Evaluation of agri-environmental participatory extension programmes
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date01/07/2021
Due to negative impacts on the environment, such as emission of greenhouse gases and pollution of surface and ground water, the agricultural sector has come under increasing scrutiny by wider society. A range of environmental policies and regulations have been developed to create a more environmentally sustainable farming culture, but successful implementation is complex due to the biophysical, economic and social heterogeneity of farms. Therefore, change towards more environmentally sustainable farming has been partially reliant on policies that stimulate voluntary change, such as participatory (research and) extension programmes (PEPs). In PEPs, farmers are participants in knowledge generation and practice change by introducing practices via experimentation on farm and subsequently demonstrating and scrutinising these in discussion groups with peers, experts and researchers. Given the public investment in PEPs, the increasing requirement for accountability by policy makers and funding bodies, and the uncertainty around the contribution to environmental targets, it is important that these programmes are reliably evaluated. This thesis addresses the topic of evaluation by: i) presenting a literature review of the current state of PEP evaluation; ii) conducting a mixed-method ex-post evaluation of an agri-environmental PEP in Scotland; iii) conducting an explanatory study on farmer decision-making regarding the uptake of environmental practices in New Zealand; and iv) studying the change within the culture of farming in New Zealand and Scotland due to environmental pressures and the role of PEPs in that change. The findings show that quantitative and qualitative methods are required to comprehensively assess the effect of PEPs beyond practice adoption, as well as longitudinal data collection to correctly quantify the effect of PEP participation. Furthermore, heterogeneity in decision-making factors is observed amongst farmers, which has to be taken into account when designing a PEP. Moreover, achieving sustained environmental change requires more than practice change, such as redefining the values and beliefs guiding farming culture. PEPs can be instrumental in achieving change beyond practice adoption, but additional policy tools, such as regulation and market-based instruments, are required to achieve successful change. The contribution of this thesis is four-fold: i) it presents one of the first evaluations of climate change PEPs in peer-reviewed literature; ii) it contributes to the development of a mixed methods approach for evaluation; iii) it provides insight into farmer decision-making around water quality issues in countries with low regulation; and iv) it considers PEP evaluation from a novel institutional logics perspective.