Thesis subject

Farmers’ preferences for novel result-based and practice-base agri-environmental schemes

The Environmental Systems Analysis Group provides the possibility for students to do their thesis in collaboration with our group. This is one of many possible thesis subjects. Please feel free to contact dr Van Bussel (right) for more information.

In addition to providing private goods such as food, fibre and biomass, agriculture can deliver a variety of environmental public goods and ecosystem services, like biodiversity conservation, water filtering, carbon sequestration and landscape aesthetics for recreation. Often, however, the use of agricultural landscapes prioritizes the provision of private goods, resulting in negative environmental impacts, such as soil erosion, nitrate leaching, or habitat and biodiversity loss, which also decreases the ability to provide environmental public goods and ecosystem services. To address this imbalance in the provision of private and public goods, targeted policy instruments are required to ensure that public goods are provided at the level desired by society. Contract-based approaches such as publicly funded agri-environmental-climate measures (AECM) in the context of Rural Development Programs (RDPs) and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) or privately negotiated and funded Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) can be important components of a diverse policy mix to support the provision of environmental public goods. But, even though such contract-based approaches already exist, the provision of environmental public goods by rural landscapes is currently not optimal. This calls for novel contract-based approaches which provide the right incentives to farmers to produce more environmental public goods and also allow them to have an appropriate income. A new, large EU project Contracts2.0 aims to develop these novel contract-based approaches.

The aim of this MSc thesis related to this EU project is to increase evidence with respect to (1) farmers’ and (2) other stakeholders’ (e.g. policy-makers, administrators) preferences for various design features of new schemes, with particular focus on result vs. activity-based measures, institutional settings (e.g., collaborative approaches), the importance of information, knowledge and risk reducing mechanisms, or other factors that are likely to ‘tip the balance’ in favour of (or against) participation for these new schemes. A questionnaire will be developed to collect data using discrete choice experiments among a group of Dutch farmers. In your thesis you will help to adjust this questionnaire to Dutch conditions and analyse the collected data.

Start time: t.b.d.

Special requirements: good understanding of Dutch