Methodology and Summary of Results

Rural Development (RD) embraces a rich variety of activities, farm types and institutional arrangements. In order to grasp the richness and diversity of RD, the IMPACT programme adopted a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods. These included case studies, (quantitative) impact assessment, a transnational farmers’ survey, and policy-practice interface analysis. This page briefly outlines the methodologies employed and summarises the main results of each approach.

The first phase of the IMPACT programme involved carrying out 31 case studies of different RD experiences and projects. These were carried out as the first phase in order to grasp the diversity of RD experiences in different parts of the EU, which are often at different stages of development. They included long established RD activities (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production in Italy) together with newly emerging ones (such as farms that provide care in the Netherlands). At least four RD activities were examined by national research teams in each of the participating countries (link to 4whodef.doc). Together these case studies provide a rich source of material on the diversity of current RD practices in the EU. They also provided the basis for the development of a coherent conceptual framework for analysing RD. Summaries and full reports of each case study can be found here .

IMPACT Assessment
On the basis of the case studies, a classification of 9 different Fields of RD Activity (FoAs) (link to 7Activitiesdef.doc) was developed. Using this classification each national research team developed a matrix, assessing the present economic impact of each of the FoAs. This proved a challenging task as, in many instances, there were no centralised data sources, and much of the data obtained needed to be standardised (between countries, FoAs or both). The matrices included baseline data about agricultural incomes and employment, thus making it possible to evaluate the economic impact of RD activities in relation to conventional (i.e. commodity) agricultural production. In many instances RD activities make significant contributions to the financial viability of farms (in some instances providing the main source of farm household income) and generate new employment opportunities for farm families and other rural inhabitants. In particular it was noted that where several FoAs exist in combination they can generate significant synergies. A final stage of this phase of the work programme involved using current data to project the potential economic impacts of RD activities in 2008 under favourable, but feasible, future scenarios. A concise overview of the matrix data can be found here

Transnational Farmers Survey
The third phase of the IMPACT programme involved a telephone survey of more than 3000 farmers in the six participating EU states. This was based on a standardised (and pre-tested) questionnaire and the samples within each country were drawn up in line with the overall structure of the farming economy (with the important exception that hobby and residential farms, those earning less than 25% of their household income from farming, were excluded). This phase complemented and tested the approaches and findings of the first two phases, and provided new insights, regarding:

• the extent of farmers’ involvement with RD activities and the characteristics of farms engaged with them
• the motivation and constraints for involvement with RD
• the impacts of RD activities on farm incomes and employment, and
• the views of farmers towards RD policies and rural actors.

A summary of the survey results can be found here

Policy-Practice Interface Analysis
The final phase of the IMPACT project involved an analysis of the role of policies and institutions in supporting (and occasionally frustrating) the development of new RD activities. A common framework was developed, identifying the relevant actors, institutions (i.e. public, private and para-statal) and policy measures operating at different spatial levels (i.e. regional, national and European). Each national research team developed an analysis of the influence of these policy/institutional factors on the development of each FoA at the farm household, regional and national level. These were summarised in national Policy-Practice Interface frameworks. In addition recommendations were made as to how institutions and policies can best promote the future development of RD.

The results of this exercise revealed great variations in the levels (and effectiveness) of support for RD activities. For example, in Germany and Italy there is extensive support for several types of RD activity. In other countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, coherent and integrated support mechanisms for RD activities are only just beginning to emerge. These national differences aside there are also significant variations in the levels (and effectiveness) of support for different FoAs. For example organic farming, nature and landscape management and afforestation schemes generally qualify for some state support (financial, technical or both), whereas others, such as direct sales, rarely qualify. A summary of the Policy Interface exercise and recommendations may be found here.