Towards a more resilient agricultural policy
A basic ABC to transform the CAP into a more resilience-enabling policy framework.
The main factor in a resilience-focused Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would be supporting adaptive and collaborative strategies. This is not easy as the performance assessment of dynamic policies is complicated — in some contexts, it may even be impossible. Yet, if we only reward pre-determined and uniform management outcomes in agriculture, it is inevitable that resilience would be compromised and, in some or many cases, agroecosystems would collapse. To transform the CAP into a more resilience-enabling policy framework, it should do four things:
Recognize adaptive management as an eligible land-use strategy
Adaptive management means an experimentative approach to land use: the manager does not claim to know the outcomes of the management decisions, rather has hypotheses about the expected responses and their interventions are viewed as experiments. Some goals are permanent (such as maintaining productivity and biodiversity or minimizing pest outbreaks) but the means to achieve these goals are flexible. Allowing and supporting adaptive management within the CAP would imply that funding schemes should incentivize experimentation and reward success. Strategies that were tested in this framework could later inform agricultural policy at the continental level.
Monitor resilience on a continental scale
Monitoring together the weather, crop yield, soil type, and vegetation offers valuable information about the stability of agricultural landscapes. Higher volatility, high dependence on inputs, and recent weather patterns signal a higher level of vulnerability. In these cases, some level of transformation is necessary for the local system. Agroecosystems with declining yields and high yield volatility could be lower risk target areas for systems transformation projects.
Many times, farmers know that another strategy would fit better the current and expected future conditions, but the transformation is costly — thus, they are not able to afford the change. New machinery, education on new methods for workers and, possibly, new markets are also necessary. The CAP could fund farming transformations if the outcome of the change improves nature conservation or adapts a resilience-increasing policy.
Support micro-level monitoring
Farming usually does not involve systematic monitoring of the ecosystem. Of course, farmers know their environment — often not just their crops, but wildlife — yet, many of the important variables have to be measured and often on a larger scale than just the area of one farm. The CAP should finance ecological monitoring efforts in a way that incentivizes collaboration among farmers to establish common data collection schemes.