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Towards SUstainable and REsilient EU FARMing systems

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SURE-Farm (Towards SUstainable and REsilient EU FARMing systems)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-11-30

Resilience and sustainability of Europe’s farming systems can no longer be taken for granted, as the sectors’ economic, social and ecological environment becomes more complex and volatile. Using resilience thinking, SURE-Farm develops a comprehensive resilience enabling framework, develops and applies resilience assessment tools and co-creates implementation roadmaps. Its objectives are to: measure the determinants of resilience; improve farmers’ risk-related decisions and management; assess farm demographic changes and their links to labour markets; evaluate the current policy framework and develop resilience enhancing policy options; make integrated long-term projections of farming system resilience; and identify pathways to implement a resilience enhancing environment. These objectives are achieved by developing scenarios of stressors, analysing farmers’ risk perceptions and behaviours, developing improved risk management tools tailored to specific challenges in the range of EU farming systems, creating a farm demography assessment tool informed by agent-based modelling that measures dimensions and dynamics of farm structures, creating a novel policy resilience assessment tool to assess strengths and weaknesses of existing CAP and other policies and their national transpositions, and building an integrated impact assessment model to make projections towards sustainable future delivery of private and public goods by farming systems across the EU. In co-creation with stakeholders, outcomes of these assessments are synthesised to support an enabling environment and to co-design implementation roadmaps. SURE-Farm thereby provides a thorough analysis of the complex challenges to Europe’s agricultural sector and an assessment of relevant policies, building on long-term projections and integrated modelling. By designing novel risk-management tools for farmers, measures to facilitate entry to the sector and validated roadmaps it supports the sector’s resilience.
A novel resilience framework for farming systems has been developed jointly with the whole SURE-Farm consortium. The framework enables to capture complex and accumulating challenges of farming systems and centres around three resilience capacities (robustness, adaptability, transformability) as key determinants of resilience. The framework has already been broadly communicated to scientific audiences as well as to stakeholders. With regard to possible future situations for EU farming systems, five scenarios have been developed based on socio-economic pathways, and presented to a scientific audience. Multiple primary data collection methods have been initiated in the case study (CS) regions, including structured and pilot-tested farm surveys on risk perceptions, risk management and resilience capacities, biographical narratives with farmers with regard to their adaptive behaviour, and in-depth interviews with farmers to understand learning capacity and self-organisation. Next to primary data, secondary data are collected with regard to uptake of the Risk Management toolkit, and yield and weather data for insurance purposes. Farm demographic trends and challenges have been reviewed in 11 CS, and interviews with farmers and key informants are undertaken, also in 11 CS. Also focus groups aimed to retrieve data for the farm demographic assessment tool are finished in 5 CS. The ResAT tool is applied to the CAP and local legislation in 11 CS with interesting findings already presented during a multi-stakeholder seminar in the Netherlands. An Integrated Assessment (IA) toolbox for assessment of resilience and delivery of private and public goods of farming systems has been developed including a variety of models. Participatory workshops on the assessment of current sustainability and resilience are organized in 11 CS. The approach to integrate the findings of different WPs in each CS region into a holistic analysis has been conceptualised and will be grounded in the five generic principles of resilience and will address both resilience enhancing and resilience-constraining attributes. Back-casting in 11 CS will be used to identify implementation roadmaps (who? what? when?). The SURE-Farm project employs multiple co-creation processes along the different parts of the project including digital co-creation through a dedicated area on the SURE-Farm website, local co-creation, and a central co-creation group consisting of public and private stakeholders who provide feedback on approaches and outcomes. Key deliverables are also assessed by an international scientific committee. Key results at this stage of the project are (i) we created a framework which enables to provide an ‘elaborated diagnosis’ of the resilience of a farming system, e.g. eventually simultaneously finding a resilience-constraining environment for social and economic challenges and a resilience-enhancing environment for environmental challenges, or vice versa; (ii) five scenarios have been elaborated in the context of resilience; (iii) we found that most CS perceive generational renewal as a future challenge for the resilience of farming systems; (iv) we concluded that current policies and strategies mostly contribute to robustness and adaptability, but less to transformability; and (v) we found that modelling tools are available to assess robustness and adaptability, but less for transformability.
The full resilience framework and the three assessment tools (i.e. with regard to policy, farm demographics, and the integrated resilience assessment tool) will offer the opportunity to take a more proactive and comprehensive approach to ensure the sustainability and resilience of EU farming systems. It will speed up the assessment of risks and the development of resilience-enhancing strategies. Because stakeholders and potential future users will participate in all stages of the conception and a first round of application, the framework and tools are highly likely to be adopted by the user community. Furthermore, SURE-Farm identifies the factors that influence farmers’ risk perceptions and behaviour and their entry and exit decisions. Finally, SURE-Farm synthesises the created knowledge into a feasible design for an enabling environment for a sustainable and resilient European farming sector. The knowledge generated by the SURE-Farm project will also facilitate innovation processes in a wider context. The broader understanding of stressors and determinants of resilience that will emerge from SURE-Farm will stimulate further innovation at the level of farms, farming systems and value chains. So far, societal implications from SURE-Farm emerge from (i) increased awareness among public and private stakeholders and scientific audiences of the relevance to enhance three resilience capacities (i.e. robustness, adaptability, transformability) in the context of farming systems - compared to ‘just robustness’; (ii) multi-stakeholder debates on scenarios in the context of resilience; (iii) increased awareness and business opportunity for index insurance in Europe; (iv) fuelled debates on generational renewal in farming systems; (v) awareness among EU and local policy makers on the current narrow focus of policies towards robustness; and (vi) broader understanding among multi-stakeholders of the interlinkages between sustainability and resilience of farming systems.
Infographic on SURE-Farm project overview
Infographic on policy brief about interpretation of resilience in the CAP