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The role of agri-environmental policy instruments in the protection of soil quality in Switzerland: socio-anthropological analysis of an on-going failure

English title The role of agri-environmental policy instruments in the protection of soil quality in Switzerland: socio-anthropological analysis of an on-going failure
Applicant Hertz Ellen
Number 152931
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut d'Ethnologie Université de Neuchâtel
Institution of higher education University of Neuchatel - NE
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.08.2014 - 31.01.2018
Approved amount 207'173.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Ethnology
Social geography and ecology
Pedology

Keywords (8)

environmental risk; policy instruments; actor-network theory; agri-environmental policy; farm enterprise; sustainable soil management; sociology of translation; soil erosion

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Ce projet de recherche repose sur un constat des experts suisses en matière de protection des sols: malgré une vingtaine d’année d’efforts concertés et de mise en œuvre de mesures visant à protéger la qualité des sols, l’érosion des terres agricoles représente toujours un problème environnemental majeur en Suisse. Afin d’y faire face, l’Office fédéral de l’environnement et l’Office fédéral de l’agriculture ont publié un module d’aide à l’exécution des lois destiné aux cantons, et la nouvelle politique agricole 2014-2017 inclut des mesures visant à renforcer cette protection.
Lay summary

Dans ce projet, nous nous intéressons à l’efficacité et à la stabilité à long terme de la politique agro-environnementale suisse en matière de protection des sols, en analysant : (a) comment l’érosion des sols a été construit en tant que problème agro-environnemental ; (b) comment le réseau des autorités, des experts, des instruments et des agriculteurs sont engagés et interagissent autour de ce problème ; et (c) comment les connaissances scientifiques, biologiques et sociales, sur lesquelles repose la politique agro-environnementale, ont été constituées, et comment elles évoluent.

Notre étude repose principalement sur la théorie de l’acteur-réseau ou sociologie de la traduction. Elle représente, selon nous, l’approche la plus pertinente et complexe pour étudier la mise en œuvre des politiques agro-environnementales. Dans une moindre mesure, notre étude contribuera également à : la sociologie des connaissances, en confrontant les connaissances scientifiques aux connaissances pratiques des agriculteurs ; à l’anthropologie des techniques, en observant comment les mesures et les pratiques en faveur de la protection des sols sont transmises et adaptées par les agriculteurs ; aux études micro-sociologiques de la prise de décision et de la participation, en mettant en évidence quels facteurs mènent à l’acceptation des mesures de protection ; à la théorie culturelle du risque, en étudiant comment le risque d’érosion est évalué par les autorités publiques et perçu par les agriculteurs.

Cette étude se concentre sur deux cantons (Neuchâtel et Fribourg) caractérisés par leur stratégie de mise en œuvre différente et par l’analyse in situ d’une dizaine d’exploitations agricoles faisant face à l’érosion. Les données seront collectées à travers des entretiens, des observations, l’évaluation des risques d’érosion sur le terrain, et l’analyse de documents.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.05.2014

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
“The challenge of soil erosion management in Switzerland: a socio-anthropological analysis of public policy construction and implementation”
Derungs Nicolas, Hertz Ellen (2016), “The challenge of soil erosion management in Switzerland: a socio-anthropological analysis of public policy construction and implementation”, in Bulletin de la Société suisse de pédologie, 2016(37), 25-33.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Center for Sustainability (CSAFE), University of Otago New Zealand (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Federal Office for the Environment Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Haute école du paysage, d’ingénierie et d’architecture de Genève (HEPIA) Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Federal Office for Agriculture Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Chambre Neuchâteloise d’Agriculture et de Viticulture Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften HAFL, Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Biology and Anthropology Institutes, University of Neuchâtel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Agridea Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
L’Azuré – Etudes en écologie appliquée Switzerland (Europe)
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration
Agricultural Institute, State of Fribourg Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Industry/business/other use-inspired collaboration

