Establishing the Influence of Nature Connectedness on Agri-Environment Scheme Uptake and Delivery in England 

This project, commissioned through Natural England and Defra’s Agri-Environment Evidence Programme, was led by ICF, and included CCRI, Kings and the University of Exeter. The work explored the psychological constructs of Nature Connection and Relational Values with land managers to enable Natural England to:  

a) Understand whether these concepts and associated measurement tools are effective for understanding and measuring the relationship farmers, specifically Agri-Environment agreement holders, have with nature

b) Whether variation in these measures, across the sample population, is associated with land manager ambition for supporting nature and pro-nature conservation behaviours, within the context of planning and delivering their AgriEnvironment Scheme agreements. 

The project consisted of: 

• A rapid evidence review to summarise the existing evidence in relation to the application of these concepts to farmers and land managers and to identify appropriate methodologies for the primary research phase

• Primary testing and research with 20 agri-environment agreement holders and Natural England’s Farm Advice Staff

• Production of recommendations relating to how Natural England can operationalise the knowledge obtained to effect positive change for scheme design, communication and delivery of agri-environmental schemes.

The results produced a set of high-level social indicators and their sub-indicators for measuring agreement holders’ levels of nature connectedness and the influence of relational values on their environmental behaviours.

Agreement holders exhibited a nuanced relationship with nature, characterised by both positive and negative interactions. The evidence suggested that those with a strong sense of nature connectedness were more inclined towards environmentally positive practices. However, while many displayed emotional attachment to their farms, the correlation between attachment and environmental ambition remained unclear.  Stewardship principles grounded in a moral obligation to care for the land, often drove pro-environmental behaviours, although perceptions of what constitutes “good” environmental practice varied.

Social relations, including family, peer and institutional influences affected environmental behaviours. Local farming norms, for instance, impacted the environmental practices of agreement holders. Moreover, ecological literacy played an important role in fostering understanding and a sense of responsibility towards the environment.  Well-being emerged as an important metric, especially amidst the agricultural transition, with farmers’ agri-environmental action sometimes re-enforcing their own well-being. While many derive deep satisfaction from their environmental work, challenges such as financial insecurity can impede pro-environmental behaviours.

Taking place between October 2022 and March 2023, the CCRI portion of the work was led by Jane Mills, and involved Pete Gaskell and Dilshaad Bundhoo and Paul Courtney.

CCRI REF: 2022-019