Main authors: Frode Sundnes, Alma. de Vries, Cors van den Brink
FAIRWAYiS editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: »Sundnes, F. et al. (2021) Multi-actor platforms in the FAIRWAY project: summary of activities and experiences. FAIRWAY Project Deliverable 2.2, 30 pp


Contents table
1. Changes in newly established MAPs 
2. Changes in existing MAPs 

A framework of key dimensions of multi-actor engagement was presented early in the project to form a unifying thread through the project and across the cases, highlighting important aspects of engagement processes. The MAP coordinators were asked to rank their respective MAPs according to these dimensions during the workshop in Naples, 2017. Now, in 2021, the MAP coordinators were asked again to rank their respective MAPs, to track changes in the functioning of the MAPs over time, within the project period. Note that the ranking of the respective MAPs has been a qualitative assessment carried out by the MAP coordinators. According to earlier analyses (Sundnes, van den Brink et al. 2020, Nesheim, Sundnes et al. 2021) a distinction has made between newly established MAPs, i.e. MAPs established in the period between 2017 and 2018 facilitated for by the FAIRWAY project, and MAPs already existing for a longer or shorter period at the start of the FAIRWAY project.

1. Changes in newly established MAPs

An overview of the changes in the newly established MAPs is shown in Table 5. This table provides information on whether the changes over the considered period were positive or negative, and a reference to the main cause for this change. The causes are either labelled internal, pointing to internal dynamics, or opportunities and challenges of the respective engagement processes; or they are labelled external, relating to external factors that are outside of the influence of the MAPs, but with implications for the processes. (See »Annex II of the full report for a table showing the MAPs reporting on key dimensions for engagement processes in 2017 and 2021)

Table 5: Newly established MAPs (as part of the FAIRWAY project), changes and causes

MAP, country Changes in overall MAP-dimensions’ score Main cause (Internal/external)
Aalborg, Denmark + Internal
North Greece: Axios River & Agios Pavlos, Greece + Internal
Baixo Mondego, Portugal + External
Arges-Vedea, Romania + Internal/External
Dravsko Polje, Slovenia + Internal

The scores of the dimensions reflecting the functioning of the MAP in Aalborg showed an increase, especially as result of exchanging perspectives and getting to know each other: “The playing field has levelled out a bit, and stakeholders have expressed their perspectives to each other”. This can also be seen as a general contribution to the development of shared goals.

The engagement process within the MAP of the North Greece case contributed to a sense of common goals and urgency to solve environmental problems. Considering the feedback on available resources, stakeholders desire more than what the FAIRWAY project could offer in terms facilitating for information sharing, education and guidance, and would also have wanted funding for applications in the field/new intelligent farming practices/water cleaning processes etc. Interestingly, in the Greek case, the improved synergies within the multi-actor platform also contributed to the business perspectives of the farmers: “The MAP members have realized that there is no funding for actual on-site applications, therefore they have understood that finding synergies with other members is also beneficial for their products”. Efforts put into the engagement process also resulted in the Greek MAP having a role as a consulting body, however with little influence on decision-making.

The engagement process of the Baixo Mondego MAP has, according to the MAP coordinator, benefitted from Portugal’s Resilience and Recovery Plan : “There are, due to the Resilience and Recovery Plan [RRP] a set of dynamic processes going on, that are targeted to the involvement of more actors in solving some of the challenges of Portuguese agriculture and livestock breeding. This has increased adaptability sharply.” The involvement of more stakeholders also contributes to an improved power balance, improvement of the synergies and decision space. In addition, the post-COVID period contributed to the willingness to participate in engagement activities: “The post COVID-19 context and the RRP increased the involvement of actors that seldom had a voice in these matters”.

The engagement process of the Arges-Vedea MAP benefitted from their new Code of Good Agricultural Practice: “The new Code of Good Agricultural Practices which was approved this year is not anymore mandatory for farmers. In this way the farmers have more flexibility in applying the measures from the Code and they can more easily adapt decisions regarding farm management.” In addition, the functioning of the MAP improved by joint recognition by stakeholders (incl. authorities and farmers) of the need to work towards a common goal. There is also a shared understanding that improved water quality can only be attained by complying with the current regulations. As result, the stakeholders seem to be better involved in common efforts to find solutions that connect their own interests, such as higher productivity in a well-protected environment. The improved functioning of the Romanian MAP is also illustrated by the improved decision space felt by the stakeholders within the MAP: “Presently, the stakeholders within the MAP participate in debates relating to the measures included in the regulations on water quality.”

The engagement process of the Dravsko polje MAP improved for 6 out of 7 dimensions considered, illustrating that the functioning of the MAP improved over the relatively short period between 2017 and 2021. In general terms, the MAP has contributed to establishing a joint understanding that the quality of drinking water is at stake, highlighted by the MAP coordinator as an important outcome: “During the course of the project - from establishing the MAP until the end of the project - the most important outcome was better understanding among members, loss of fear of speaking out or asking for help or even be in the same room with certain members. That is a good investment for the future.” Stakeholders however have different ideas on how to address the challenges. While the MAP has been important for participants to better understand each other’s viewpoints and behaviour, it does however have no power to change processes or activities in place, as legislative and financial powers reside with the relevant ministries. While drinking water protection is regulated at the national level, MAP participants from the Ministries do not have an active role. They come and explain the situation, but they cannot promise anything. “The MAP was formed as part of the project, but there is no formal mandate. Experiences in this project, and others, show that many municipalities would need official water boards. Urgent and sensible tasks could be carried out faster if official communication and interaction was in place.”  

2. Changes in existing MAPs

An overview of the changes in the existing MAPs is shown in table 6. This table provides information on whether the changes over the considered period were positive, negative or absent and information on the main cause for this change.

