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Life after Brexit – influencing future farming policy

A pioneering co-design approach to agri-environmental governance.

The Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) is one of the largest specialist rural research centres in the UK, working at the interface of agriculture, society and the environment on issues relevant to rural and sustainable development, in the UK, Europe and further afield. The institute is a collaboration between the University of Gloucestershire, the Royal Agricultural University and Hartpury College.

The CCRI has pioneered action-oriented, participatory and inclusive research relationships with stakeholders in contrasting local initiatives, promoting sustainable and resilient land management through social innovation, and co-designing agri-environmental governance.

CCRI researchers have worked in partnership with initiatives in Exmoor, the Marlborough Downs, Stroud valleys and the Upper Thames catchment, to demonstrate and increase the value of local-level involvement in designing and delivering effective environmental management. The co-development process supported by the research teams enabled local stakeholders to increase their impact and build their capacity to analyse and influence future farming policy in England, beyond Brexit.

Janet Dwyer, Director of CCRI and Professor of Rural Policy said:

“Our investment in multi-actor partnerships has brought stakeholders together in co-evaluation and reflexive learning, increasing their ability to find integrated solutions to land management challenges. Through these experiences, local initiatives have gained increased confidence and reputation, which has influenced national policy. 

“Many successful and influential projects have been undertaken. For example, a major farm survey, workshops and strategy papers were developed with local partners in Exmoor (over a ten year period), culminating in the publication of Exmoor’s Ambition: a transformative proposal for sustaining and enhancing Exmoor’s farmed landscapes and communities.”

Chris Short, Associate Professor in Environmental Governance said:

“Having developed an integrated approach in the Upper Thames Catchment the Water with Integrated Local Delivery (WILD) project enabled farmers, local communities and those with a keen interest in clean water to tackle the issue together. Out of this shared learning and problem solving has grown a local network of collaborative activity, which the CCRI has evaluated and shared across the UK and beyond

“A Marlborough Downs farmer-led initiative invited the CCRI to co-develop evaluation and knowledge-sharing activities, over a critical three-year period. This enabled the initiative to be re-designed, generating renewed enthusiasm for further activity and achievements, working with local communities.

“Both initiatives have subsequently become part of a DEFRA Environmental Land Management Scheme test and trial pilot.

“We also worked with Stroud District Council and the Environment Agency to co-develop the Stroud Natural Flood Management project, engaging with local communities and farmers. The project uses various natural interventions in the catchment’s headwaters to ‘slow the flow’, providing a low-cost, bottom-up approach to reduce flood risk and boost biodiversity in the Frome catchment.”

Find out more about the CCRI and the University of Gloucestershire.