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The role of politics in the life of a conservation incentive: An analysis of agri-environment schemes in Hungary

Kovacs, EK; Kaloczkai, A; Czucz, B; (2021) The role of politics in the life of a conservation incentive: An analysis of agri-environment schemes in Hungary. Biological Conservation , 259 , Article 109172. 10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109172. Green open access

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Abstract

State-financed financial incentives are an increasingly popular tool for conservation on private lands. From policy and conservation perspectives, questions remain around the sustainability and longevity of behavioural changes associated with undertaking conservation work in exchange for payment. Further under-examined factors include inquiry into the role of the state as regulating agency, primary negotiator and enforcer, and how its politics and street-level relations influence participation. During 2015–6 a unique opportunity arose to investigate these issues as the Hungarian government unexpectedly cancelled its national agri-environmental programme to farmers. Through agricultural land use data, interviews and surveys (n = 260), we analysed the consequences of the cancellation of cash payments on i) land use change, ii) farmers' maintenance of conservation activities and iii) farmers' relations with conservation actors. We demonstrate that withdrawal of conservation payments resulted in farmers cropping more intensively, with consequences for conservation agencies' relationships with farmers. Many farmers maintained a number of individual conservation rules despite not receiving payment. Measures associated with highest financial burdens and least apparent benefits were most likely to be broken, and several socio-ecological factors, including land use type (grassland or arable), farm size, and additional legal obligations (other subsidies and land leases) influenced farmers who desisted with specific conservation rules. Adherence arose from technological lock-in, perceived surveillance by state agencies, fear of retrospective sanction, and intention to re-apply. The Hungarian context underscores the relevance of accounting for the ways in which multi-level politics influence farmer-public agency relations in the day-to-day management of conservation incentive schemes.

Type: Article
Title: The role of politics in the life of a conservation incentive: An analysis of agri-environment schemes in Hungary
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109172
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109172
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Science & Technology, Life Sciences & Biomedicine, Biodiversity Conservation, Ecology, Environmental Sciences, Biodiversity & Conservation, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, Agri-environment, Financial incentives, Farming, Hungary, EU, ECOSYSTEM SERVICES, BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION, FARMERS PARTICIPATION, PAYMENTS, PERSPECTIVES, BEHAVIOR
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10135281
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