Table 6. Existing MAPs prior to FAIRWAY, changes and causes

MAP, country Changes in overall MAP-dimensions’ score Main cause (Internal/external)
Tunø Island, Denmark n/a n/a
Anglian Region, England + Internal
La Voulzie, France O O
Lower Saxony, Germany - External
Derg, Northern Ireland + Internal
Overijssel, the Netherlands - External
Brabant, the Netherlands + Internal + External
Vansjø, Norway + Internal

For existing MAPs, less changes maybe expected, as expressed by the La Voulzie study: “Almost nothing has changed in the French case study (considering the set dimensions). The main explanation is that the MAP has existed for many years; the first measures were taken in the 90’s. So the good habits (and the bad ones) are set. There is interaction and communication in the MAP, but the true difficulty is to keep all the farmers and other stakeholders really involved.”

The French case study is however the only MAP reporting no changes at all. The functioning of the MAP improved in the UoL-driven case study in England. An external factor (national legislation) caused phasing out of the pesticide metaldehyde, which was one of the aspects of concern in the MAP. However, the MAP showed agile and able to consider other water quality challenges with regards to farming as well. A relevant internal factor is that the initiators of the MAP have been able to increase the number of stakeholders engaged, and hence broadening the MAP as an arena. This has positively affected the power balance in the MAP. The increased number of participants has created synergies in terms of mutual learning, while also had a positive impact on the resources: “The MAP process of seeking to involve more stakeholders resulted in more local funding, albeit in small amounts”.

In Derg, stakeholders have over time become much better informed about the purpose of the MAP, and processes that are ongoing to achieve this. Due to these MAP activities the scores for ‘shared goals’ increased over the lifetime of FAIRWAY. The fact that stakeholders were better informed also improved the synergy of the interaction: “With a greater understanding of shared goals, there is a greater willingness to consider different solutions”.

The Vansjø MAP has over the last years experienced increased interaction with civil society and farmers. The MAP, through its daily manager, has been key to access funds to local projects involving local actors, including farmers. One example recently observed is a project involving tree planting along rivers and streams. Another example is a focus group discussion organised as part of FAIRWAY’s involvement with the MAP, consisting of farmers, farm advisors on municipal level, and regional state authorities. The aim of the focus group was getting input to a process of revising a Regional Environmental Programme, that includes economic and soft incentives for implementation of measures. This initiative was set up to face the challenge of limited farmers’ involvement in policy development.

Despite the effort put into meaningful engagement and knowledge transfer though a range of MAP activities, some existing MAPs report a decrease in dimensions describing the functioning of the MAPs. In the Lower Saxony case study this is attributed to external factors. These relate to impacts on agriculture and/or the economics of the farms, such as drought and the prices for agricultural products, but are also related to external factors such as COVID-19: “The MAP has been affected by various external changes (changing fertilization law, weather extremes, volatile prices for fertilizers and animal products, coronavirus pandemic, etc.). […] Up to now the MAP has been able to adapt to these changes and participants of all different actor groups still participated in the meetings and joined the discussions. However, the coronavirus-caused online meeting prevented informal communication which made the meetings less interactive”. National and regional regulations also decrease the functioning of the MAPs decision space: “MAP participant experienced that despite their work within the MAPs, new top-down regulations on both national and federal state level were imposed on agricultural management. For the MAPs it is quite frustrating since they experienced that these kinds of voluntary and interactive approaches are not appreciated by higher-level decision-makers.” So, over time, external factors affected the functioning of the German MAP despite the effort which was put into the engagement processes.

The Dutch case study Overijssel showed a decrease in power balance, shared goals and synergies of the interaction. The MAP, as a provincial project, became part of a National Agreement regarding nitrate leaching in vulnerable groundwater protection areas. Consequently, the power balance and decision space of the provincial project decreased. Power did now only shift from regional to national level, also from the farmers to the authorities, as strict objectives were part of the national agreement. Since these time-bound objectives are not possible to influence, farmers changed their attitude and in meetings the groundwater quality goals were referred to as goals of the authorities rather than shared goals of the case study. In addition, the synergies of the interaction decreased: “Objectives (nitrate concentrations in groundwater) are not met. Farmers are concerned about 'what's next'. And farmers are more directly asking to get something in return, indicating that 'mutual gains' are not felt as mutual gains by the farmers”. Important reasons for this decrease in the functioning of the MAP also has to do with other external factors, such as socio-economic pressures on agriculture and increasing evidence and reports showing the impact of Dutch agriculture on the environmental quality in general and specifically in vulnerable natural areas. As result, the trust of farmers in the Dutch government is low. From an I&O Research survey among 1.000 farmers for a national Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, only 4% of the farmers mention that they trust the government (see Figure 4).

D2.2 fig04
Figure 4

Despite the pressure of civil society on agriculture in general, the engagement process of the Dutch case study Noord Brabant is not really affected. This might be due to the fact that a specific time-bound objective of pesticides in vulnerable drinking water protection areas is missing, in combination with the fact that the objectives can be met without business economic losses (van den Brink, Hoogendoorn et al. 2021). In addition, the Brabant case benefits from external research in which groundwater friendly techniques were developed, and available to the project. Concern in the engagement process was the ending of the project phase 2016 – 2020 and starting the next project phase: “The 2016 project ended at the end of 2020. The process to develop and start a new version of the project took a long time, so an interim project was started. This interim project had limited funding, and in combination with Covid-19 this resulted in fewer activities for farmers. Out of sight, out of mind applies to this situation.” The province of Brabant and the MAP participants have now decided to prolong the project with at least two more years. In this new period the MAP will focus on both stimulation of farmers, as well as options to include regional regulations, to achieve protection of the groundwater sources.



For full references to papers quoted in this article see »References

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