Main authors: Frode Sundnes, Cors van den Brink, Morten Graversgaard
Case study leaders: Isobel Wright, Jenny Rowbottom
iSQAPERiS editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Sundnes, F et al. (2020) Advancing MAPs as vehicles for resolving issues on drinking water pollution from agriculture. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 2.5R, 56 pp


In »Multi-actor platforms as vehicles for resolving drinking water pollution issues we critically assess the MAP engagement processes in the FAIRWAY case studies. We look at lessons learned and map opportunities and bottlenecks for meaningful engagement, shed light on challenges and how they have been addressed, and explore the future sustainability of the engagement platforms beyond the lifetime of the project. Here we present feedback from Anglian Region MAP participants on the performance and functioning of their MAP that was fed into that assessment to enable the harvesting of lessons and best practice.

Contents table
1. Description of MAP
2. Problem identification and shared understanding
3. Achievements
4. Engagement process and participation
5. Trust
6. Conflicts
7. Future sustainability of MAP

1. Description of MAP

The Anglian Region case study is a social science study, focusing on farmer engagement approaches, practiced by Anglian Water to address agricultural diffuse pollution, primarily of pesticides, in surface waters. Anglian Water (AW) is a private water supply company supplying drinking water to 4.2 million customers covering 27,500km2.

The case study compares two established farmer engagement approaches currently used by Anglian Water. Firstly, ‘Slug it Out’, a payment for ecosystem services (PES) across seven reservoir catchments. Farmers receive incentives to practice product substitution for slug control, namely replacing metaldehyde with ferric phosphate, since metaldehyde cannot be easily removed from drinking water. Secondly, ‘network engagement’ in the Ancholme catchment. The AW catchment adviser proactively and expertly facilitates knowledge exchange to farmers and the wider industry. The third area, the Cringle Brook catchment, is the ‘control’, and has received little intervention from AW and is the focus for the Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) and the development of innovative, ‘bottom-up’ farmer/industry engagement. The three catchments are shown in Figure 3.

D2.5 fig03
Figure 3

To compare the three farmer engagement approaches, UoL together with AW and ADAS, with academic rigour in survey design and method provided by ADAS, conducted approximately 100 face to face interviews with farmers across the three catchments in 2018/19; the surveys are being repeated in 2020. A report will be disseminated to Anglian Water and FAIRWAY in 2021.

In 2017, the Cringle Brook MAP was embryonic and required development. Following a ‘textbook’ approach, a steering committee was initiated, inviting stakeholders including a farmer, agronomist (commercial), Anglian Water, cover crop seed merchant, Environment Agency, researcher (metaldehyde) to attend, with leadership and facilitation provided by UoL. The identification of the stakeholders was relatively easy for UoL to achieve yet finding commonality in a meeting date was difficult and took several months, especially within the farming community; there were cancellations and substitution of stakeholders on the day.

The steering committee agenda incorporated MAP activities based on The MSP Guide (Brouwer et al. 2016) and The MSP Tool Guide (Brouwer and Brouwers 2016), to include stakeholder identification, analysis, links, sphere of influence and importance, and their role in the MAP. The initial activities made it very apparent, even in a small catchment, that there was a saturated ‘market’ providing advice and knowledge exchange to farmers, and a diverse range of organizations involved (e.g. commercial fertilizer/pesticide companies, farmer groups, catchment groups, ENGOs and the water companies). Was there really scope to add another layer to the current complexity of farmer engagement?

The MAP was re-structured, comprising of a core group (UoL, AW catchment adviser) joined by members from the MAP subgroup, for example ADAS, experts, academics and the administration support network; the composition varied depending on the task in hand. The focus of the MAP was to develop bespoke engagement activities based on input from the farmers in the Cringle Brook catchment – these were named the Knowledge and Innovation Days (KIDs).The KIDs would draw on the wealth of existing expertise and knowledge both in and outside the Cringle Brook catchment; these experts would become flexible and transient members of the MAP. The KIDs would, in time, extend their influence beyond the Cringle Brook catchment, provide a platform to launch increased farmer led engagement, and extend the MAP to include other ‘users’ of the river in the Cringle Brook Catchment. It is envisaged the Cringle Brook MAP would enable discussions and inform policy for a more farmer centric approach to farmer engagement.

The KID 2018 was informed by feedback/requests derived from face to face farmers interviews in the Cringle Brook and from then on, the KIDs are informed based on feedback from the previous KID event. The Knowledge and Innovation Days were innovative in content as they were as driven by farmers yet provided an opportunity to extend the knowledge through access to research outcomes and highly proficient experts in their field.

