Learning Areas’ (LA) Innovation Seminars

As part of “WP2: Learning innovation from the grassroots”, each Learning Area (LA) organised Innovation Seminars for its key actors in HNV farming activities. Innovation seminars were held after completion of the Baseline Assessment when coordinators had already started collecting innovations from the respective LAs. The common objectives of the events were to:

  • Discuss and validate the HNV vision for the LA, and the main barriers to achieving it;
  • Discuss and select the most relevant HNV innovations and gaps in innovation for the LA;
  • Reach an agreement on which innovations need to be promoted and discuss what steps could be taken to develop a dissemination strategy at the regional/LA level to promote those innovations.

Given the large diversity of situations in the different LAs for not only geographical and socio-economic contexts, but also the actors involved and the current stage of HNV innovations, each LA team adapted and modified the initial project-level guidelines to the particular setting of their own LA.

Learning Areas:

Bulgaria, Western Stara Plana

02.06.2017 In the village of Spanchevtsi, Varshets Municipality

The Innovation Seminar, as well as work in the LA preceding it, showed the need and usefulness of targeted thematic workshops with different stakeholder groups. These insured transfer of information and increased the knowledge of all stakeholders by creating a platform for constructive discussions between different actors, sharing experience and innovative solutions, spreading new practices and knowledge, and discussing ideas for promoting the benefits of HNV farming in the LA. This work led to the formulation of a long-term vision for the conservation and development of HNV farming in the LA: "Agricultural modernization taking into account the natural and cultural heritage in the region”. The vision is a precondition for an integrated socio-economic development and nature conservation of the area. In the vision, farming activities and production practices will inevitably modernize but will conform to the characteristics of the learning area and will maintain the landscape and natural resources in protected areas and HNV farmlands.

Participants discussed the challenges and the necessary innovative solutions for ensuring both biodiversity conservation and the socio-economic sustainability of HNV farmland. The most important issues are: developing and introducing new technologies and farming techniques tailored to the requirements for Natura 2000 sites and HNV farmland; developing or sourcing technologies for removal and use of bracken; creating a regional or product brand promoting the benefits of products from grazing livestock; fostering cooperation between farmers, and setting up an operational group and mobile advisory services for HNV farmers. Many of the innovative solutions depend on a stable and robust regulatory framework. The proposed recommendations focus on: adapting the rules for CAP Pillar 1 support to the needs of HNV farming; tailoring the criteria of national coupled livestock support to regional conditions; developing long-term contracts for municipal grasslands; creating regulation for direct sales of plant products and meat.

Croatia, Dalmatian Islands

17.07.2017 City of Korcula

The Innovation Seminar was opened by the LAG 5 president Vjeran Filippi and the mayor of Korčula Andrija Fabris. Representatives of the public, private, civil and scientific sectors participated in the seminar. They discussed the results of the conducted research; and the possibilities and limitations of the HNV farming vision for the islands. The proposed HNV vision is: “A preserved mosaic landscape resulting from the interrelationship between low intensity agriculture and rural tourism based on local resources and top-quality products”. The seminar participants emphasized that it is necessary to identify and map key agricultural and other related businesses that will be the guardians of HNV for the LA through an inventory of existing resources, market situation and examples of best practices in order to argue for the economic potential of preserving the HNV mosaic landscape.

France, Causses and Cevennes

13.07.2017 Village of Caylar

Twenty actors of agro-pastoralism gathered for the Innovation Seminar to discuss innovations and innovation gaps related to pastoralism on Causses and Cevennes. The meeting highlighted some innovations that support maintaining and developing agro-pastoralism and also hosted discussions on issues of pastoral practices. Participants cited the innovative approach of the Pastoral Pact concerning land management and the European Life+ Mil'Ouv programme for the construction of pastoral benchmarks, as well as the many collective approaches of breeders as successful examples for improving the value of the pastoralism. However, the actors underlined important obstacles to the development of pastoral activities: predation, lack of access to land, lack of attractiveness of shepherding as a profession, loss of the notion of multifunctionality of livestock, lack of knowledge about the impact of climate change on rangelands and woodlands, and the loss of collective tools related to livestock (slaughterhouses).

