Mixed policies to reduce soil erosion and land abandonment in marginal areas: A case study from the Liguria region, Italy

Mixed policies to reduce soil erosion and land abandonment in marginal areas: A case study from the Liguria region, Italy


Daniele Vergamini, Matteo Olivieri, Maria Andreoli, Fabio Bartolini


Soil erosion and land abandonment are major environmental issues affecting many regions of Europe, particularly mountainous and marginal areas such as the Liguria region in Italy. These problems reduce rural areas’ prosperity and negatively affect ecosystem services, worsening soil health and biodiversity.  Based on a study carried out in Liguria, this article examines how a different policy mix can mitigate these problems.

Study Methodology

The study applies a bio-economic model to simulate the impact of different Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) measures on soil erosion and land abandonment. The policies analysed include enhanced conditionality (EC), eco-schemes (ES) and agri-environment and climate measures (AEM). The model allows an assessment of how different policy combinations can influence farmers’ decisions and the state of the environment. 

Key Findings

Impact of CAP Policies:

  • CAP policies, when applied in an integrated manner, can significantly reduce soil erosion and prevent land abandonment. This is essential to maintain the sustainability of farming in marginal areas.
  • Policies should be designed to include small-scale and hobby farmers, who play an essential role in maintaining the landscape and the environment in marginal areas.

Eco-schemes and Agri-environmental Measures:

  • Eco-schemes and AES can offer payments based on actions and results. These payments incentivize farmers to adopt more sustainable practices that improve soil health and biodiversity.
  • The combination of action-based and results-based payments has proven effective in fostering innovative and flexible environmental management among farmers.

Simulations and Models:

  • Simulations indicate that CAP measures can prevent soil erosion and land abandonment. Without CAP interventions, there is a significant increase in both soil erosion and land abandonment.
  • Results-based payments, although challenging to implement, can be more effective and efficient if designed correctly.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The study highlights the importance of an integrated policy framework for soil conservation and agricultural sustainability in Europe. Results-based payments and traditional CAP measures can offer innovative and adaptive solutions to environmental and climate challenges. Including all types of farmers in these policies is essential to maximize their positive impact.

Implications for the Future

This integrated and flexible approach can serve as a model for other regions of Europe and beyond that face similar challenges of soil erosion and land abandonment. Implementing well-designed policies that consider local conditions and the needs of all farmers is key to achieving long-term environmental and agricultural sustainability.

This research, conducted by the NOVASOIL project partners, underscores the importance of innovative and well-structured agricultural policies to address environmental challenges in vulnerable areas. We invite all our readers to explore more about this research and continue supporting initiatives that promote the sustainability of our soils and agricultural landscapes.

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