European agri-environmental schemes are being criticised for reinforcing rather than negating an opposition between agricultural production and environmental production, and for assuming instead of securing a public willingness to pay for agri-environmental change. This paper explores if a regionalisation of agri-environmental governance may contribute to overcome these criticisms. The paper empirically explores three regionalised agri-environmental schemes from Flanders, Belgium, with the use of 40 qualitative interviews with farmers and other relevant stakeholders. Building on the Bourdieusian theory of capital and the conceptual distinction between bonding and bridging social capital, the paper analyses whether and why the regionalised arrangements incited farmers to integrate environmental production in their farm management to meet other regional stakeholders’ demands for agri-environmental change. In doing so, the paper particularly focuses on the role of bridging social capital in fostering farmer participation in agri-environmental governance, which is a topic that—despite a growing scholarly recognition of the importance of social capital in mediating farmers’ environmental behaviour—has to date received scant conceptual and empirical attention. The paper reveals that farmers principally participated in the regionalised agri-environmental schemes to enhance the long-term viability of their agricultural businesses by building up more cooperative and appreciative, bridging social ties with other regional stakeholders. Notably, such participation is only likely to be substantive and lead to long-term, pro-environmental behaviour change of farmers, if farmers actually succeed in building up bridging social capital by receiving other regional stakeholders’ appreciation for their agri-environmental work. The paper ends with discussing the implications of these findings for the future design and implementation of socially and ecologically robust agri-environmental schemes.
Authors and Publishers
de Krom, Michiel P.M.M.
Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.
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