The KIDS were innovative in the design, as they were created by the MAP coordinator, a successful professional educator and knowledge exchange facilitator (J E Rowbottom). The KID events were designed to accommodate a range of learning styles (visual, verbal, and kinesthetic) provided by:

  1. Interactive field demonstrations with exemplary demonstrators. The demonstration sites were provided by the farmers in the Cringle Brook MAP.
  2. Short 8-10-minute presentations/PowerPoints, with question and answer (Q&A) sessions, and
  3. Providing an ambience for discussion

For many, asking questions or offering feedback in a Q&A forum is daunting. To address this the KID provided a sit-down lunch with a rare opportunity to discuss topics on a one to one basis with the expert presenters (at no cost), fellow farmers and advisers. This process begins the development of trust, a lasting relationship and engagement, not only with UoL and AW, but also with industry bodies such as the Environment Agency (EA), Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) group; more farmers voices are beginning to be heard by policy makers. 

2. Problem identification and shared understanding

Metaldehyde is used for slug control on arable farms and has been seen by farmers as an important in addressing their problem of slugs. Anglian Water needed to reduce the metaldehyde entering the drinking water resources at catchment level, since the long-term cost and challenge of removing metaldehyde from drinking water is prohibitive – AW’S problem. So the same product with different viewpoints and different problems.

The face to face surveys identified blackgrass (a Gramineae weed) and its increasing resistance to herbicides as a huge concern for farmers (metaldehyde was not a problem for the farmers). This provided the opportunity to ask the farmers ‘what can we do for you?’, and by so doing the conversation on pesticides and best management principles could begin, which in time can overflow to metaldehyde.

KID 2020 was based on KID 2018 feedback which requested more information on cultivations. Research has shown tramlines (for sprayers) are well known as conduits for accelerated soil erosion, run off and associated agricultural ‘pollutants’. For KID 2020, a field demonstration was organized to show an alternative cultivation and tramline arrangement in field which could address run off and soil erosion. This was presented to the farmers as a method to prevent valuable losses of their nutrients and chemical from the field, so improving soil management, economics, efficacy, and efficiency. In the long term this could benefit AW and the status of the drinking water quality.

This approach ‘what can we do to help you?’ provided an excellent starting point for the MAP and generated a commonality and a positive way to move forward to address AW’s issue of the legal requirements for metaldehyde and pesticides in a wider context, in drinking water. Improved farm input management would also benefit the farming community. 

3. Achievements

The KIDs as a farmer engagement tool have been viewed as a particular success. KID 2018 had 24 participants, mainly agronomists; KID 2020 had 38 participants, with farmers as the main group. KID 2020 also widened the participant diversity to include, very importantly agricultural students, and also technical farming organisations such as the AHDB, CSF, and the Soil Association. At both KID events, 100% of participants requested further KID events.

An independent agronomist who has attended both KID events, stated that they are very useful in bringing people together to facilitate discussion. It was stated that farmers can gain a lot of knowledge and practical advice from attending these events, helping to improve practice in the area. The agronomist praised the University of Lincoln’s work for the KIDs and had a strong relationship with the core MAP participants. Additionally, engaging agronomists is viewed as important for successful farm practice change because agronomists visit farms regularly and typically have long standing relationships with their farmers.

The KID 2020 field demonstration took place on a farm in the MAP area with the cultivation system being put in place 6 months earlier. The farmer already practised the alternative tramline arrangement, but it was not a common practice in the area, and so the demonstration provided a working example of its success. The role of farmers running field demonstration and as presenters at the KIDs has been and is critical, since this gives a sense of reality and knowledge that it is both practical and achievable.

KID 2020 also saw an association develop between the presenter of herbicide resistance/blackgrass control and AW. Development of these industry relationships can only be beneficial for the drinking water resources; AW will also gain respect from their farmers by demonstrating their prioritization and the importance in seeking the best advice for their farmers.

Farmer engagement matures with time and trust, and so after just two KID events it is difficult to ascertain their precise influence on best practice adoption by farmers in the MAP area or the influence on the policy makers, but so far it looks encouraging. The influence on drinking water quality will be very long term and any best management practice adopted has to address not only current inputs, but also legacy factors.

At KID 2020, there were agronomists who had attended KID 2018 and keen to return; and the NFU representative having attended KID 2018, asked to present at KID 2020. In addition, the KID 2018 success generated support and funding from the Environment Agency for KID 2020, and further, for 2020/21, the Environment Agency is likely to provide funding for the Cringle Brook. This will finance Cringle Brook phase 3, a five-month continuous passive monitoring of the Cringle Brook, encompassing all users of the watercourse (farmers, golf courses, highway, AW sewage works). To advise and support the project, the Cringle Brook MAP has engaged with temporary members of the MAP - the University of Portsmouth and The West County River’s Trust. Phase 3 will involve an engagement process, which will be built on in phase 4 in 2022/3. Farmers frequently comment on the ‘other polluters’ of water bodies; this holistic approach to catchment monitoring encompassing all users will address this and extend the Cringle Brook MAP community at ground level. UoL and AW are working collaboratively on phase 3, with the AW catchment adviser driving the engagement process for phase 3 and hopefully into phase 4. This is intentional in order to ensure a long-term MAP process of engagement and delivery.