Greece, Thessaly

18.07.2017 Mouzaki

The main objectives of the Innovation Seminar in LA Thessalia were:

  1. the adoption of a common vision in order to support the HNV farming systems of the area;
  2. the analysis of the barriers and opportunities so that the local bodies can promote their common vision by searching for the most effective cooperation and coordination forms;
  3. the search for innovative actions able to support the HNV character of the farming systems and also promote their products.

Among the participants were: the Mayors of PINDOS Network, National Park of Tzoumerka, Development Agencies of Karditsa and Trikala, Environmental bodies (GreenArc, CEE of Mouzaki), Public Services (Department of Rural Economy and Veterinary -DAOK Karditsas and Forestry Office of Trikala), Thessaly Agrotourism Association, livestock breeders and farmers from the area of Mouzaki and Pyli, and Laboratory of Rural Space.

A key outcome of the seminar was the decision support the initiative suggested by the Municipalities within the LA and to establish a network represented by the PINDOS Network for the creation of a new form of governance with the main purpose of supporting the LA's HNV farmland. The seminar resulted in creation of an initiative committee to network with the farmers that are newcomers to HNV holdings. At the same time, the research laboratories of three universities and two local development agencies committed to immediately creating a coordination and support center. These two new institutions will participate in the governance structure of the HNV LA. Finally, all the participants of the seminar agreed to further use and expand the innovative Terra Thessalia Territorial Cooperation initiative as i) a collaboration and cooperation forum and ii) a guarantee and promotion body for using innovative tools for the multifunctional and HNV farming systems in the LA.

Ireland, The Burren

13.07.2017 Kilfenora Hall, Kilfenora, Co. Clare

Objectives of the Burren Innovation Seminar were to:

  • discuss and agree on a vision for High Nature Value (HNV) farming in the Burren;
  • identify the main barriers to realizing this vision;
  • identify the key innovations required to overcome these barriers and create new opportunities;
  • discuss the development of a dissemination strategy to promote key innovations.

A total of 60 participants attended the Innovation Seminar, including, 15 local farmers and a range of national and local organisations. The latter include: the Irish Farmers Association (IFA); Burren Farm Advisors (including Teagasc); Burren Programme; Burrenbeo Trust; Burren Geopark Project; Burren Ecotourism Network; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; National Parks and Wildlife Service; Local Authorities; Leader Group; IT Sligo; and The Heritage Council.

Organizers emphasised that the seminar was about the future of farming in the Burren. The Burren is currently a leader for change, but many challenges – and a significant window of opportunity - remain. What can be done to ensure a brighter future for young people and attract them to a life in farming? Brendan Dunford highlighted the HNV LINK project and the potential benefits of the network of Learning Areas involved in HNV-Link and acknowledged the opportunity this brings to share knowledge, ideas and experiences.

The seminar involved participants partaking in two workshops which are summarised in sections 2 and 3 of the national language report. A public event to celebrate the awarding of the EU LIFE Green Award to BurrenLIFE and the Burren farming community followed the seminar. Over 200 people, mostly local farmers and their families, attended this event, where the achievements of the Burren programme to date were described and the development of the HNV farming vision outlined. Michael Creed TD, The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, formally presented The ‘Green’ award to the community. During his speech, the Minister announced that this year’s Burren Winterage School would take place from the 26-28th of October in Ballyvaughan. The theme of this year’s school will be “Community inspired innovation for sustainable farming systems”.

The proposed HNV vision for the Burren is: “The Burren will be an increasingly attractive place to live and farm, a place where farm families enjoy the support and respect of society as they produce quality food and deliver valued services, thereby sustaining the Burren’s rich heritage for the benefit of all.”

Portugal, Sítio de Monfurado

30.06.2017 Library - Montemor o novo

The Innovation Seminar was integrated in an established initiative dedicated to the Montado, called the Tertúlia do Montado. 26 stakeholders, involved directly or indirectly in the LA and coming from different sectors, gathered with the purpose of discussing new ways of improving the economic and social viability of the Montado while maintaining its natural values.