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
"Rediscovering soils" Talk given at a conference workshop at the University of Sheffield 16.06.2017 Sheffield, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Derungs Nicolas;
weekly seminar of the Centre for Sustainability, University of Otago Individual talk "presentation by Nicolas Derungs" 11.11.2016 Dunedin, New Zealand Derungs Nicolas; Mitchell Edward;
Semaine thématique, Brennpunkt Boden 2016 Individual talk "Erosion - wenn das wertvolle Erdreich verschwindet" 09.09.2016 Zollikofen, Switzerland Derungs Nicolas;
"Congrès de l'International Rural Sociology Association" Talk given at a conference "Addressing the complexity of agri-environmental governance: multiplicity, hybridity, and assemblage" 10.08.2016 Toronto, Canada Derungs Nicolas;
CUSO Graduate School in Anthropology Talk given at a conference "Anthropology and the Environment(s)" 09.03.2016 Bevaix, Switzerland Hertz Ellen; Derungs Nicolas;
Congrès annuel de la Société suisse de pédologie Poster L'année internationale des sols - et maintenant? 04.02.2016 Genève, Switzerland Mitchell Edward; Derungs Nicolas;
Congrès de la Société suisse de pédologie Poster "Soil erosion in Switzerland: how socio-anthropological analysis can improve our understanding of a complex agri-environmental problèem" 06.02.2015 Bâle, Switzerland Mitchell Edward; Derungs Nicolas;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
164784 Théâtre de la connaissance IV: Territoire 01.03.2016 Agora

Abstract

Summary of the research planThis proposal starts from the observation that despite more than twenty years of concerted efforts by soil management experts to implement measures to protect soil quality, erosion on arable land still constitutes a major environmental problem for Swiss agriculture today. In response, Swiss agricultural policy for the period 2014-2017 includes plans to improve soil protection by strengthening the effectiveness of current agri-environmental instruments, as reflected most recently in new guidelines issued by the Federal Offices for Agriculture and for the Environment. In this project, we will investigate the effectiveness and long-term stability of this agri-environmental policy for soil protection by analyzing: (a) how soil erosion has been constructed as an agri-environmental problem; (b) how the network of authorities, experts, instruments, farmers and soil involved in its implementation interact around this problem; and (c) how biological and social scientific knowledge about proper policy formulation in the area of erosion on arable land has been constituted and how it is evolving.Our project will mobilize the theoretical framework known as actor-network-theory (or ANT). Following the ANT approach, we take as our object of analysis five quite different types of actants: (1) officials and experts at the federal, cantonal and communal levels; (2) the laws, regulations and instruments they design and apply; (3) the farmers who are to carry out these policies; (4) agricultural soil, as perceived through the current state of the art in soil sciences (measurement and mapping techniques, laboratory analyses, etc.); and (5) the newer but productive area of social scientific knowledge about how environmental policy can bring about desired changes in human behavior. In our view, the added value of this project stems from the particular way in which our research object has been configured within the contemporary Swiss debate. Since the biological science on which soil conservation policy is based is considered to be relatively stable, the failures of agri-environmental instruments to induce desired changes in human-soil interaction are increasingly thought to be caused by poor understanding and operationalization of the social, not the natural, aspects of this interaction. The originality of our project thus lies in its inclusion of social scientific knowledge about policy implementation within our research design. Our project will examine the implicit divisions of labor and allocations of responsibility within this discursive configuration, and ask how the network of actants involved can be stabilized to produce effective anti-erosion policies for arable land in this country. The study will concentrate on two cantons (Neuchâtel and Fribourg) characterized by their different implementation strategies for soil protection. Data will be collected through interviewing, observation, erosion risk assessment, and document review. The project will be conducted over a 36-month period and take the form of a PhD thesis co-directed by Professor Ellen Hertz of the Anthropology Institute and Prof. Edward Mitchell of the Biology Institute, both of the University of Neuchâtel. Research results will take the form of one PhD thesis, one co-authored article in a highly ranked professional journal in the social sciences, and a second article in a journal intended for a natural science and/or general audience.
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