MEDIA RELEASE – People should be brought to the centre stage to deliver more environmental and social benefits

Local communities and landowners worked together in the WILD project to understand and get involved in the management of local watercourses

One of the key recommendations coming out of a recently completed EU funded project is a new approach that would bring the social dimension – people – to the centre stage to deliver more environmental and social benefits.

The project findings also recommend promoting cooperative ways of working, including a greater commitment to help actors on the ground develop a collective, multi-actor, approach, that builds on the engagement and commitment of farmers and foresters.

In addition, a more flexible and joined up use of the policy mix, better adapted to local needs is required, which needs a local translation of national and EU rules so that there is a focus on results rather than compliance.

The project, PEGAGUS – an acronym for ‘Public Ecosystem Goods And Services from land management: Unlocking the Synergies’ – investigated the provision of public goods and ecosystem services from agriculture and forestry and undertook 34 case studies, each of which used a different approach to unlock the connections between economic and environmental benefits for society.

One of the key case studies involved the WILD project (Water with Integrated Local Delivery), for which the CCRI was part of a partnership that brought about environmental improvements to the rivers and other watercourses of the Cotswold Water Park by bringing local communities and landowners together in understanding and getting involved in the management of local watercourses. With input from the farmers, landowners and the local community, it also devised and delivered a plan of enhancements over a three-year period aimed at improving water quality and the infrastructure surrounding the management of water flows.

Chris Short

Chris Short, who worked on the WILD project and case study, said:

“The research revealed what can be done in terms of people from the local level to national organisations, working together to deliver the quality environment that society needs. It showed that there is a role for everyone and that words can translate into actions that make a real difference. This is an excellent example of local integrated delivery as referred to in the Government’s 25 Year Environment plan.”

The PEGASUS project also developed a Toolkit for Practitioners, which provides guidance and useful tips to stakeholders wishing to be involved in a collective action to enhance the provision of environmental and social benefits from agriculture and/or forestry.

In summary, the key messages from the project about ways to enhance the provision of environmental and social benefits by EU agriculture and forestry in the future are:

* Current regulations and CAP funded incentives provide an essential foundation for the provision of environmental and social benefits by agriculture and forestry in the EU. However, they have not be used so far in a way that delivers the wide-ranging, long-lasting changes that are required to meet EU objectives and the growing societal demand for a more sustainable approach.

* There is a need for a step change in policy to deliver more environmental and social benefits. The new approach should bring the social dimension – people – to the centre stage. Incentive schemes need to minimise the use of a narrow, mainly transactional, approach to the provision of environmental and social benefits and put greater emphasis on working with the interests and motivations of the people best placed to take action.

* There is therefore a strong need to better understand the structure and dynamics of related local social processes, as they are critical for securing increased and more widespread provision of environmentally and socially positive outcomes. Policies offering incentives and support are only effective if people can respond to them.

* Multi-actor approaches were found to have a lot of potential in terms of consolidating these social processes and building a greater commitment by key actors (e.g. better identification of synergies and trade-offs locally, greater sense of ownership, etc.). They can also increase the scale of impact. Policies should seek to encourage the engagement of more and a more diversified range of actors so that individual efforts are less isolated, but more often are part of a concerted effort at territorial level and/or between business partners along a supply chain.

* As part of a multi-actor approach, strengthening the links with the supply chain was found to have significant potential in many conditions. It can lead to potentially more sustained actions and more robust business models, while more environmental and social benefits can be provided if they are internalised within the value chain.

* Institutions responsible for agricultural and broader rural land management need to build trust, by embedding dialogue with stakeholders at all stages of the policy cycle and creating a safe environment in which local actors feel empowered to take action collectively.

* More innovative and locally tailored policy mixes could produce better results. One aspect of this is more flexibility, less constraints imposed by complex EU rules that can inhibit a real focus on results rather than compliance. The aim should be for different measures to be used more easily together – matching diverse needs on the ground more readily.

* More vigorous and larger scale action on the ground with more group involvement needs to be married to publicly determined priorities, at different levels – from the local to the EU. More precise data and associated maps can help in this respect. Under the project, new maps of agricultural and forestry systems and patterns of ecosystem services provision have been produced at a sufficient resolution to establish patterns and potential associations at EU and Member State levels. These could be developed further with the benefit of more detailed datasets, that are often available at regional/local levels.

* Support for facilitation and capacity building should play a more central role in policies aiming at better environmental and social outcomes in rural areas. This implies that more funding is allocated to measures such as knowledge exchange, training, demonstration projects, and in particular facilitation and advice to farmers and foresters on the ground to assist the development and operation of multi-actor initiatives, innovative and pilot projects, results-based schemes, etc. This is relevant today and will be even more relevant if the CAP is to become more flexible and more based on performance in the future, as the European Commission is currently proposing.

For more information about the Project: Official PEGASUS website

Briefings on the project’s key messages in relation to the case study lessons, social and local processes, mapping and policy recommendations are available here.

For more news and information about the project, including the project’s final conference, click here.


Christopher Short, Reader in Environmental Governance
Tel +44 (0) 1242 714550

Janet Dwyer, Professor of Rural Policy and Director of the CCRI
Tel +44 (0) 1242 714128

Dr Peter Gaskell, Senior Research Fellow
Tel +44 (0) 1242 714136