As populations grow and the climate crisis intensifies, sustainable agricultural practices are essential to mitigate negative environmental impacts and increase the efficiency of food systems. But persuading farmers to adopt such practices is often a challenge. How can policy makers promote a shift toward sustainable agriculture in ways that promote meaningful change?
Our recent policy brief argues that the answer to this question lies in the incentives-adoption-outcome chain: How well different incentives promote adoption, whether adoption leads to meaningful and measurable changes in outcomes, and what factors shape these links.
Reviewing studies from a range of countries, we examined three types of incentives: Market and non-market, regulatory measures, and cross-compliance measures that link direct payments to farmers’ following basic environmental standards or maintaining land in good agricultural and environmental condition.
Evidence shows that incentives that promote economic benefits are more likely to lead to the adoption of better practices in the short term, especially if they are voluntary. In the long term, however, positive outcomes for the farm or the environment are prime motivators.
While the scoping review revealed important knowledge gaps that should be addressed in the near future, we are able to make some simple but important recommendations for policy makers to follow when designing and implementing incentives for sustainable agriculture:
Further research and extensive data collection are needed on the incentives-adoption-outcomes chain to better understand the costs of adopting sustainable agricultural practices. But if widely adopted, these guidelines can have significant environmental and economic impacts and help to create a more productive and sustainable food and agriculture system.
See also: Achieving sustainable agricultural practices: From incentives to adoption and outcomes
This post first appeared on the IFPRI Blog. Valeria Piñeiro is a Senior Research Coordinator with IFPRI's Markets, Trade and Institutions Division; Joaquín Arias is an International Technical Specialist in the Center for Strategic Analysis for Agriculture (CAESPA) of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, San Jose, Costa Rica; Honor Dearlove is an IFPRI Communications Intern.
This brief was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). These findings benefited from the Ceres2030 program, developed in cooperation with Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The authors thank the Ceres2030 program and its funders, BMZ (Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Photo from the "Climate-smart soil protection and rehabilitation in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, India and Kenya” project, CIAT/Georgina Smith