Outcome-based assessment of the payment for mountain agriculture: a community-based approach to countering land abandonment in Japan

Environmental Management所収
Volume (Issue): 68
Agricultural land accounts for 37% of the world’s terrestrial area, and the multiple functions of agroecosystems—providing food, soil and water retention, and various cultural services—are of great importance for sustainable land management. To ensure that multifunctionality, payment for ecosystem services (PES) schemes have been developed for heterogeneous agroecosystems. However, the effects of the schemes have not been fully measured because, in most cases, they have been implemented as action-oriented programs rather than outcome-based payments. This study examines the effect of a community-based PES (CB-PES) program on the prevention of farmland abandonment to assess the agricultural outcomes of PES implementation in hilly and mountainous areas in Japan. We interviewed farmers in enrolled communities, mapped enrolled plots, and analyzed agricultural census data on the socioeconomic characteristics and farmland management conditions of 12,261 farmers in 960 agricultural communities in a typical hilly and mountainous area of Noto Peninsula in northern Japan. The results confirm that direct payments are effective in enhancing community management and in preventing additional farmland abandonment. In addition, we found that several socioeconomic and environmental factors at both the community and farmer levels—including geographical conditions, collective management activities, absence of successors, farm scale, and off-farm income dependency—simultaneously affected the farmland abandonment process. Specifically, collective practices within and between communities is a significant factor in preventing farmland abandonment more than collaboration with outsiders. Considering the depopulation and aging of rural communities throughout Japan, intercommunity enrollment could improve the effectiveness of CB-PES by upscaling the current payment scheme to maintain community functions.