Topic: Can local governance and land ownership encourage innovation in agricultural practice? case-studies from North-west Scotland and Norway
Key words: small-scale agriculture, innovation, land tenure, governance
This paper investigates changes in farming styles and the reasons for these in small-scale agriculture, as a part of resilient rural communities in west coast Scotland and Norway. It considers two case-study areas: Trotternish in Skye, on the north west coast of Scotland, which is mainly under crofting tenure, and Askvoll, in Sogn og Fjordane on the west coast of Norway where owner-occupied farms are of a similar size to the Trotternish crofts. These areas have similar geography and climate but land tenure and governance are very different. Government policies and support structures have also had different objectives.
By examining statistics and interviews with farmers and crofters, I will first describe the main changes which have occurred over the last forty years and then examine the perception of farmers and crofters of the reasons for these changes. Innovation as diversification is more prevalent in the Norwegian case-study and the ownership of land may be contributing to this.
Governance is strikingly different between the two countries and the Norwegian experience shows that people there have far more confidence in the effectiveness of putting forward local views.
Government policies can have a big effect on styles of farming but do not always work in land-users’ favour. For instance reducing trade barriers on food products, while popular with consumers can increase vulnerability to changes in commodity price and adversely affect farmers.
The paper concludes that a sense of ownership of both the land and the decision making process can encourage investment and innovation and thus contribute to sustainability.