In almost all countries – with some important exceptions, such as France – agroecology as a term is rarely, if ever, used. There is hence confusion around its definition, and by consequence, agroecology is poorly recognised. This does not only lead to a lack of data available on financial support for agroecology, but in many cases also to a lack of financial support at all.
While in some countries, data is available on finance for organic agriculture or environmental measures (such as biodiversity-enhancing practices or water conservation), this is often only available piecemeal or in highly aggregated form. This lack of data on agroecology spending is compounded by diverse reporting mechanisms and periods, both within and between countries, making cross-comparability difficult if not impossible.
While some countries have additional funding schemes, e.g. via national or regional agricultural funds for discrete initiatives, the bulk of funding that might support agroecology on the ground is – in the EU context – financial contributions via the CAP, pillars 1 and 2.
Several respondents commented that biodiversity- and climate-focused funding schemes, sometimes open for applications from food producers and land owners, can contribute to agroecological initiatives. However, there is still a strong dichotomy between environment and climate on the one side, and food production on the other, often materially manifested in the separation of governmental institutions and ministries along these lines. Conversations have hence remained siloed, contributing to the failure to recognise the multiple values of agroecological production and their holistic/integrated dimensions.
While serious limitations remain, agri-environment measures, including the eco-schemes of the reformed CAP are seen by most respondents as potentially supportive of agroecological initiatives. However, some have pointed out that such measures can also work to undermine agroecological development by creating ‘contra-productive incentives’, such as the removal of old-growth hedgerows to be able to qualify for funds for planting new hedgerows.
Respondents overwhelmingly pointed to the local scale as the ideal scale for funding local initiatives, underlining the important role of municipal governments in the distribution of funds. Yet this channel of funding is unevenly used: not all municipalities in all countries administer funding for agricultural development. Funding via the LEADER approach and Local Action Groups was highly praised by multiple respondents, supporting the view that the local scale is crucial to effecting agroecological transitions.
Similarly, it was pointed out that smaller amounts of funding for small initiatives, small groups or cooperatives generally have a stronger impact on enhancing agroecological development than large-scale funding for large programmes, often only accessible to large farms and businesses due to the transaction costs involved in the application.
Local awareness is developing and pressure to improve current farming practices is coming from the people, locally. Liberec region has now established a fund for the district, totalling for the first season in 2021, 25,000 Euros taken from the regional public budget. Practitioners comment that even small amounts can make a big difference for local producers. And they also acknowledge the fact that agroecological farmers are not able to access funds from national budgets. The new system makes it very easy for farmers to access money quickly and easily. Farmers can ask any amount below 10,000 Euros. They usually ask between 1 to 3,000 Euros. The money is dedicated to “small family ecology base farming”. How does it work? All farmers receive an email to inform about the fund; the application form is very simple, only 2 pages; 50% is given up-front; it is quick, the money is available in less than 2 months; the selection process is transparent, points appear with score as it is being filled in.
Based on this study, we recommend the following actions to be taken by policy makers at the EU and country levels, in order to provide a robust foundation for the development of funding mechanisms enabling a European agroecological transition of food and farming systems:
Think and act systemically
Build understanding of and capacity for agroecology
Create intelligent and responsive funding mechanisms
Create an enabling environment for agroecology
Authors of the report
Ulrich Schmutz, Angela Hilmi, Nina Moeller, Lindy Binder, Sara Burbi and Michel Pimbert (CU)
Editors of the report Baptiste Grard and Alexander Wezel (ISARA)
Extracted article edited by Alice Fasso (UNISG)