lasting delivery of agri-environmental-climate public goods by EU agriculture and forestry) project, Viaggi, the project coordinator, and his team aimed to develop innovative contracts to support the provision of AECPGs. The CONSOLE team built a ‘community of practice’ (CoP) – with multidisciplinary teams in 13 countries working to create a new contractual framework. This included agriculture organisations, research institutions, regional administrators, and forest and water management bodies. “A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern for something they do – in our case having a role in AECPG-related measures – and learn how to do it better through regular interaction,” Viaggi explains. “It can help public administration, farmers and other actors to know each other and understand each other’s viewpoint, as well as exchange ideas on innovative solutions and learn from each other’s experiences.”
Co-creation of new contracts
CONSOLE first researched existing contract solutions, creating a collection of over 60 case studies to be analysed and learned from. The team then surveyed around 2 700 land managers and 500 other stakeholders in 12 different countries. Finally, the CONSOLE team modelled a range of new contracts. The project focused on four contract types: specific environment-related tenure contracts; results-based approaches such as payments based on environmental performance; collective implementation for groups of farmers or others to work together; and value chain and private-public solutions, where AECPGs can be valued on markets. The framework is available online as a web application, which includes real-life case studies. The project team hopes that it will help in the design of new contracts for the provision of AECPGs. “The idea is to have it growing over time to support decision makers in the different steps of designing new contracts, hence boosting the use of better solutions and finally a better delivery of AECPGs to meet broader EU objectives,” adds Viaggi.
Boosting potential for agroecology
The project could increase the uptake of technologies related to agroecology, and the provision of public goods, Viaggi says: “There is a huge potential contribution of contracts studies, and in general socio-economic research, to agroecology. Unfortunately there is no standard recipe for these solutions. However, a consistent understanding of the different design and implementation options and of how they affect the desired outcome can greatly increase the diffusion of new technologies.”
CONSOLE, provision, environmental, agriculture, contracts, forestry, Green Deal, AECPG, agroecology