The EU-funded project Contracts2.0 saw its successful completion last month, with a final symposium and conference in Ghent and Brussels. Over four years, research and practice partners in the project developed design principles for more effective agri-environmental contracts.
These design-principles include payments to farmers for the achievement of specific results, for example, if their management encourages a range of farmland birds or herb rich grasslands. Such contracts give more flexibility to farmers than the conventional contracts where payments are based on prescribed management actions (e.g. cut the grassland after a certain date). It also encourages farmers to take an interest in the wildlife on their farms so that they deliver more for the environment. However, the government's paying agencies struggle with such innovative contracts because they don't have the administrative systems in place, and also lack the ecological expertise for checking results.
The project delivered not only academic papers, but also accessible outputs such as factsheets on different contract types and tips for involving the right stakeholders in the design and implementation of agri-environmental contracts. A Green Paper is available to policy makers at EU and national levels, and a Handbook provides tools and quick case studies for practitioners to start developing contracts that are adjusted to their own regional contexts. All outputs are available at https://www.project-contracts20.eu/
“Contracts2.0 was a truly transdisciplinary project because researchers worked closely with practitioners in the design of contracts that are fit for purpose and more effective. In three cases we managed to not only develop but also test a novel contract, and chances are high that these are going to be integrated into mainstream policy support.”
Dr. Katrin Prager, University of Aberdeen, Work Package leader in Contracts2.0