“Habitat is just another crop”: Training and advice for agri-environmental management
British Ornithologists' Union
© 2010 BOU & The Author(s)
Since the late 1980s voluntary agri-environmental schemes (AES) have provided incentives for farmers to adopt management practices designed to enhance the environmental value of farming systems or support existing environmentally friendly farming systems. If it is assumed that management prescriptions are appropriate for the stated objectives, the actions of the farmer become critical to successful AES outcomes. Early (social science) analysis of AES assumed that sufficient levels of uptake and removal of barriers to entry could be taken as a proxy indicator of scheme success. However, it has become clear that AES participation cannot be viewed as a simple dichotomous decision to participate or not participate. Studies suggest that it is not participation per se, but the level of engagement with scheme aims and objectives that matters. Research has typically revealed limited engagement on the part of most participants, with the majority enticed into participation by a combination of payment rates and compatibility with the existing farming system. Whilst participants may abide by the letter of the agreement, they can often fail to understand the reasoning behind management prescriptions. This can lead to attempts to ‘cut corners’, unintentional breaches of agreements and the accusation that AES payments can be “temporary bribes”. It is therefore argued by many commentators that changing attitudes can be an important indicator of the effectiveness of AES. One possible way of doing this is through the provision of educational and advisory programmes to help influence attitudes and most importantly, help farmers understand why certain actions are required, and how to undertake appropriate conservation management. Against this background this paper reports some initial results from a 5 year RELU funded research project examining the role of farmer learning and landscape context in improving the outcome of AES agreements. Based on a sample of 48 farmers in the East and South West of England, the paper considers farmer understanding and concerns regarding the management requirements of two specific options of their ELS agreements. It goes on to consider the experience of farmers participation in bespoke group as well as personalised farm-specific, training events. It begins to trace the longer term impact of training on farmer understanding and ability to effectively implement agri-environmental management.
Available from the publisher via the links in this record.
British Ornithologists' Union 2009 annual conference - Lowland Farmland Birds 3: delivering solutions in an uncertain world, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK, 31 March - 2 April 2009