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Skylark Case Study: Social Learning and Land Lease as Mechanisms for the Delivery of Ecosystem Services in Intensive Arable Farming

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Westerink, Judith; van Doorn, Anne; Pérez-Soba, Marta
Conference: Practicing the Commons: Self-Governance, Cooperation and Institutional Change
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands
Conf. Date: 10-14 July
Date: 2017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/10364
Sector: Agriculture
Subject(s): agriculture
land tenure and use
Abstract: "Potentially, arable fields can deliver a range of public goods and ecosystem services in addition to food, such as clean water, soil recovering capacity and natural pest reduction. However, current intensive arable production systems tend to favour food production at the cost of the level of delivery of the regulation and cultural ecosystem services (ES). In order to increase the level of ES delivery, arable production systems farmers would need to change their practices. Governance arrangments are ultimately aimed at achieving such a change of behaviour; they do not only include government initiatives, but also institutions that were developed bottom-up by other actors and networks. This paper investigates governance arrangements developed by groups of intensive arable farmers in the Netherlands, known as the Skylark Foundation (Stichting Veldleeuwerik). We zoom in on two arrangements. First, the way in which social learning is organised in small farmer groups and between groups in a nested structure. And second, the way in which a particular Skylark group took initiative to develop a land lease arrangement for promoting water quality in collaboration with the Water Board (regional authority managing a comprehensive water system). The results show that by meeting in small groups of 8-10 farmers, farmers challenge each other in striving for sustainable practices. They meet regularly, visit each other’s farm, learn from each other’s experiences and set joint learning goals. In addition all participants must compose a plan for each year, specifying their sustainability actions. For instance: to reduce the use of pesticides or to improve nesting possibilities for farmyard birds. The common themes selected by them to work on are soil health and water quality. In the group located in the Middle Brabant region, this learning process triggered the wish to collaborate with the Water Board. In a number of meetings, the farmers and Water Board officials exchanged ideas about how to managing water better and improving soil health. They decided to make better their exchange of knowledge and data, as well as work towards a more fine-grained understanding of the landscape and the water system. With this improved knowledge the group of farmers aims at adapting the current management practices underpinning the delivery of better water quality."

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