This paper presents a study based on System Dynamics Approach (SDA) whose aim is to support policy and decision makers to design effective policy strategies to foster the adoption of conservation agriculture practices in Sicily. The SDA is a methodological tool that can be used to study and manage complex and dynamic systems characterized by feedback mechanisms, which can be relevantly influenced by the policy&decision-making process and its delays. The SDA may help to define, implement and evaluate decision makers choices from the output of systems to stimulations from the outside. Scientific literature provides important experiences in the field of these simulation models, both for the development of ecological agriculture and for the simulation of the impacts of policy scenarios in a certain region/area.
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is a farming system, mainly for arable crops, which helps to achieve goals of sustainable and profitable agriculture. It is currently playing an ever-increasing role in the frame of EU agricultural policies in consideration of the positive impacts it can produce, in terms of sustainable use of natural resources as well as of Climate Change mitigation and adaptation. At farm level, moreover, CA represents a way to combine environmental and sustainability concerns with profitability and competitiveness aspects, in a variety of agroecological zones and farming conditions.
Short-term solutions and immediate benefits always attract farmers more than long-term ones. Unfortunately, the full technical, environmental and economic advantages provided by the adoption of CA can be measured and appreciated by farmers only in the medium and long-term, when its principles (minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover crop rotation) are well established within the farming system. This evidence, together with other technical, social and cultural forces, relevantly affects the process of CA adoption at farm level as well as the effectiveness of agricultural policy efforts aiming at this result.
The aim of this study is to validate a Systemic Dynamic Model (SDM) to be used in ex-ante evaluation to address the public action towards the effective achievement of the planned result of supporting the adoption of CA techniques in a certain region.
It seeks answers to strategic questions related to the elements that could influence the effectiveness of the support payment schemes programmed into the sub-measure 10.1 of 2014-2020 Sicily Rural Development Programme (SRDP). The SDA considers relevant variables which affect the application and dissemination of CA techniques among potential beneficiaries whose number is estimated based on sub-measure access conditions and restrictions. For this purpose, the model structure is based on environmental, social and economic issues, e.g. physical and economic farm dimensions, provision of machinery hire, advisory services, reduction of production costs, etc.
Results show that in a long term dynamic context the environmental support payment scheme provided by Measure 10 does not represent the only driving force in the system to guide farmers towards the expected shift from conventional to CA agriculture. What is needed is a deeper integration with other policies (innovation policies) and other interventions, e.g. schemes promoting precision farming, collective investments, advice, training and information.