Participants unanimously supported the HNV Vision for the Montado developed under the HNV-Link and also provided suggestions for additions regarding the need for a more explicit presence of the human component and an explicit notion of the large time lapse occurring between management options and their consequences within the ecosystem of the Montado.

Two farmers and a LAG from Andalusia (Spain) presented inspiring examples of innovation mostly related to commercialization of products and the development of a territorial brand. Among all participants, the most popular example of innovation was work on soil fertility as the core of the Montado system. This was followed by protection devices for oak recruitment and the development of a territorial Montado quality brand.

Participants discussed details related to the implementation of these innovations. There was general agreement that the most effective way of implementing innovations would be through the use of specifically developed agri-environmental measures for a “well preserved Montado”. The objective of the next Tertulia will be to jointly outline an agri-environmental measure capable of contributing to the sustainable management of the Montado as an agro-silvo-pastoral system. Taking advantage of the skills of all participants, the idea will be to contribute to the design of that measure, how it can be put into practice and how the results can be measured on the ground.

Romania, Eastern Hills of Cluj

06.06.2017 Bonțida Commune

The Innovation Seminar validated the main trends the team identified for the Learning Area (LA) in its Baseline Assessment. The main trends are: 1) an ongoing phenomenon of degradation caused by the alteration of the traditional agricultural practices and intensification due to the increase of sheep livestock; 2) an increasingly aging population, especially for the rural communities that have important HNV resources; 3) regional HNV farming characterized by grazing and mowing a mosaic system of natural pastures; 4) manual mowing increasingly becoming the exception rather than the norm in recent years due to its high labour input; 5) inconsistencies exist both in the administrative organization (communes belonging to different administrative associative structures with specific objectives and instruments) and in the implementation of agricultural policies, especially for the agri-environment measures; and 6) the value chain for HNV products currently promotes mainly low-value-added products.

The seminar participants discussed hypothetical scenarios for future development of the LA. A drastic reduction of the traditional farming practices and an increase in the importance of intensive techniques are anticipated. These phenomena will lead to the destruction and drastic decline of the HNV resources. Participants validated an alternative vision for the sustainable development of HNV farming. For this vision, the future development must be based on the promotion of medium-sized farms operating in an associative structure through which high value-added products can be marketed under a local brand. The main barriers to this vision (economic, social, technical, governance) have been prioritized by the key local actors as: an acute shortage of processing capacities (economic); the need for information and entrepreneurial skills (social); innovations are needed to establish small processing facilities adapted to the needs of HNV agriculture, veterinary regulations and farm investment capacity (technical); future innovative farming associative solutions and better cooperation between different state institutions and local actors are needed (governance). Starting from these barriers, a number of innovations have been identified using the literature review at local and national level. Innovative solutions for selling agricultural products have been developed locally; several machines that allow ecological mowing were tested locally; Innovative governance tools have been developed in the form of agri-environment packages and management plans.

Spain, La Vera

13.07.2017 Losar de la Vera

The Innovation Seminar drew together 10 experts (in livestock systems, pasture management, nature conservation, dairy processing systems, EU policies) and producers. They worked through and refined the HNV vision, barriers and innovation proposals developed by the HNV-LINK team and local partners over the course of the project so far. The seminar enhanced closer cooperation and synergies between projects in similar areas of Extremadura.

HNV-Link in La Vera focuses on finding innovative solutions to improve extensive livestock farming (mainly goat and cattle) in the area, which is has experienced a long process of neglect and degradation. These innovative solutions can be applied at different levels and by different agents. However, one of the keys to this process is to bring all these agents together for developing a collaborative framework facilitating agreement and joint action. The project has been making progress throughout 2017 through contacting government agencies and active stakeholders to develop a broad process of participation working on these issues.

This work includes a diagnosis performed using conventional scientific research tools as well as social and participatory mechanisms, and is covered in the "Baseline Assessment" report. Separately, networking with the relevant regional government departments seeks to develop practical solutions through policy adaptation. A third line of work, also participatory, aims to detect and characterize local innovation strategies to potentially ensure the sustainability of HNV systems.

