Topic: EIP AGRI: exploring emergent European policy tools and their potential to support collaborative agro-ecological innovation
Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has long supported schemes that seek to incentivise environmentally beneficial farming practices. The latest iteration of the CAP is seeking to trial new scheme models that incorporate more place-based knowledge through collaboration with farmers and other relevant stakeholders. Ireland’s implementation of the European Innovation Partnership for Agriculture Productivity and Sustainability (EIP AGRI) is one such example. In this paper, I use a case study derived from Ireland’s EIP Initiative to examine the potential for these kinds of policy measures to support the emergence of place-based collaboration. The Initiative itself called on locally embedded groups to propose agro-ecological farm improvements that they themselves had designed. Proposals were then funded on a competitive basis.
Using qualitative interview data, this paper traces the application writing activities of one such group based in Ireland’s western uplands. The group’s proposal sought to implement a sustainable grazing regime on tracts of collectively owned mountain farmland. This process involved the establishment of partnerships between farmers, farm advisors, researchers, rural development professionals, and a Non-Governmental Organisation. The collaboration that emerged manifested in a merging of knowledge input from a variety of these partners, often negotiated in terms of potential futures. However, this collaboration relied upon decision making structures that were established through years of anticipatory work by a small core group of actors with experience in facilitation, farmer leadership, and policy advocacy. While this policy initiative may thus encourage and give form to such collaborations, the experience and skills of locally embedded actors were crucial to the process. Responding to the specific goals of this session then, this paper asserts that the EIP AGRI policy tool could favour farmer led collaborative innovation. At the same time, it points toward brokerage roles that may be required in order to develop a collaborative process in which farmers can have meaningful input.