High Nature Value (HNV) Grazing Systems in Europe: A Link between Biodiversity and Farm Economics

Rafael Caballero, * Open Modal Authors Info & Affiliations
The Open Agriculture Journal 6 December 2007 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1874331500701010011


Large tracts of the European rural land, most frequently in the Less Favoured Areas (LFA) are devoted to lowinput and Large Scale Grazing Systems (LSGS) under severe environmental constraints. A small part of the rural population strives to make a living under a risk of abandonment. Paradoxically, these areas harbour a great part of the European High Nature Value (HNV) farmland. We argue that government intervention on these LSGS can only be devised after proper knowledge of technical, structural and social constraints. LSGS may deliver environmental and social benefits but current European Union (EU) schemes of support do not fit the requirements and spatial scale of HNV farming systems. A new methodological approach and research agenda is described based on inter-disciplinary environmental and economic research, stakeholders’ participation and differential diagnosis. The results summarise the main findings of the EUfunded LACOPE research project in seven study-areas and broadly enlarge the analysis to other European LSGS with the experience of collaborative experts. The LACOPE research project advanced the research agenda in the identification of major LSGS and diagnosis of the seven study-areas. In most of these latter, grazing and biodiversity showed compatible features, but severe structural and social constraints were identified, which require public intervention or enhancement of social cohesion. Delivering of potential environmental assets is linked to economic and social viability of these LSGS. Poor economic performance was more common than social fragility, with some LSGS well entrenched and supported by local social values and cultural traditions. The core objectives of the proposed Rural Development Policy (RDP) of the EU for the years 2007-2013 are compatible with the differential diagnosis proposed in the research agenda. However, the articulation of environmental, economic and social analysis under current schemes of policy support (Natura 2000, LFA, and agri-environment measures), can be questionable. A single space-scale of HNV farmland and system research can be better suited to reach the core objectives of the RDP guidelines for environmental and economic convergence, programming, monitoring and financial controls.

Keywords: European Union, low-input grazing systems, marginal lands, policy support.
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