|Main authors:||Frode Sundnes, Cors van den Brink, Morten Graversgaard|
|Case study leaders:||António Dinis Ferreira, Inês Amorim Leitão|
|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 Baixo Mondego 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.
|1. Description of MAP|
|2. Problem identification and shared understanding|
|4. Engagement process and participation|
|7. Future sustainability of MAP|
|8. Lessons learned|
The Portuguese MAP concerns the Baixo Mondego region, which includes the downstream of Mondego basin, and a small part of the downstream of the Vouga basin. Most of the drinking water comes from groundwater extracted near the Mondego and Vouga Rivers, as they leave mountain areas and before entering the plains. These plains are intensively irrigated in both cases. A significant part of the population living from agriculture explore the groundwater aquifers for irrigation and in some cases as drinking water. Both study sites are located at the coastal area of the Portuguese Central Region, and belong to the same regional water authority, although belonging to different Inter-Municipal Communities (Coimbra and Aveiro). A recent study states that almost half of the aquifers monitored in Portugal presented signs of water pollution, derived mainly from arable farming and livestock husbandry (ZERO 2017).
The main problem area in focus is the excess of nutrients added to the soils, since manure and wastewater sludge are increasingly being added to the soil as fertilizers. The poor practices locally associated with intensive husbandry also contaminates both aquifers and superficial water bodies. For this reason, about 42% of the aquifers in the country have nitrates concentration in excess of nitrates standards. In these study regions, some surface and ground-water bodies seasonally exceed the limits of several pollutants for drinking water. In those cases, the surrounding farms see their access to subsidies reduced.
The participant in the MAP are:
- the national environment/planning authority (EA).
- the basin water authority, that works also as regional environment authority.
- The regional agriculture authority (DRAP).
- The regional planning authority (CCDRC).
- The farmers’ associations (that also work as professional advisors/consultants and are responsible for the selling and control of pesticides) – we included the “Cooperativas Agrícolas of Coimbra and of Montemor-o-Velho” which cover nearly all the case study area
Survey responses were received from representatives from most of the stakeholder groups including national and regional authorities, waterworks, farmers, and academia; 6 respondents in total.
According to one of the respondents at national level, the MAP emerged from the need to find a common platform for the dissemination and transfer of knowledge among the various actors in the area, specifically for decision-making support based on holistic and integrated views. A general response is that the group was put together based on their knowledge about the local context and important stakeholders related to water and agriculture. All the survey respondents of the MAP have participated for more than 5 yrs.
No stakeholders are considered missing from the MAP.
There is a large degree of agreement in terms of what the main issue is for which the MAP is set up to resolve. Most respondents focus on changing agriculture practices in order to improve the water quality, with some variation in emphasis on the two elements. This is also reflected in the question of whether the MAP participants have a shared understanding of the issue at hand, where the responses range from “To some extent”  to “To a large extent” . One respondent highlights dissemination for stakeholders in the agricultural sector as important, another puts emphasis on creating conditions for developing the circular economy in the agricultural sector. Despite the long-lasting engagement by all respondents in these processes one of them frankly responded “I'm not sure yet” to the question of what the main issue is.
There is a general sentiment amongst the respondents that the MAP has only to some or limited extent been successful in addressing this issue. One respondent questions the willingness of farmers to follow advice and information provided to change their practices. Another respondent makes the point that interventions like this one, where the aim is to change farming practices through training, will take time, and that one will only have results in the next generation. It was also pointed out that some of the necessary measures identified to reach the goals would go beyond the MAP intervention scale, and would require technical and financial conditions, which may not be available. On the issue of new insights gained during the course of the project, most focused on increased knowledge; either of farm management and current agricultural practices in Baixo Mondego, of the circular economy, or the current state of groundwater quality for some agricultural pollutants. The farmer pointed out the benefits, through dissemination of the FAIRWAY project results, of knowledge about technical innovation for fertilizer application management. Only minimal results in terms of changes to agricultural practices have been observed by the respondents so far. Greater interaction between actors was put forward as an important achievement, as well as increased knowledge of the variability of opinions about the issue.
The respondents feel only to some or to a limited extent able to influence the priorities of the MAP. This can be interpreted as a skewed power balance within the MAP or as an indication that the priorities are already set.
All the listed factors in the survey have been flagged as important for building trust - Increased knowledge-base  - Improved water quality  - Better understanding of other points of view  - Informal contact  One informant pointed out that there should be more activity in the MAP by way of formal meetings, which in turn would lead to people taking this group and its importance more seriously.
There seem to be a low level of conflict in the MAP. Most respondents emphasise that differences are solved through open dialogue and informal meetings and have a focus on improving water quality as a common goal. Or as the farmer put it: “differences are solved with a great sense of agrarian consensus”.
Although there seems to be a general consensus of the core issue on which the MAP is focused, namely on changing agriculture practices in order to improve the water quality, the lack of a common goal was raised by several informants as a challenge for the future sustainability of the MAP. While one respondent was concerned with the possible failure to reach the proposed goal for Baixo Mondego, another respondent called for a realistic and well-defined main goal. One respondent raised the unity between the key actors as a possible future concern: another the need for continued activity and stakeholder engagement.
A few of the informants had little to report on lessons learned so far in the MAP process. Others brought forward the importance of the MAP for dialogue, for sharing of different perspectives and for good co-operation between key actors, as necessary for common understanding and to set joint strategies for problem-solving.
Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see