By Marianne Penker, originally published on the Project Hercules Cultural Landscapes Blog
Many rural landscapes are shaped by centuries of agricultural land use. As agricultural land use practices change, landscapes transform. In fact, transformation is a key-characteristic of any agricultural landscape. Most of these transformations occur without major notice. Others, however, are perceived as unwelcome and result in requests for landscape stewardship interventions. But who is responsible for defining the stewardship goals and the interventions needed for agricultural landscapes, for implementing and bearing the extra efforts or forgone profits?
Throughout Europe, farmers and their interest groups, nature conservation societies, grass roots, tourism associations and heritage organisations struggle for the allocation of rights and duties and for the definition of shared landscape development goals. Despite the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy, socio-cultural and institutional differences play out in diverging interaction patterns of civil society activities, market instruments and state based stewardship schemes. Different legal regulations restrict farmers in their land use choices in favour of societal landscape goals. For pro-active landscape stewardship, public authorities often provide financial incentives or compensation payments for extra efforts or forgone benefits of farmers. Non-governmental organisations or local civil society also might bear some of the responsibility for landscape stewardship. And we also find market based mechanisms, such as eat-the-view or food origin labels. Consumers willing to pay extra for these labelled products reward farmers for their pro-landscape behaviour.
Practical landscape stewardship experiences indicate a need for self-organisation, collective action and intermediary organisations facilitating the deliberation of landscape goals and the allocation of responsibilities, costs and benefits among private land owners, state organisations, consumers and civil society. The agriculture chapter of the edited volume on landscape stewardship will look into theories of collective action and contrast them with actual agricultural landscape stewardship practices in different countries in Europe and beyond.
In a nutshell, there is no straightforward answer to the question of responsibility. Neither, we have clear indications if landscape governance should be better organised on the local level to provide context-sensitive solutions and landscape diversity or rather on the (inter-)national level to take into account international agreements. Dichotomies between central and de-central, private or state instruments blur in the face of landscape stewardship on farm land. In fact, context-specific landscape stewardship based on self-organisation or participation needs to be embedded in national and international governance frameworks. Then, the landscape can actually be an outcome of local people, their costumes and institutions that shape the diversity and uniqueness of landscapes (i.e., the ‘root meaning of landscape’ according to Olwig 2002) without jeopardizing internationally protected bio-cultural diversity or endangered species.
Olwig, K.R., 2002. Landscape, Nature, and the Body Politic. From Britain’s Renaissance to America’s New World. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.