Through bilateral interviews and two thematic workshops (one on products and markets, the other on pastures and landscapes), we defined the “business as usual” or BAU scenario and the desired HNV scenario. The participants in the workshops and in the Innovation Seminar tried to identify the barriers and constraints that are preventing the sustainable development of extensive livestock farming in La Vera. They also sought to identify innovative proposals to make the HNV scenario possible.

The HNV scenario is an active and attractive countryside, appreciated by both inhabitants and tourists. It is a productive area with sustainably used local natural resources. The high mountains include a variety of grasslands used by cattle and small ruminants, including in the vast areas of mountain rangelands. The upland slopes are maintained under a mosaic of crops (fruit trees, olive and chestnut trees) alternating with pastures and meadows embedded in a matrix of Pyrenean Oak woodlands kept in different successional stages. This set of pastures and woodlands maintains a silvopastoral system upholding both multifunctional production and a high level of biodiversity and environmental services. The lowlands include active and well-managed meadows and dehesas, exploited in a sustainable way and closely related to extensive farming. Local products, made by extensive farmers and local entrepreneurs who share the above objectives, are recognized and valued, whilst their sale is facilitated through active local markets.

Sweden, Dalsland

13.06.2017 Upperud

From winter to early summer 2017, the HNV-Link team in Dalsland Learning Area (LA) held seven workshops at different locations in Dalsland to discuss how the great natural values found in the Dalsland farming landscape can be further enhanced. Some fifty people participated, which also reflected most actors who have an interest in these issues - from landowners and farmers to authorities and environmental organizations. At the concluding Innovation Seminar, the full focus was on what innovations are needed to get from where we are today to where we want to be in the future.

Several actors emphasized that we need a common HNV-Dalsland arena where decisions can be made and where all actors participate on the same terms. Within this arena, we need to work with a large number of perspectives and scales in parallel. Another conclusion from the innovation seminar was that we quickly need to organize work for both the short and long time scale, that is, both the time scale "parallel to, as well as after the HNV-project". We must secure the prerequisites for working with the HNV-questions in the long term!

There was also a broad consensus that it is important to quickly get started with practical, visible measures to maintain the energy and interest of all actors. This in turn will further accentuate the need for a holistic approach to the economic perspectives and scales. How the economic issues will be solved will be one of the red threads at the autumn's HNV activities in Dalsland.

The UK, The Dartmoor

01.08.2017 Dartmoor

The Dartmoor Innovation Seminar followed a series of meetings with individuals or small groups to seek potential issues that may require an innovative solution; this appears to be a more constructive approach for some audiences/participants, especially for farmers who may be reluctant to contribute in larger meetings. About 20 individuals were invited to the seminar and 16 attended. Attendees represented Natural England, Dartmoor National Park Authority, Forestry Commission, and farmers. The meeting was divided into two parts, the first to present and verify the accuracy of findings and the second to explore the areas where new innovation may be required. The majority of the information gathered reflected our prepared presentation, although some new aspects were captured and incorporated into the final version of the innovation report.

Overall, we noted that the farming community on Dartmoor – an area that is largely high nature value – and, especially the farmers who farm the common land, are resilient and have a culture of community engagement. These attributes and the support and encouragement provided by a national park authority and common owners have often combined, not least at times of crisis, to enable ideas to develop into innovations that seek to bring improvements to how the moorland is managed.

From a longer list, the seminar participants chose five innovations to demonstrate a range of efforts that help farmers by providing clearer guidance (the long-term Vision), engagement in the design and trialling of an outcome focused agri-environment scheme (Dartmoor Farming Futures) and two attempts to improve regulation and practice by making them more practical and deliverable, (TB Control Plans and the Fire Management Plans). The last innovation is the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, a farmer-led governance of the common land that is underpinned by a legal framework.

Consultations with the local community have confirmed the need for innovations to continue to develop. The factors likely to influence the success or lack of success of these new innovations include the identification of a clear need, capacity within the users of potential innovations to develop the ideas and external support, including funding.