Who influences the EU’s green infrastructure strategy?

It’s not just about information flow and regulations: Social pressure considerably influences biodiversity governance in Europe.

It is my pleasure to share more Net-Map work done by capable colleagues. Jennifer Hauck, Jenny Schmidt and Anja Werner analyzed the key actors that influence the implementation of the European Commission’s green infrastructure strategy.

Using social network analysis to identify key stakeholders in agricultural biodiversity governance and related land-use decisions at regional and local level

Ecology and Society
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Jun 2016) (16 pages)

ABSTRACT:

” In 2013 the European Commission launched its new green infrastructure strategy to make another attempt to stop and possibly reverse the loss of biodiversity until 2020, by connecting habitats in the wider landscape. This means that conservation would go beyond current practices to include landscapes that are dominated by conventional agriculture, where biodiversity conservation plays a minor role at best. The green infrastructure strategy aims at bottom-up rather than top-down implementation, and suggests including local and regional stakeholders. Therefore, it is important to know which stakeholders influence land-use decisions concerning green infrastructure at the local and regional level. The research presented in this paper served to select stakeholders in preparation for a participatory scenario development process to analyze consequences of different implementation options of the European green infrastructure strategy. We used a mix of qualitative and quantitative social network analysis (SNA) methods to combine actors’ attributes, especially concerning their perceived influence, with structural and relational measures. Further, our analysis provides information on institutional backgrounds and governance settings for green infrastructure and agricultural policy. The investigation started with key informant interviews at the regional level in administrative units responsible for relevant policies and procedures such as regional planners, representatives of federal ministries, and continued at the local level with farmers and other members of the community. The analysis revealed the importance of information flows and regulations but also of social pressure, considerably influencing biodiversity governance with respect to green infrastructure and biodiversity.”

Agricultural Extension in Ethiopia through a Gender and Governance Lens

women agriculture ethiopia

This paper uses Net-Map for qualitative data collection on the use of agricultural extension in Ethiopia, especially understanding the role of women (authors: Tewodaj Mogues, Marc J. Cohen, Regina Birner, Mamusha Lemma, Josee Randriamamonjy, Fanaye Tadesse and Zelekawork Paulos). Here the abstract:

“Drawing on a household survey collected in eight woredas in seven Ethiopian regions in 2009, as well as on qualitative fieldwork in four of the eight woredas, this paper provides analysis of agricultural extension delivery in Ethiopia. While overall extension services are relatively accessible in Ethiopia, there are differences in access between men and women, and particularly stark differences by region. Individual visits by public sector extension agents to household farms are by far the most common mode of extension delivery; alternative modes of extension (either in delivery method or type of service provider) play a rather limited role. Using the method widely applied in the “Citizen Report Card” approach, questions to farmers regarding satisfaction with services yielded near 100 percent reporting of satisfaction; however, the study also showed relatively low uptake of extension advice. This suggests the need to revisit or refine the Citizen Report Card method of eliciting satisfaction with services in this type of empirical context.

Women’s groups (e.g. the women’s associations at the kebele level in rural areas) may be a promising approach to reach women with extension services; in some of the study sites, they were able to successfully link extension agents with women farmers and circumvent the socially sensitive issue of (male) extension agents providing advice to women one-on-one. However, the use of women’s associations also for other matters, e.g. political mobilization of women, may weaken their promise in expanding access to extension services for women farmers.

Finally, making agricultural extension demand driven remains a challenge in Ethiopia. While there is strong political will to expand agricultural extension in Ethiopia, the strong standardisation of extension packages arising from a pronounced top-down nature of public service delivery makes it difficult to tailor agricultural extension to farmers’ needs. The incentives of extension agents are set in a way that they try to maximize farmers’ adoption of standardized packages. The packages have become less rigid in recent years, with a menu of options now available to farmers. However, even the more diversified menu cannot substitute for the microlevel adaptation, the process that would make new inputs and practices more credible to farmers, and which only extension workers and their farmers can feasibly manage.”

Net-Mapping the Water-Food-Energy Nexus in the Upper Blue Nile in Ethiopia

When dealing with the challenges of a country like Ethiopia, focusing just on water, or food, or energy is a tall order already. Given how one influences the other, it is, however, not focus which is needed but integration – of issues and also of those people dealing with them. My colleague Christian Stein shared his research on the issue with me. Below is the summary and here is the full paper he wrote, together with Jennie Barron, Likimyelesh Nigussie, Birhanu Gedif, Tadesse Amsalu and Simon Langan for the International Water Management Institute:

Ethiopia is currently undergoing rapid development, heavily reliant on its natural resources such as water and land. The government’s Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) and its Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy set ambitious targets in a variety of sectors including water, food and energy. In order to avoid trade-offs and create synergies between different development agendas, integrated planning and cross-sectorial coordination is crucial. The so-called ‘nexus approach’ is a recent way to frame the interconnected challenges in water, food and energy with the ambition to align policies for sustainable development.

This study fills a gap in the nexus debate by focusing on concrete actors and the nexus challenges they struggle with, instead of on abstract systems and the resource flows between sectors. Based on participatory, visual network mapping and focus group discussions, the paper illustrates three interdependent challenges of the water-energy-food nexus in the Upper Blue Nile in Ethiopia. First, it points to the central role of biomass-based energy resources and the need to balance national ambitions for hydropower and immediate energy needs for rural communities. Second, it identifies agricultural water management as a critical issue where linkages across sectors and scales need to be improved. Third, it highlights the need to strengthen actors working on environmental sustainability issues, and generating political support for their objectives, by making available evidence on the value of nature for development.

The findings of this scoping study show that participatory network research can facilitate dialogue and colearning among researchers and a range of actors on the interconnected challenges of the water-energy-food nexus. Such collaborative learning processes can play an important role in moving toward better coordination between key actors and improved development planning within the Upper Blue Nile.”

All you ever wanted to know about Agricultural Innovation Systems

Agricultural Innovation by connecting farmers to the world... (copyright by IICD on flickr, SEND Westafrica Program http://www.sendwestafrica.org/west/index.php)

It arrived on my desk yesterday and the paper version is heavy enough that you might use it as a weapon: 1.52 kg (or 657 pages) of looking at Agricultural Innovation Systems from all directions: Examples from the field (from Peru to India), methods for supporting, understanding and researching agricultural innovation from practical and academic perspectives. As the introduction states:

“Although the sourcebook discusses why investments in AIS are becoming more important, it gives its most attention to how specific approaches and practices can foster innovation in a range of contexts. Operationalizing an AIS approach requires a significant effort to collect and synthezise the diverse experiences with AISs.”

“For innovation to occur, interactions among these diverse stakeholders need to be open and to draw upon the most appropriate available knowledge. Aside from a strong capacity in R&D, the ability to innovate is often related to collective action, coordination, the exchange of knowledge among diverse actors, the incentives and resources available to form partnerships and develop businesses, and the conditions that make it possible for farmers or entrepreneurs to use the innovations.”

As you can see, a lot of agricultural innovation relies on the structure and content of multiplex, complex networks. This is why Net-Map is a natural fit for people who want to understand, monitor and support the development of viable agricultural innovation systems.

Agricultural Innovation Systems, an Investment Sourcebook, Part 1 and Part 2.

In case you are not intending to read it back to back… The use of Net-Map to understand Agricultural Innovation Systems is described on pages 593-597 in Part 2.