HNV-Link Newsletter #2 (2017)

HNV-Link project aims to identify and share innovations that support farming systems in areas of high biodiversity across Europe. It supports efficient innovation transfer between its 10 Learning Areas.

Full speed ahead!

Following the first Network Meeting (August 2016), the HNV-Link project has been working more intensively in the project Learning Areas. Work has focused on identifying the challenges facing High Nature Value (HNV) farming at local level and the innovative solutions that have the best chance of overcoming these challenges.

In this Newsletter you will find out how we define “HNV innovation” and get a glimpse into the grassroots-level activities of the project.

Identifying challenges and searching for innovations - a Literature review

We define “HNV farming innovation” as an innovation that is able to conserve the HNV characteristics of a farming system while addressing one or more of the economic, social or environmental needs of that system. This notion of “HNV farming innovation” differs from “general” innovations that aim at economic, social and/or environmental goals, but that are not (necessarily) consistent with the conservation of a significant area of semi-natural vegetation within the farming system. Understanding what makes the HNV farming innovation special and effective is a key aspect of HNV-Link.

In order to find these HNV farming innovations, HNV-Link team has reviewed available research across the EU aiming to answer two questions: What types of innovations and innovation processes are improving the socio-economic viability of HNV farms and communities? What types of innovation are less successful in this respect?

The main lesson from the research review was the generally low incidence of innovations of relevance to HNV farmland and/or the poor reporting of them in the literature in English. Innovation literature is also so far dominated more by “wishful thinking” than by practical experience.

Baseline Assessment

The nature of innovation is usually context-specific; this is also true for HNV farming systems. In order to understand the particular challenges and needs of each HNV-Link Learning area, HNV-Link teams have conducted Baseline Assessments. Using a common methodology, the area’s particular characteristics in terms of ecology, farming systems and institutional framework have been described. A key function of these assessments is to compare the consequences of a “business as usual” scenario of each Learning Area with a desirable vision for its sustainable management. Each Learning Area team have thus addressed two key questions: What would take place in my Learning Area without innovation specifically addressing HNV farming? With what consequences for  the economy and biodiversity of farms?

Baseline Assessments have engaged actors at local and regional levels in a collaborative process of identifying the problems and establishing a network for further work on looking for solutions. As the Learning Areas differ greatly in terms of the information already available to the project teams, so have the approaches taken. While partners in some areas have enjoyed benefits from previous projects (e.g. Burren area in Ireland), in other areas, such as Croatia and Romania, the teams have had to conduct in-depth evaluation.

The results of the Baseline Assessment will be presented in the IALE 2017 conference, 12-15 September, 2017 in Ghent, at the symposium "Reconciling agriculture and nature conservation across scales: challenges and opportunities for future social-ecological sustainability of high nature value farmlands". They will also be a part of the interactive Innovation Map, available on the HNV-Link website by September 2018.

Fostering knowledge-sharing

In the Dalmatian Islands Learning Area, the Baseline Assessment of HNV-Link is strengthened by a “Strategic Environmental Management Assessment” carried out by a team of 27 students and four professors from AgroParisTech (France), CIHEAM-IAMM (project partner in France) and the Faculty of Economics of Split University (Croatia). This joint Franco-Croatian fieldwork, supported by the French Embassy, will foster knowledge-sharing and methodological exchanges and provides European added value to HNV farming issues in Mediterranean context.

Launching the project on the 20th of February, 2017, Mr. Philippe Meunier (French Ambassador to Croatia) emphasised the importance of youth exchange in cooperation activities, since young people will determine future of the Islands. He also highlighted the usefulness of collaborative research within the European framework, something which fosters innovative pathways to the sustainable development of rural territories. He applauded LAG5 (project partner in Croatia) and its collaborators for their efforts to link HNV farming and sustainable tourism as the two pillars of development for the Dalmatian Islands.

Local actors as important contributors

Work on visioning HNV farming in Romania involved a whole series of local events across Transylvania during January-March 2017. The project partner in Romania – the Department of Economic Sciences in the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Cluj-Napoca – conducted seminars in communes of Apahida, Jucu, Cornești, Dăbâca, Borsa, Vultureni and Bonțida. Work focused at valorising HNV farming values and possibilities for rural development, and identifying funding opportunities for supporting HNV farming systems as part of strategic planning by the respective Local Action Groups. This contributed to the formulation of an up-to-date assessment which really reflects local knowledge and needs.

Innovation examples from the grassroots

In addition to a review on existing HNV farming innovation in literature, HNV-Link is gathering HNV farming innovation examples from the project’s ten Learning Areas and the respective countries. To do this, the Learning Area teams have used a specially designed “innovation fiche” as a template for gathering and reporting the key features of the most relevant innovative actions.

