As a result of the 4-year-long activities for the Horizon 2020 BESTMAP project, five policy briefs were developed and released this year, addressing crucial agricultural aspects.
The EU project BESTMAP has been actively developing a framework focused on modelling the impact of specific agri-environment practices (AEP) in five different case study areas - Humber region in the UK, Catalonia in Spain, the Mulde region in Germany, South Moravia in the Czech Republic and Bačka region in Serbia.
Coordinated by the University of Leeds in the UK, the BESTMAP consortium involved researchers from 13 organisations across 7 European countries. The project aims were to reform the design and monitoring of future EU rural policies. Aligned with BESTMAP's mission for evidence-based decision-making, the designed policy briefs delve into key challenges and opportunities identified within the European agricultural sector in each regional case study. The research objectives include understanding why farmers choose (or not) to participate in AEPs, assessing the impact of AEPs on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and formulating recommendations for the future design of AEPs. Covering environmental considerations and socio-economic impacts, each brief aims to instigate positive changes in its region. BESTMAP's primary exploration in developing the policy briefs centred on the spatial allocation of AEPs, the intricate nature of farmers' decision-making, their preferences regarding AEP adoption, and the resulting impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Key findings from the Humber study area, for example, highlight several noteworthy observations. Firstly, AEPs are most prevalent on economically large, general cropping farms, with a particular emphasis on cover crops, fallow land, and vegetation buffers. Organic AEPs, in contrast, are distributed across various farm types. Secondly, farmers often opt out of participating in AEPs due to a perceived lack of income surplus and inadequate advisory support. Lastly, while AEPs were found to enhance water quality, soil organic carbon, and biodiversity, they did not exhibit improvements in food and fodder production.
In response to these research insights, the UK policy brief recommends enhancing advisory and financial support for farmers to foster increased AEP adoption. Furthermore, it advocates for clearer communication of AEP objectives and benefits to farmers. Similarly to the UK brief, the remaining four provide an in-depth overview of the Case Studies and offer recommendations, specifically tailored for the local landscapes.
Prof. Guy Ziv, the Coordinator for BESTMAP says: “Through our research combining interviews and modelling, we find some consistent pressures across Europe. We need higher financial support, beyond covering costs, as well as advice to farmers. There needs to be a more radical change to environmental policy in the sector, which possibly can learn from the transition the UK is undertaking in the coming years.”
To enhance the broad reach of engagement of local communities, the briefs are currently available in local languages, prioritising engagement with national stakeholders. As the project concludes, the policy briefs and their English summaries are designed to serve as a legacy of the 4-year long project efforts.
If you want to access the policy briefs, visit the established Policy Corner on BESTMAP’s website.
BESTMAP is holding a Final Dissemination Event on February 7, 2024, in Brussels, Belgium titled "Research Lessons to Inform Future CAP Reform", under the umbrella of the ForumForAg initiative. This event aims to bring together a diverse audience, including key stakeholders, representatives from different EU organisations and institutions, as well as other interested parties. The ultimate goal is to formulate recommendations, which will be presented at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture in March 2024. To learn more about the event and see the full agenda, follow BESTMAP’s web channels.
This project received funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement N817501.
Views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the EU nor the EC can be held responsible for them.