At KID 2020, the AW catchment adviser spoke about the Innovative Farmer Labs, an initiative by the Soil Association. Innovative Farmers Labs are driven by farmers to address an interest/issue to meet their needs. This is very much in keeping with the ethos of Cringle Brook MAP. Several farmers were interested, and they have presented their ideas to the AW catchment adviser, so progress is being made. UoL will act as the support research organization.

Increased involvement of the AW catchment adviser in farmer engagement in the Cringle Brook MAP has progressed UoL’s vison of the MAP, which is to embed the engagement process, the KIDs, and the MAP into the domain of AW and the wider industry. 

4. Engagement process and participation

The initial MAP process of mapping the stakeholders, their networks and influence was a very useful exercise. It identified the mature and frequently oversubscribed market of advice available to farmers and knowledge transfer events and workshops held; on recent Twitter accounts (prior to KID 2020), farmers were commenting on the huge volume of events they perceived were covering the same content and with nothing new in the offering - are farmers becoming jaded with the overuse of workshops? There are also many organizations involved in the delivery of the advice and knowledge transfer, often following their own agenda and needs, rather than addressing joint needs and commonality between themselves and the farming community. The transient membership (such as KID presenters) of the Cringle Brook MAP also increases the awareness for farmers of the expertise available to them and how to access it post KID events.

The review and restructuring of the Cringle Brook MAP was a very important part of the process. The new approach will most likely increase the opportunity for success as it builds on and borrows from existing networks, rather than adding to the ‘noise’ of a saturated knowledge exchange market.

In an area which has received minimal prior engagement, knowledge transfer and intervention by UoL, AW or other organizations, engagement of farmers was difficult, and promoting the KID events and the MAP has demonstrated this (though we have experienced an unprecedented weather conditions for farmers between 2018 – 2020).

For the KID 2018, 50 invitations were sent by post to farmers in the Cringle Brook and wider catchment and followed up by phone calls; at the event there were 3-4 farmers from the area. Later, many farmers could not recollect the invitation, often another person was responsible for the mail. In 2020, invitations were sent by email, and post, if no email was available; in addition, promotion through known existing networks was used; successful coverage was noted since recipients reported they had received the invitation from several sources! KID 2020 had a 63% increase in attendance, but still the number of local farmers was not representative.

With the growing complexity of the farming industry, farmers are increasingly reliant on their agronomists to guide their farming decisions; it is the agronomists who provide the conduit to farmers for championing best practice, so it is important to work closely with agronomists to ensure we are all delivering the same message. This was highlighted by an independent agronomist who has been involved on the periphery of the MAP, had attended KID events, and praised the MAP for strengthening relationships. They also stated that since being involved they received very good communication from Anglian Water, regarding pollution issues, and that farmers have increasingly become more aware of their environmental impacts and ‘By building trust, mutual knowledge and communication, collaboration and problem solving can be strengthened and objectives become aligned’.. 

5. Trust

The comment above from the independent agronomist sums up the importance of trust. Time to build relationships and trust is vitally important, but for this project, time is in short supply. Frequently funding for projects is short term, after which there are no resources, the personal/catchment advisers move on and it becomes difficult for farmers to develop the all-important relationships.

Water companies and their role in catchment advice to farmers are a crucial part of the mix; increasingly water companies are employing personnel with expertise in both farming (agronomists) and environmental protection. This will increase the trust/confidence of farmers, especially as advice is offered free of charge, and good advice matters in best practice adoption. 

6. Conflicts

Conflicts such as developing a MAP in an oversubscribed engagement market and potential risk of divergence between AW and the farming community in the Cringle Brook MAP were identified early and managed by above mentioned processes. 

7. Future sustainability of MAP

The Cringle Brook MAP will succeed if:

  1. The industry sees a value in the MAP and the KIDs
  2. As a result of perceived value, the industry adopts the KID events and the MAP concept going forward
  3. The industry is able to find the funds to finance the KIDs and the MAP concept
  4. The industry can find an ongoing core group to drive the MAP and KID events

If the KID events and MAP become reliant on one person in one organisation, it will be difficult to sustain. It is far better to have shared responsibility and resources to drive the MAP forward. All too frequently initiatives such as the KIDs and MAP stop when the project stops; continuation is dependent on industry support, but this takes time to develop, which at the moment is in short supply.

For the farming and wider community engagement in this catchment, the AW catchment adviser is enthusiastic, determined to be successful and to build on the projects currently happening in the Cringle Brook and wider catchment.

If external funding can be ongoing, the Cringle Brook catchment offers a case study of best practice to be scaled up and an example of a burgeoning MAP to be presented to policy makers involved in catchment management and farmer engagement.  


Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see


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