Co-designing long-term agreements for landscape recovery 

Co-led by Dr Charlotte Chivers and Associate Prof Chris Short, this Defra funded Test and Trial project intends to contribute to the development of the Landscape Recovery component of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) Scheme. Commencing in January 2022, we are working in collaboration with Southern Water and other interested stakeholders across South East England over the 18 month duration of the project.  

A farmer-focused approach is being used to explore how long-term agreements (of 30+ years) could help the government achieve landscape recovery. Landscape recovery is an important component of the ELM scheme as it will ensure that environmental benefits are achieved across wide areas of land rather than within disparate pockets.  

Draft long-term agreements will be co-designed with land managers and other stakeholders to ensure they are realistic whilst contributing to landscape recovery. This will involve building an understanding of the drivers and requirements of land managers in lowland productive areas. This will be achieved by carrying out workshops where farmers will be presented with scenarios under which long-term agreements may be appropriate. These scenarios are likely to relate to soil health, nature recovery, and regenerative agriculture.  

Cows drinking from upland stream
Photo Credit: @veronicaa_white

We are also exploring how payments should be structured and how to incentivise land managers to participate in these agreements.  In addition, we are asking farmers the extent to which private sources of funding, such as from water companies, could play a role in long-term agreements.  

Dr Charlotte Chivers says ‘This is an exciting opportunity to explore whether long-term agreements, similar to the conservation covenants often used in other countries such as the US, may offer a solution for ensuring that landscape recovery is achieved. Short-term measures to recover natural resources such as soils are often less effective, particularly where agreements end and farmers no longer adopt them. This makes it important that we work with land managers and other stakeholders to find out what may trigger them to commit to measures in the long term.’  

CCRI Ref: 2020-071