What makes schemes work from farmers’ perspectives

For those of you who could not join the RBAPS conference in Brussels at the end of September and for those who did and have more to say, we would like to encourage your contributions to the discussion we had on identifying what works from a farmers’ perspective.
The discussion focused particularly on:
– how best to engage farmers in results-based schemes,
– what makes a scheme attractive, and
– the nature of the advice and support needed.



What appeals to farmers?

Farmers in the room argued that a results-based scheme needs to appeal to a farmers’ sense of pride and responsibility. Joining a scheme must be perceived as more than having to comply with scheme requirements. If biodiversity can be viewed as a farm product this can generate a sense of pride in protecting or actively managing specific species and habitats.

The value of using labels and competitions to develop this sense of pride and responsibility among farmers was highlighted as well as its usefulness in spreading the word. The French “Prairies Fleuries” scheme, which hosts a major competition each year, has become popular with farmers in large part thanks to this competition. Involving the media and raising the profile of the biodiversity on farms with the general public, for example through local events and demonstration farms, were also considered important.

FR RBAPS farmer monitoring transect4 compressed


What makes a scheme attractive to farmers?

Participants stressed that all agri-environment schemes – not just those that are results-based- need to be voluntary and offer continuity (five to seven years commitment – or longer) to make them attractive. Important aspects of design for results-based schemes were identified as:

• Clarity about the scheme objectives, about how to achieve them and how they relate to the payment (including risk of non-payment).

• Freedom within the scheme to manage land and for farmers to take their own initiative and change management according to the situation.

• Stability and security in relation to the payment – there should be flexibility within the payment to adjust according to market fluctuations affecting the costs incurred by the farmer. Even with clarity about the associated risks of non-payment, a buffer to reduce the risk would make the scheme more attractive to farmers, for example having graduated payment levels depending on the level of results achieved.

• Fair payment in relation to the amount of work expected and requirements set out under other CAP payments. The payment should reflect the balance between effort and changes in management that are needed and include transaction costs.


What is important in terms of advisory support?

Participants noted that advisory support is often better accepted when given between peers, farmer to farmer. However, developing a sense of partnership between farmers, farm advisors and researchers was also seen as important and a good way of building greater commitment to achieving scheme objectives. One specific point emphasised was the need to integrate the advice from ecologists within the context of practical farming operations and to improve ecologists’ understanding of the realities of farming. Lastly, it was stressed that advice needs to be well-coordinated between government departments to avoid the risk of conflicting advice.

NL RBAPS farmers and RBAPS advisors working together compressed


What other factors do you think are needed to make results-based schemes work for farmers? We are keen to hear your views.

What are results-based schemes?

What are results-based schemes and how do they differ from other approaches?

Results-based payments are agri-environment type schemes where farmers and land managers are paid for “delivering” an environmental result or outcome, for example enabling or enhancing the presence on their land of specific breeding birds, butterflies or important flowers found in grasslands. In these schemes, farmers can choose what management is required to achieve the desired result, rather than being required to carry out specific management actions.

Of course, all agri-environment schemes are designed to deliver environmental results; they succeed in this to varying degrees. What defines a results-based scheme is that payments are made where a specific result is indeed achieved, making a direct link between the payment and the delivery of biodiversity or other environmental results on the ground. There are a wide variety of approaches to implementing results-based schemes in practice. Our study has identified a few so called “pure” results-based schemes where farmers receive a payment for a biodiversity outcome independent of what management practices they use.  However, most of the schemes we have come across in this study are what we call “hybrid schemes” where farmers are paid partly for the successful delivery of biodiversity results and partly for adhering to defined management practices or carrying out specific actions.  Sometimes a results-based payment may be offered as a top-up to payments for carrying out specific management actions.

What benefits do they bring?

Focussing payments on achieving results rather than on following a set of management actions offers farmers the flexibility to use their knowledge and experience to manage the land in a way that benefits both biodiversity as well as their normal farming operations.

In so doing results-based payment schemes often lead to an enhanced awareness of the importance of biodiversity conservation and protecting environmental resources as part of their agriculture systems.

How are schemes implemented and funded?

Results-based schemes can be funded in a variety of ways. Existing schemes are funded through public funding such as the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), national or regional funds, as well as private initiatives. They can be implemented through collective approaches, such as in the Netherlands, involve local or indigenous communities, such as the Sami reindeer herders in Sweden, or via individual farmers and land managers. Central to all of these approaches is engaging the knowledge of farmers in managing their land in a way that helps to improve biodiversity delivery as well as other environmental outcomes on the ground alongside their other agricultural activities.

Where can they be found?

There are already a number of results-based approaches operating in the EU and beyond. A variety of schemes can be found in different regions of Germany. France champions a grassland based scheme called “Prairies Fleuries” and an interesting scheme aimed at large mammalian carnivores can be found in Sweden. To explore numerous other EU schemes visit our dedicated inventory or read more in the expert articles on our web platform.

What do you think of paying farmers for achieving biodiversity results rather than only paying for specified management practices? What might be the benefits of this approach? Please post your comments below.

RBPS map

Sharing agri-environment knowledge

Results-based agri-environment schemes – a new project to share knowledge

This project – initiated and funded by the European Parliament and managed by DG Environment – brings together information and experiences from across the EU and beyond on agri-environment type schemes that have been designed to focus on paying farmers, other land managers or local communities for the biodiversity results they deliver. A number of different ways of going about this have been trialled in different countries and these are brought together in an online inventory, explaining their aims, the way they work and what they have achieved so far. In reviewing these schemes, the research team have spoken with many farmers as well as the people who designed and implement the schemes to find out their main benefits and where they are appropriate and where not as well. Key factors of success and barriers to implementation have also been identified.

The project is generating a range of materials to help those interested in developing results-based agri-environment schemes. You will be able to find a practical handbook providing guidelines on how to go about designing a results-based scheme, from design to implementation to monitoring and evaluation. A series of videos have been produced to demonstrate how these types of schemes are operating in different countries, showing examples of good practice and including views from farmers and those running the schemes.

On 23-24 September a conference will be held in Brussels to showcase the range of results-based schemes already existing in the EU and to discuss ways that this type of approach might become more widespread in the future. Information on this and all presentations will also be available on our web platform.

If you are interested in results-based approaches for delivering biodiversity outcomes, already involved in a scheme or thinking about developing one, we would love to hear from you. Please join our community by contributing to this blog and/or visiting our platform. You might also let us know if there is anything additional you would like to see on this site? If you are still a little confused about how these schemes differ from other agri-environment schemes read the next blog post which should shed some light on this.

Welcome to our Blog

Exchanging information and practical experience on payments for biodiversity achievements in agriculture

Find out about the latest thinking on existing results-based agri-environment schemes, their design, implementation and monitoring. Hear what practitioners have to say and exchange views on how to design and implement schemes in different parts of the EU. Register to receive updates and the latest research findings and to comment on posts.

Across Europe, agri-environment schemes provide important sources of funding to farmers to protect wildlife habitats on agricultural land. Results-based agri-environment payment schemes focus on paying farmers for the biodiversity outcomes that are achieved rather than rewarding them for specific management actions. This Blog has been created to exchange information and practical experiences on these approaches. It offers a platform on which findings and reflections from a research project can be shared. The project is managed by DG Environment; it was initiated and is funded by the European Parliament.

Want to know more about these schemes then read our blog posts or visit the web platform