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Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-07062023-213345

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Improving the provision of public goods by agri-environmental-climate schemes
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Dott. Vergamini, Daniele
correlatore Prof. Bartolini, Fabio
correlatore Prof.ssa Andreoli, Maria
  • action-Based
  • agri-environmental payments
  • asymmetric information
  • collective contract
  • common agricultural policy
  • contract acceptability
  • land abandonment
  • policy failures
  • public goods
  • result-based
  • soil erosion
Graduation session start date
Introduction to the PhD Thesis
The thesis is grounded on the current lack of effectiveness of Agri-environmental climatic Schemes (AECSs), pointed out by both academic and political debate. In the last decade however the climate change put increased pressure on agricultural realities and the custodian activities related to agricultural production became more and more important. The academic debate is trying to find innovative instruments to be utilised in future policies to improve the actual ineffective situation.
To start moving in the AECPGs contracts field of study, in the first paper, we initially assessed and organised all existing knowledge about the topic. There is much literature about innovative types of contracts regarding the AECPGs. The literature largely focuses on policy failures’ mechanisms trying to explain and avoid them. The second paper focuses on the effectiveness of innovative contractual solutions on relevant environmental concern also presenting the Case study Area in Liguria (i.e., soil erosion and landslide). The third paper analyse the actors’ preferences and acceptability regarding the adoption and implementation of selected innovative contracts (i.e. land tenure; supply chain; collective implementation; results-based contracts).

Innovative Contract Solutions for the Provision of Agri-Environmental Climatic Public Goods: A Literature Review (Sustainability Journal)
The first activity of the project is a Literature review of the scientific debate regarding innovative type of contracts. The research wanted to explode all the instrument that EU projects (contract 2.0 and CONSOLE) define as the best to ensure AECPGs and improve the actual policy inefficient situation. The paper follows the PRISMA approach to make the research activities replicable and scientifically approved for the publication in high impact factor journals. In the methodology part all the activities and the approaches that we exploit in the research process have been well described. The systematic literature review was crucial to develop a good knowledge about innovative instruments, Environmental policies, policy failures and become aware about the main problems regarding the EU funding ineffectiveness.
Lack of public funding and environmental deterioration are promoting the search for innovative mechanisms enabling to boost farmers’ provision of agri-environmental climate public goods. This work aims to contribute to the current debate by highlighting the role of innovative contractual solutions through a systematic review of more than sixty articles. The review analyses the potential of result-based contracts and collective actions as innovative solutions compared to action-based instruments, which are those currently most used. The design of innovative contracts and other mechanisms, e.g., auction and screening contracts, can reduce the policy failures due to asymmetric information. The paper emphasises the trade-off between an accurate design of agri-environmental schemes and the related administrative burden, highlighting the need for a better understanding of the role of mechanisms design into the policy cycle. Some new instruments were not analysed in the review, due to the scarcity of literature, and there is the need of more case studies providing information on the effectiveness of instruments when implemented in different contexts. However, the SWOT analysis of the main innovative instruments can be helpful to policy makers who want to improve the effectiveness of future policies in this climate-change scenario and the acceptability of public spending.
Keywords: Agri-environmental Schemes; Result-based; Action-Based; Collective contract; Asymmetric information; Common Agricultural Policy; Effectiveness; Policy failures; Mechanism design.

Policy mixes to reduce soil erosion and land abandonment (Submitted to Ecological Economics)
Globally, soil protection is one of the main priorities of environmental regulations in agriculture as well as an underlying principle of several targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the EU level, it has recently gained momentum through the new EU soil strategy for 2030. Nevertheless, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), one of the major pieces of legislation relevant to soil protection, has shown poor effectiveness in reducing soil erosion and landslides. The abandonment of marginal land, lack of effective soil conservation practices, and consequences of climate change (i.e., the increase in extreme weather events) have exposed the already vulnerable agricultural mountain systems to growing pressures and risks. This study aims to analyse the effectiveness of EU payments within CAP measures and associated obligations (policy mix) in preventing erosion due to climate change in sensitive and vulnerable mountainous areas. We assess the impact of various environmental policy mixes (i.e., eco-schemes/cross-compliance and agri-environmental schemes) in managing hydrological and erosion problems in the Liguria Region (Italy). We use bioeconomic programming models to estimate the impact of different practices on soil erosion under different climate change scenarios. Input data for the models have been collected through a large survey addressing various production categories (olive groves, vineyards, animal husbandry, etc.) and hobbyist farmers who are considered relevant in the area. In the model implementation, we utilise the revised universal soil loss equation to include the relevant variables in the process (slope, crop factor, erosion factor, rain quantity, and intensity). The simulation aims to analyse how various European support measures work and provide suggestions to improve their effectiveness. Preliminary results show that a more incisive set of soil conservation measures is required to mitigate soil erosion across the EU within the 2021–2027 CAP.
Keywords: Soil erosion, Land abandonment, Common Agricultural Policy, RUSLE, policy mix, agri-environmental payments.

