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Illustration of possible interlinkages among agri-environmental measures and objectives in a relatively simple example with five measures and three objectives. Note that a single measure can contribute to more than one objective. A single environmental objective may be achieved by several measures. Our assessment was of each measure-objective pair (represented by each arrow).

As part of the EU FP6 ITAES project ‘Integrated Tools to design and implement Agri Environment Schemes’, we developed a policy tool to improve understanding of the environmental performance of agri-environment schemes. A feature of the tool is that it could be sufficiently harmonised to be applicable in different European regions.

We devised a methodology that could:

  • identify a harmonised framework for characterising environmental objectives;
  • rationalise the complexity of agri-environment schemes to assessable elements;
  • define criteria to reflect design and implementation characteristics of agri-environment schemes that would be expected to be the main drivers of environmental effectiveness, and;
  • use these criteria to rate the performance of the scheme elements to be assessed.

In each of nine European case-study regions, five to eight local agri-environmental experts were selected (see Finn et al. 2009 for details). For each agri-environmental measure in the case study area, the experts agreed on which environmental objectives were directly addressed by the measures. Using a scoring scale for each of the five assessment criteria, the experts assessed the measure-objective pairs. Within each case study area, a group meeting of the experts (of about one day) allowed sharing of knowledge that helped achieve consensus, as well as elaborating on the justification for their decisions.

The criteria used were:

  • strength of cause-and-effect relationship,
  • quality of implementation by institutions,
  • degree of farmer compliance,
  • extent of participation and
  • degree of targeting.

Demonstration of the environmental impacts of agri-environment schemes (REPS and AEOS in Ireland) is important for the long-term justification of expenditure on such schemes. Importantly, the positive environmental effects of schemes can be identified and communicated to farmers, and to the public that pays for these schemes. Environmental monitoring can identify whether agri-environment schemes are environmentally effective or not, but the methodology presented here can also complement environmental monitoring to help identify and rectify any weaknesses. The structured use of experts’ assessments can help identify and understand specific causes of deficiencies in the design and implementation of agri-environment schemes. Such understanding can enhance evaluation and judgements about priorities for corrective action in the future design of a scheme. Although the methodology is used to conduct an ex post assessment here, it could also be used to conduct an ex ante assessment.

Further information can be obtained from Dr John Finn john.finn[at]teagasc.ie

Further information

End-of-Project Report. 2007. Estimating the environmental performance of agri-environment schemes. RMIS 5260. Teagasc.

Viaggi, D, Finn, J.A., Kurz, I. and Bartolini, F. (2011) Multicriteria analysis for environmental assessment of agri-environment schemes: how to use partial information from Mid- Term Evaluations? Agricultural Economics Review 12: 5-21.

Finn, J.A., Bartolini, F., Kurz, I., Bourke, D. and Viaggi D. (2009) Ex post environmental evaluation of agri-environmental schemes using experts’ judgements and multicriteria analysis. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 52: 717 - 737.

Finn, J.A., Dunne, L. and Ó hUallacháin, D. (2009) Agri-environment schemes for the delivery of public goods: a European perspective. TResearch 4: 28 - 29.

Finn, J.A., Kurz, I. and Bourke, D. (2008) Multiple factors control the environmental effectiveness of agri-environmental schemes: implications for design and evaluation. Tearmann: Irish Journal of Agri-Environmental Research 6: 45 - 56.

Finn, J. A., Bourke, D., Kurz, I. & Dunne, L. (2007) Estimating the environmental performance of agri-environmental schemes via use of expert consultations. Final report of the ITAES project to EU Commission.


This work was developed as part of the EU FP6 ITAES project (SSPE-CT-2003-502070).