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Agri-Environment Programme for Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park

Franković, Matija; janev Hutinec, Biljana; Karoglan Todorović, Sonja and Znaor, Darko (2004) Agri-Environment Programme for Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park. Ecologica, Zagreb.

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In the period 2002-2004, the Netherlands Government's Pin-Matra programme funded an international project aiming to support the introduction of an agri-environment (AE) programme in Croatia. The project resulted in proposals for national and pilot agri-environment programmes. This publication summarises the proposal for the Pilot project.
The Agri-Environment Programme is an integral part of the EU Rural Development Regulation (1257/1999). It is the only obligatory measure under this regulation. The programme sets up the framework for the comprehensive protection of the environment and nature from adverse agricultural practices. The programme is based on voluntary agreements between farmers and public authorities. By providing economic incentives and supporting related education and demonstration activities, the programme encourages and enables farmers to employ agricultural practices that are beneficial for nature and the environment. The agri-environment programme has recorded very rapid expansion. Currently some 25% of EU agricultural land is included in the agri-environment programme. The costs of the AE programmes are partly financed from the EU budget and partly from national budgets. The AE schemes have become an important policy instrument for protecting the environment and maintaining biodiversity on EU agricultural land.
Croatia still does not have an agri-environment programme. Therefore, it was proposed to select a Croatian protected natural area and design a pilot agri-environment programme for it. The Žumberak- Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park was selected because in this region agriculture is essential for maintaining the basic Park phenomena: a man-made mosaic landscape and biodiversity depending on traditional land use. Besides, data needed to design an AE programme were available and the Park management team was highly professional and motivated.
The Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park represents a cultural landscape created through human activities, which shaped the landscape and contributed to the enrichment of biodiversity. Human activity, particularly grazing and mowing, created the conditions for the existence of many wildlife species. Over the last decades, and especially in the 1990s, livestock farming has been seriously declining in the Park. As a result, many species-rich grasslands are no longer managed and are overgrowing with shrubs and trees.
The Agri-environment programme for the Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park is designed to respond to the rapid decline of landscape, habitats and species diversity due to the loss of agricultural land, notably grassland. The Programme will encourage farmers to continue practising environmentally friendly measures or introduce those that are not economically attractive, but essential from the environmental and biodiversity point of view.
The proposed schemes and packages consists of four schemes:
1. The Information Transfer Scheme
It should provide training to farmers, administrators and extensionists, as well as inform general public on the Programme importance.
2. Abandoned Land Clearance Scheme
This Scheme should enable farmers to clean and restore agricultural land overgrown by shrubs.
3. Species Rich Grassland Scheme
It encourages farmers to continue with traditional (extensive) grassland management enabling maintenance of species rich grassland. The Scheme has two packages: for mowing and grazing.
4. Biodiversity Scheme
This consists of three packages: the Traditional Fruit Trees Package, Wild Species Protection Package and Ponds Package. These are targeted to improve habitat, species and landscape biodiversity.
Participation in the AE Programme is granted to all farmers having at least 1 ha of agricultural land within the Park borders. Exempted from this rule are the farms participating in the Wild Species Protection Package, whose size can be smaller than 1 hectare. The Park Authority may also be a recipient of the Programme's aid. Since this kind of programme is quite new and has never been tested in the Park, it is very difficult to forecast the number of farmers and the land area that will enrol in the Programme. The following estimate has been made for the first three years of the Programme:
Abandoned Land Clearance Scheme: 800 hectares. This area represents 20% of the currently estimated abandoned grassland area.
Species Rich Grassland Scheme: 2,000 hectares.
This is equal to 20% of the total Park grassland area.
Biodiversity Scheme: 400 hectares and 10 km under linear habitats. The Traditional Fruit Trees Package is expected to cover 100 hectares of meadow orchards, The Wild Species Protection Package is most likely to cover some 300 hectares and The Ponds Package is expected to involve 10 ponds.
The Information Transfer Scheme: is to provide training for some 1000 farmers, a number of local agronomists, environmentalists and Park experts. The Scheme will also provide information on the Programme to the Park's inhabitants and visitors.
The uptake is expected to record an annual increase in the first years of the Programme's implementation. The envisaged cost for the first three years of the AE Programme's implementation is 400.000 EUR per year on average. Once Croatia joins the EU, the AE Programme could be 85% financed by the EU and 15% by the national agricultural budget.
While designing and starting with the implementation of a national AE programme takes time, the pilot AE programme can be tested in a relatively short period. The Žumberak Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park AE Programme would test several AE measures. Experiences and lessons that could be learned from it would be beneficial both for designing the national AE programme and similar region-specific AE programmes.
Reaching the targets set out by this Programme would enhance the rural landscape, protect the environment and improve biodiversity. By encouraging farmers to continue with appropriate agricultural management the Programme will significantly contribute to preventing any further decline of landscape, habitats and species diversity in the Park.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:Agri-environment programme; Žumberak-Samoborsko Gorje Nature Park; organic farming; Species Rich Grassland; Croatia; Abandoned Land Clearance Scheme; crop rotation; undersowing, anti-erosion; field strips; grassland; biodiversity
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Farming Systems
Crop husbandry
Environmental aspects > Biodiversity and ecosystem services
Food systems > Policy environments and social economy
Environmental aspects > Landscape and recreation
Environmental aspects
Research affiliation: Croatia
Deposited By: Znaor, Dr Darko
ID Code:26408
Deposited On:03 Jul 2014 08:39
Last Modified:03 Jul 2014 08:39
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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