Exploring the farmers’ and stakeholders’ acceptability of innovative contracts for the provision of environmental and climatic public goods: A case study in an internal area of Italy
Numerous studies have reported the failure of the Common Agricultural Policy to support transformative changes as it ignores the needs of local actors and lacks efficiency and effectiveness. Although the debate has shifted to paying farmers for their results instead of actions, there remains a need to understand how the right policy instrument can perform in different contexts. A customised pattern of innovative contracts considering local actors’ opinions is crucial for improving the situation in the future. We investigate stakeholders’ and farmers’ views on innovative agri-environmental climatic scheme preferences in the west of Liguria, a mountainous Italian region, where agriculture is extremely difficult, mainly due to a lack of space as farmlands are primarily developed vertically through terraces. The results show the importance of farmers’ and stakeholders’ contributions to designing proper contract solutions. In marginal and vulnerable areas, the actors’ engagement and an accurate design of policies are crucial for maintaining and preserving natural capital and, therefore, contributing to the provision of public goods (i.e. landscapes and counteracting floods, erosion and landslides).
Keywords: Agri-Environmental-Climatic schemes, Public Goods; Stated preferences, Contract acceptability; marginal areas

General conclusion of the compendium
In the last part of the compendium, we briefly replied to the research questions. We present the Ligurian case study to describe the situation based on the thesis activities and then complete the general discussion. It is clear that a hybrid approach (measures paid with different approach) can be one of the most practicable solutions to improve the environmental policies where it is difficult to utilise one pure instrument (collective measures with result-based indicators). It is crucial from the compendium that the innovative types of contracts must include the farmers preferences involving all the interested part in the program implementation. The survey showed a situation where result based, and collective implementation contracts seem ready to be utilised. The value chain solution and land tenure contracts need to be refined to be more acceptable and understandable for the participants avoiding the risk of policy failures. Generally, the farmers declare that if they are included in the policy implementation phases, they are more prone to adequately provide their environmental activities and respect the contracts requests. The Liguria region demonstrate in the last decades that the abandonment of land from the farmers is strictly linked to the market failures related to the failed remuneration of the private and public good/services provision from farmers. In Liguria the farmers’ custodian actions are crucial for the soil and landscape maintenance. The farmers both hobbyist and professional ones represent the only figure that can guarantee this important role. The Region in the future must try to include the hobbyist farmers in the environmental measures. For example, an intermediate instrument with result-based approach linked to collective implementation can for sure be applicable and effective. There is, as we stressed in the second paper of the thesis, a direct proportionality between the implementation of AECPGs measures and the quantity of soil erosion per year. This study can motivate the need to focus attention on the policy mix to be utilised guarantee a good management of natural resources. Liguria is one of the most representative realities regarding human colonisation of natural landscape. Only with the inclusion of the hobbyist farmers the Liguria region can achieve a good diffusion of custodians’ actions. If the policy won’t raise its effectiveness the region will have to deal more frequently with damages to things and people. Furthermore, the important touristic effects of the landscape can be heavily reduced, which can mine the economic balance of the Ligurian realities (5 Terre for example). For sure a lot of work will wait the future experts and researchers regarding the AECPGs measures implementation. Innovative instruments, improvement to the present ones, Mechanism to avoid policy failures and moral hazard represent only the starting point to create a process that can adequately support the farmers for their work, minimizing the public spending and ensuring the AECPGs provision.