HNV Farming in South-East Europe
The concept of HNV farmland is a novelty for the countries of South-East Europe (SEE). Even in the absence of detailed studies it is clear that there are large areas of HNV farmland in a variety of farming systems. It comes as no surprise that the region is considered as ‘green gold’ (Plantlife) and the ‘green lungs’ of Europe (EEA).
Many of the landscapes and habitats of biodiversity significance were created by the centuries old practices of extensive grazing and low-input small-scale cropping throughout the SEE region. The link between HNV farming, biodiversity and traditional landscapes is very strong. The recent decline in rural population and in the number of livestock animals has led to land abandonment, especially in mountainous areas. This harms biodiversity by shrinking the area of farmland of high natural value and the mosaic of habitats for wildlife. At the same time, intensive agriculture is expanding, which also threatens biodiversity.
HNV farms often operate in the most marginal areas (from agriculturalist perspective) under difficult social and economic realities. In SEE, HNV farming normally deals with the “outlaws” of the official systems (Znaor, 2011):
- The land, especially grasslands managed in HNV farms is often not included in the official statistical or land registers;
- The livestock (cattle, sheep or goats) is not (regularly) registered in the respective farm animals registers;
- The products (cheese, milk, kashkaval, salami, etc.) are produced in traditional way not necessarily meeting the respective national or newly harmonized EU sanitary, veterinary or hygiene standards;
- The ecosystem services: there is a growing recognition on the inter linkage between HNV farming and ecosystem services but so far this is not reflected in any accounting system and thus have no added value for farmers.
- The farmers: are they consciously HNV farmers or are we trying to impose the HNV concept on people who simply have no other choice?
All these issues pose a variety of challenges for rural development and policy making in the SEE countries. It is clear that in the process of EU accession HNV farming in the region will inevitably change. The biggest challenge ahead is ensuring a well “managed evolution of HNV farming” (Beaufoy, 2011) so that its social, cultural, natural as well as economic values are maintained and developed for the benefit of society and farmers alike.
The HNV Farming network in SEE aims at:
- Provide a forum for networking and experience exchange among SEE countries, and between EU and non-EU countries;
- Present information on the current state of HNV farming identification and support in the region;
- Illustrate HNV farming in the region with examples and case studies;
- Identify common interests and develop joint activities on HNV farming in the region during 2011 and beyond.