Bulgaria - SOCIO-ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF HNV FARMLANDS
Partnership with BSPB: Assessing the effects of their small-grants-scheme for HNV grasslands management
The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) engages in High Nature Value farming conservation as a means for protecting and managing bird habitats. The key motivation is that the extensive grassland management closely links to the presence and quality of feeding and breeding habitats of many important bird species.
Some of the main threats in these areas are related to ploughing and conversion of grass habitats into arable lands; overgrazing nearby settlements; burnings of shrubs, stubbles and pastures; decrease of pastured livestock in the regions and abandonment of the traditional agricultural practices in boundary strips, woodland and shrub vegetation.
In the framework of a GEF funded project for supporting HNV grasslands management in Bulgaria BSPB team assisted farmers in accessing agri–environment payments from the RDP as well as facilitated the marketing of products from the sustainable farming systems, awareness raising at local and national level and provided grant support to farmers. One of the most innovative and successful activity of the project was the establishment of mobile support teams. Two mobile teams of consultants provided advice and support to the interested farmers both regarding the project grant scheme and the Bulgarian RDP support. They worked throughout the whole process with the farmers: from the identification of their support needs, to the development and submission of the application, all the way through implementation and final reporting. This included also the land identification in LPIS since land eligibility is a serious issue at least in one of the project sites. The teams also supported farmers in their interaction with municipal authorities for renting municipal pastures.
EFNCP assessed BSPB grant scheme and its effect at local and national level in 2012.
Two years were needed for the preparation of the grant scheme. In this period the project team was able to meet and establish regular contacts with most of the farmers in the regions. As a result, the proposed measures were shaped in the most beneficial and relevant to the needs of the small farmers’ way.
The pilot grant scheme was launched in 2010 and run for two years. It aimed to encourage farmers to adopt more biodiversity-friendly land management practices in the HNV farming areas. The overall budget of the scheme was 240 000 USD. The supported measures were taken from the EAFRD menu and comprised: Agri-environmental payments; Compensatory payments for Natura 2000; Non-productive investments and Investments in holdings. At the same time, a key requirement was that they did not overlap with the relevant Bulgarian RDP measures.
The key reasons for success are identified as:
- The scheme was designed specifically for the project areas. Thus, it responded to the real needs of farmers in the project sites to maintain the HNV grasslands.
- Additionally, the payments offered corresponded to the required area-based activities.
- The small investment component provided farmers with the opportunity to modernise their farms and to continue their business while applying nature-friendly agricultural practices.
- The mobile teams and especially the personal contact at farm and household level were very important to motivate farmers to participate. This also put a very heavy responsibility onto the consultants’ shoulders, since the farmers came to rely on their advice.
- The contrast between the grant scheme and the RDP was significant. The grant scheme delivered payment in a very short period after the application had been submitted, whereas the interaction with the Paying Agency involves at best a long wait.
- The project team was also heavily involved in helping farmers to market their local products thus supporting households to continue and diversify their practices. Thus, after the project end local stakeholders continue this activity.
Partnering with the UNWE – Pathways to sustainable agriculture in HNV farming areas
EFNCP Bulgaria was invited by the University of National and World Economy to join their National Stakeholders Group under FarmPath project. The overall goal of FarmPath was to identify and assess future transition pathways towards regional sustainability of agriculture in Europe, and the social and technological innovation needs required to initiate and progress along these pathways.
The role of the Bulgarian National Stakeholder Group was to propose areas and initiatives to be studied under the project. Based on our proposal, Besaparski Hills became a focus area under this project too. The participatory approach utilized in the project comprised the following stages:
- Identification of initiatives at farm and regional level and studying their potential to provide viable models for farming in round-tables with the National Stakeholder Group.
- Identifying the key drivers and evaluating the sustainability of the selected High Nature Value Farming initiative in Besaparski Hills during focus groups with local farmers and young farmers, administrators, and consumers.
- Specifying pathways and visions for sustainable agriculture, reflecting both regional differences and technological and social innovation needs for attaining the visions in mixed stakeholders focus groups.
- The outputs were further refined in an iterative process of bilateral and multilateral stakeholder consultations.
- At the end, a national stakeholder workshop was organized to refine and validate the policy recommendations developed.
Three different visions for regional sustainability of agriculture were formulated during the participatory policy development exercise. Local and regional stakeholders casted their votes and emotions on “Agriculture based on modernized small and medium family farms caring about the natural and cultural characteristics and needs of the region alongside their farms’ economic viability”.
- Most of the participants shared that this was the best vision but the least likely to happen, as it contradicts both the current development trend and national policy documents – strategies and legislation.
- Yet, they felt inspired by the approach and found the research project very useful for spelling out and formulating a common vision for their own region.
- Many stakeholder expressed interest in disseminating the vision and the necessary pathways to their fellow villagers as well as to regional and national policy makers.
- A positive feedback to the research team was the willingness to organize follow-up activities and other common projects between researchers and stakeholders.
|Farmers focus group defining the key characteristics of agriculture, environment and rural life and rural infrastructure; M.Peneva||Results of the three working groups defining the pathways to reach each of the visions for regional sustainability of agriculture in Besaparski Hills Natura 2000 zone; Y.Kazakova|