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To plant or not to plant – Irish farmers’ goals and values with regards to afforestation
2013-05, Duesberg, Stefanie, O'Connor, Deirdre, Ní Dhubháin, Áine
To encourage Irish farmers to transfer land into forestry, a premium scheme supporting farmers who afforest was implemented in 1989 and afforestation targets outlined in 1996. In the period from 1996 to 2006, however, only half of the targeted area was planted in Ireland. As the income of many farmers would improve when joining the scheme, a number of studies have been conducted to find out why the response was not as expected. However, to date the phenomenon has not been explained. Amongst the studies undertaken, a lack of qualitative approaches looking at farmers’ decision-making was identified. In order to understand farmers’ decisions regarding farm afforestation, in-depth interviews with 62 farmers in the North-West and Mid-Western regions of Ireland were conducted in Winter and Spring 2011. The interviews were based on the theory of farmers’ goals and values developed by Ruth Gasson in 1973 (Gasson, 1973) and relate specifically to their instrumental, intrinsic, social and expressive values about farming. The results of this study show that farmers exhibit complex, multiple and sometimes contradictory values in relation to farming. The biggest group in the study were guided by intrinsic values when it comes to farm afforestation. Their decision not to plant is made based on their values and beliefs about farming, e.g. that it is a shame to plant land used for food production, even though this returns low or no profits. A much smaller group were directed by profit maximisation when it comes to afforesting land. These farmers would plant if the financial incentives around forestry were more attractive, i.e. the premiums of the scheme higher or the outlook for agricultural profits not as good as they anticipated them to be.
Assessing alternative policy tools for encouraging farm afforestation in Ireland
2014-05, Duesberg, Stefanie, Ní Dhubháin, Áine, O'Connor, Deirdre
To encourage Irish farmers to afforest agricultural land, a premium scheme supporting such planting was implemented in 1989 and afforestation targets outlined in 1996. In the period from 1996 to 2009, however, only half of the targeted area was planted although the income of many farmers would have improved on joining the scheme. A multi-method study was undertaken looking at farmers' decision-making with regard to afforestation under the scheme. In this paper we focus on one particular element of the study, which is about identifying policy tools that best match farmers' behaviour with regard to afforestation. Based on previous work, which we undertook on farmers' goals and values with regard to afforestation and which was presented in this journal, a postal survey was designed and distributed in spring 2012 to farmers all over Ireland. The results indicate that the majority of those surveyed do not make their decision to afforest based on profit maximisation goals. Offering only an incentive tool - such as the current premium scheme - will not be sufficient to encourage those farmers to plant trees. Additionally capacity tools such as group plantings of neighbouring fields and symbolic tools such as information and PR- or image-building campaign should be deployed to further encourage afforestation by farmers.