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Final Report Summary - MARSUPIA (A Multifunctional AgRiculture for SUstainable PerI-urban Areas)

In urban-influenced areas, urban pressure affects peri-urban farmers’ investment decision-making and, therefore, the sustainability of the agricultural sector of peri-urban areas. The MARSUPIA project (A Multifunctional AgRiculture for SUstainable PerI-urban Areas) aims to assess the impact of two policies, e.g., Ontario’s Greenbelt in Canada and Toulouse InterSCoT in Canada, designed, among others, to preserve a dynamic agricultural sector at the periphery of metropolitan areas in order to promote policies in favor of the sustainable peri-urban areas. The two policies show clear differences in terms of legislative content (SEE TABLE 1 IN ATTACHED PDF FILE).
In Canada, Ontario’s Greenbelt Plan is a top-down approach implemented by the Ontario Provincial Government. Promulgated in 2005, it took approximately a year to design this regulation, which builds on a zoning encompassing existing conservation plans - the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan - and on the Provincial Policy Statement. The Greenbelt Plan strengthens existing legislation regarding farmland protection, which, in Ontario, is implemented at the municipal level; municipal plans shall conform with both the Provincial Policy Statement and the Greenbelt Plan. In addition, a Greenbelt Council is appointed by the Minister of Municipal Affairs to i) provide advice on the administration of the Greenbelt and ii) guide the Provincial Government on the implementation of the Greenbelt Plan.
In France, Toulouse InterSCoT is a bottom-up approach that was initiated by the National State representative, who launched a collective reflection with the local representatives in 2001. In 2010, this resulted in the definition of a strategy organized in four axes - control, polarize, connect, and pilot – and four subareas (SCoTs), where these axes can be adapted according to local specificities. In the end, more than 400 municipalities have pooled resources to strategically construct the territory delimited by the group of municipalities. The GIP governance body is supported by the AUAT , a planning consulting agency in charge of coordinating Toulouse InterSCoT policy, and acts as an interface to collectively reflect, work, and elaborate projects. Their goals are to i) strengthen the consistency of the policies implemented at the SCoT level and ii) support sustainable cooperation within the territory.
The Principal Investigator (PI) has conducted a comparative analysis using mixed-methods research in Ontario’s Greenbelt and in Toulouse InterSCoT. In each case, the two-step sequential protocol consists of a qualitative analysis of farmers' investment decision-making, based on mental mapping, followed by a quantitative analysis, based on econometric analyses. The qualitative research was based on in-depth interviews with farmers and focus groups with policy and agricultural experts. The purposive samples were selected to illustrate the diversity of farm operations in our research fields. During the interview, interviewees were asked to create a mental map of their farm investment decision-making. The quantitative research based on econometric analyses was designed to improve the representativeness of the qualitative results and expand the conclusions of the research. As a matter of fact, the quantitative analysis has been carried out by another group of researcher at the University of Guelph. Additionally, a modification of the French legislation on personal data access has delayed the research in Toulouse InterSCoT.

➢ Ontario’s Greenbelt, Canada
The results highlight a set of threats and opportunities that have to be taken into account by decision-makers to achieve the primary objective of Ontario's Greenbelt, i.e., protect agriculture, as described in the SWOT analysis in Table 2. Generally speaking, the results show that land preservation is not enough and the progressive dismantlement of the agricultural value chain in Ontario’s Greenbelt is another burning issue (SEE TABLE 2 IN ATTACHED PDF FILE).
Since the economic analyses had already been conducted by Li, Vyn, and McEwan, the PI decided to collaborate with R. Vyn to analyze the advantages and drawbacks of using a qualitative or a quantitative approach to analyze the impact of Ontario’s greenbelt on farmers’ investment. The results can be found in Table 3 below. (SEE TABLE 3 IN ATTACHED PDF FILE).

➢ Toulouse InterSCOT, France
The results highlight a set of threats and opportunities that have to be taken into account by decision-makers to protect agriculture in Toulouse InterSCoT, as described in the SWOT analysis in Table 4. Generally speaking, the action of the many organizations involved in agricultural support and urban planning are not coordinated enough. This lack of coordination could find its origin in the opposition between traditional rural organizations that have been in charge of rural areas, and urban planning decision-makers that can make decisions without enough ex-ante consulting. Their non-matching views about agriculture and farming have created a gap that needs to be filled (SEE TABLE 4 IN ATTACHED PDF FILE)..

Despite a more stringent preservation of land, which was assumed to result in a more favourable context for farmers, Ontario’s Greenbelt production context is disadvantaged by the progressive dismantling of the agricultural value chain. Therefore, land preservation is not enough to protect a dynamic peri-urban agricultural sector. On the other hand, in Toulouse InterSCoT, the existence of traditional agricultural actors that have politically dominated rural areas for years results in a lack of coordination with urban planning decision-makers, whose growing awareness for the protection of a dynamic peri-urban agricultural sector cannot result in concrete actions due to their lack of expertise. Their diverging views need to be confronted and discussed in places such as the AUAT to improve their coordination. Finally, the common interest for preserving peri-urban agriculture has resulted in a growing awareness of the emergency to preserve peri-urban farmland. The irreversibility of farmland loss could be genuinely dealt with by granting farmland the status of commons, which would durably preserve agricultural land uses.

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