A strategic approach to Malta’s new Rural Development Programme, 2014-2020

The CCRI worked with local consultants in Malta, Stefano Mallia and Gordon Cordina, on a strategic approach to development of the new rural development programme on Malta for the period 2014-20.

The overall objective of the work was to develop, in close collaboration with rural actors and stakeholders (both government and private actors), a vision for the future of sustainable agriculture and rural development on the islands of Malta and Gozo, which took full account of the particular challenges and opportunities arising from the economic, environmental, and social assets, and local needs. Malta faces a range of problems resulting from its peripheral position in Europe, the nature of an island economy which results in high input costs for agriculture, water management issues, high population density, and various management issues linked to land fragmentation and development pressures.

The project engaged with key stakeholders through interviews and discussion groups to explore a range of identified thematic issues, along with economic modelling to explore impacts of alternative measures and CAP reform on the agricultural economy of Malta. The aim was to develop a strategy to enable Malta to make the best possible use of EU funding from both pillars of the new CAP. This strategy will then be explored with all the relevant policy makers, authorities and stakeholder organizations which would then form the foundation on which to build an action plan for preparing the detailed RDP 2014-2020, through an inclusive and iterative process which achieved buy-in from the key actors and interested parties, giving an enhanced probability of the programme’s success in achieving its goals, once implemented. The focus of the work carried out by CCRI and the local consultants was to develop the action plan that will lead to the production of the RDP, and not to create the RDP itself.

Visits to the islands identified some of the challenges facing agriculture and rural development in Malta. These include, for example, highly fragmented and small land holdings as a result of structural rigidity in landholdings and inheritance traditions, historical decisions to remove the pre-existing indigenous agricultural sectors of olives, sheep and goat production, scarcity of freshwater resources and rainfall, a relatively intensive indoor livestock production generating large quantities of manure and liquid waste, and reliance upon imported fossil-fuel to power for desalination and to provide electricity. At the same time, Malta has internationally important assets in respect of biodiversity, landscape and cultural heritage which are identified as important for sustaining the islands’ tourism industry, a key economic sectors which generates around a quarter of aggregate economic activity.

Update: November 2013

Professor Janet Dwyer and Dr John Powell were in Malta on 8 November to support the Managing Authority in the launch of a public consultation paper on the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) for Malta.

The event was attended by Roderick Galdes, the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture in Malta and was reported in the Times of Malta and also online on Malta’s news portal, Malta today.

The consultation paper represents the culmination of over two years working with stakeholders across the islands of Malta and Gozo to help identify key needs, aspirations and opportunities to use EU rural development funds to promote sustainable farming and rural development in Malta. A total of €138 million has been allocated by the EU for the development of rural areas in Malta for the period 2014-20.

An estimated 170 stakeholders attended the launch of the consultation paper for the RDP for Malta

Professor Janet Dwyer said at the launch that Malta needed to build on its strengths and minimise its weaknesses. She identified Malta’s priorities to include: increased efficiency in the utilisation of water, wastes and energy; traceability and quality of primary and processed food products; development of a more sustainable livestock sector; conserving and enhancing the landscape and environment; and, marketing and promotion of local produce. She also said that a better knowledge of products and where they are produced is needed, but this could only be achieved by working together with the relevant stakeholders throughout the supply chain.

Dr John Powell said that the consultation process in Malta, which started in September 2012, had taken a ‘bottom-up approach’ involving six groups of stakeholders, including farmers, NGOs, processors and other stakeholders. He said that the aim of the consultation was to analyse linkages with key policy areas, identify strategies for rural development, identify activities required to bring about improvements, explore the resources which were needed, and assess options for investment.

An estimated 170 stakeholders attended the consultation and took part in the discussions regarding the future programme for rural development. The options presented were well received and participants were generally supportive of the proposals. The next steps include taking into account the responses from the consultation process which is open until early December, developing the more detailed actions for implementing the proposed programme, and submitting the formal rural development programme document to the European Commission.