PR – Measuring Environmental Performance And Value Added Using The Agri-environmental Footprint Index
The Agri-Environmental Footprint project has developed a common methodology for assessing the environmental impact of European agri-environment schemes. The Agri-Environmental Footprint Index (AFI) has been constructed as a customisable approach. It is a farm-level index that aggregates the measurement of agri-environmental indicators. Farm-level impact scores can be aggregated at a regional level to track temporal change and/or to provide comparisons of the success (or otherwise) of an agri-environment scheme. European Union Member States are obliged to monitor and evaluate the environmental, agricultural and socio-economic impacts of their agri-environmental programmes. The evaluation process aims to determine the extent to which policy objectives are being fulfilled, and to identify any changes necessary to bridge the gap between policy aims and outcomes. However, there is little consensus on how to monitor and validate the benefits of agri-environmental schemes (AESs) successfully. Critically, there are no agreed methodologies for tracking the environmental consequences of changing agricultural practices, or the benefits of particular agri-environmental policy measures. This research has lead to the conceptual and practical development of a harmonised assessment system with which to assess the environmental performance of Europe’s AESs. The approach is a common, quantifiable, index-based method that will facilitate a direct measurement of the environmental impact of AE policy over time and provide a framework for the assessment of potential outcomes of AES proposals. We have developed an Agri-Environmental Footprint Index (AFI) that is based on multi-criteria analysis methods. It has a universal core index structure and methodology, but is potentially customisable to any agri-environmental context within the EU25. The AFI can be used to measure the change in the environmental performance attributable to an agri-environment scheme by calculating an average AFI score for farms participating in the scheme (AES) and an average AFI score for non-participating farms (non–AES) within the same farming type and geographic area. The comparison of these scores can allow the differentiation between enhancement effects, protection effects or a combination of both environmental protection and enhancement. Here, data is presented based on the application of the AFI in the Chilterns Hills in the UK. The case study involved the collection and analysis of environmentally related data on 20 farms, a number of stakeholder workshops and the calculation of the AFI in each area. Results indicate that the method is capable of measuring environmental performance attributable to agri-environment schemes at farm-level. Conclusions are drawn about the practicalities of applying the index in the UK and the potential for the customisation of the index for use in any agri-environmental context within the EU25.
Key words: Environment, Evaluation, Indicators, Value-added.