After collecting these preliminary examples of innovation, each Learning Area team will hold a multi-actor workshop in June to further discuss the vision for HNV farming, existing best innovative practices and the innovation gaps that need to be addressed in order to reach the area’s HNV vision. The ten Learning Areas will share their results at an Innovation Fair, organised during the second HNV-Link Network Meeting in October 2017 where they will show-case the best innovation examples from their areas and will learn about innovative solutions in other areas. Each Learning Area team will choose a solution that best fits its needs and will visit the Learning Area with that particular innovation in order to learn about it first-hand. This marks the beginning of a crucial dissemination phase, where we will focus on getting some of the innovations to disperse to other areas.

By the project end in 2019, the project team will produce the Innovation Compendium (with all collected innovation examples) and Atlas of the HNV farmland areas, their challenges, vision and innovations - both will be freely available online.

National networking

HNV-Link project relies on and supports efficient networking within and across the Learning Areas. During the first months of the project, many regional and national networking events have taken place and fruitful connections have emerged.

​Celebrating innovation in Dartmoor

40 farmers and other stakeholders from the Dartmoor Learning Area and further afield, including the Burren Learning Area,  gathered in the Ilsington Hotel on the 13th and 14th of March for a joint HNV Link/Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) conference.  The event 'Locally led agri-environment schemes - from a farmer’s perspective' was a chance to celebrate one of the Learning Area's most significant innovations - the Dartmoor Farming Futures agri-environment pilot. At the meeting, DNPA launched an evaluation report of farmers' attitudes towards the project, which highlighted the process of engagement leading to greater understanding and ownership of outcomes among the farming community.

First steps of a new Monitoring Center in Thessalia

The project partner in Greece - the University of Thessaly - organised a critically important meeting on the 12th of February 2017 in the city of Mouzaki. The team had acknowledged that understanding of the HNV farming concept by regional authorities and obtaining their support are both crucial to the success of the work going forward. Eight mayors, whose municipalities belong to the HNV-Link Learning Area of Thessaly, participated. In the meeting, the current situation and the future of HNV farming systems were discussed and the added value provided by existing HNV farming resources were outlined.

The meeting culminated in reaching a common agreement to create a Monitoring Center to achieve better coordination between the involved institutions and to valorise the Pindos mountain area as High Nature Value farmland.

For more information, contact Dimitra Gaki,

Need for an Irish HNV Network?

The HNV-Link team in Ireland facilitated a workshop “High Nature Value Farming – time for an Irish Network?" during the Burren Winterage Weekend (27-29 October, 2016), an event attended by over 100 participants. It was acknowledged that such a network already exists de facto but informally. Formalising the existing network and facilitating exchange visits among all HNV areas in the country would be a good start. It was stressed that the network should facilitate communication, not advocate on behalf of an issue or a group, and that all members need to contribute something to avoid a one-way information flow.​

In the workshop, the role of local champions was highlighted: the network should specifically provide these people with assistance to raise awareness of the needs of their areas and to take things forward there. The workshops also tackled different methods of sharing experiences and transferring knowledge, such as email-lists and exchange visits.

For the full workshop results, read the report. For more information, contact Caroline Sullivan at or take a look at the High Nature Value Farming in the UK and Ireland Facebook-page. 

April is the #HNVmatters month!

The concept of HNV farming is an umbrella term covering a wide range of different farming systems, unique areas, traditions and communities. To valorise the diversity of HNV farming areas, HNV farming systems and issues, HNV-Link invites everyone to share their experiences and knowledge related to HNV farming.

How to take part? Just use the #HNVmatters in social media and let the world know of the issues related to HNV farming. Share an example of a HNV farming area, introduce a farmer, a species, or your favorite HNV farming product – whatever you want to highlight. If you are not keen on using social media yourself, but wish to take part, you can contact us via and we will post your idea/photo/comment to our social media groups in Twitter and Facebook.

Let’s draw attention to the fascinating world of High Nature Value farming!

Making the Future of CAP more HNV friendly

The consultation on the future of the CAP - “Consultation on modernising and simplifying the common agricultural policy (CAP)” is open till 2nd May, 2017. As part of it, the Commission invites the public, consumers and other groups to complete an online questionnaire.

Since the CAP is most relevant for the future of HNV farming, HNV-Link project encourages everyone interested to participate in the process. You can either respond in your professional capacity or on behalf of an organisation (NGO, institution etc.) or as an individual.

You can answer the questionnaire in any EU language at - website. Don’t miss the opportunity to share your views on the future of the CAP!

Educational package on HNV farming

Educators in vocational and higher education are key actors in building up awareness about HNV farming. To facilitate this work, HNV-Link will identify ready-made educational materials on the HNV farming theme and compile them into an educational package. The package will consist of presentation slides and exemplar assignments for class and field or farm work, and will be available as open source resources.

If you would like to contribute to this work or benefit from its outputs, contact us

Connecting with the work of others

We keep our eyes open for outcomes from and lessons learnt in other relevant projects. We recommend getting acquainted with projects such as Agrispin, Pegasus, Simra and FARSYD. Several of them have produced impressive outputs, which HNV-Link will also use as a basis for its work. More interesting projects can be found at the CAPSELLA and EIP-Agri websites.

If you are working on related issues and would like to explore synergies, just get in touch! 

We are at Contact us: , follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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