The multi-disciplinary evaluation of a national agri-environment scheme
Carey, P. D., Short, C., Morris, C., Hunt, J., Priscott, A., Davis, M., Finch, C., Curry, N., Little, W., Winter, M., Parkin, A. and Firbank, L. (2003) The multi-disciplinary evaluation of a national agri-environment scheme. Journal of Environmental Management, 69 (1). pp. 71-91. ISSN 0301-4797 Available from: http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/8847
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0301-4797(03)00120-8
With an increasing amount of public funds being spent on agri-environmental schemes effective methods have to be developed to evaluate them. As many schemes have multiple objectives there is a need for a multi-disciplinary approach to any evaluation. A method was developed to assess the degree to which ecological, landscape, historical and access objectives for the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) in England have been met. The method used a sample of 484 agreements for which data were collected from surveys, a desk study and an interview with the agreement holder. These data were then evaluated by an expert team of an ecologist, landscape architect, landscape historian, and a social scientist specializing in rural affairs. The team were subsequently brought together with a Chair to discuss their findings for each agreement, allocating scores for each of five criteria: agreement negotiation; appropriateness, environmental effectiveness, compliance and side effects. The additionality that each agreement was likely to provide was also assessed. The results of this process suggest that in the majority of cases the CSS agreements should maintain or enhance the environment in terms of ecology, landscape, and landscape history and increase public enjoyment of the countryside. Thirty-six percent of agreements showed high additionality and 38% medium additionality which demonstrates that the CSS is likely to provide a benefit to society. Agreement negotiation, predicted environmental effectiveness and predicted compliance all improved significantly over the period 1996–98. Recommendations made from this project have been implemented by the Government department to improve the CSS. The multi-disciplinary method was successful and, with further development, could be used for assessment of any agri-environment scheme, or potentially any conservation project or broader ‘rural development’ scheme encompassing environmental, economic and social objectives. A key to success is the need for the criteria to be tailored for the project concerned and clearly established at the beginning.