Innovation in Rural Development
During recent decades, agriculture has experienced major productivity gains. But this trend slowed down in developed countries in recent years. These gains were achieved partly by putting serious strains on natural resources and the environment. 45% of European soils face problems of soil quality (symptomised by low levels of organic matter), and 25% suffer from erosion. Valuable ecosystems, and with them, valuable eco-system services have been damaged or have even disappeared.
These phenomena are not confined to the technologically most advanced parts of the European Union. Europe also has a huge potential in areas characterised by small and traditional farms. However, if those farms follow the same pattern of development, major environmental damage will be inflicted on existing, often rich habitats and biodiversity, and on soil functionality and water resources.
A shift towards a different growth path is needed in order to establish competitive and sustainable agriculture in Europe, and to ensure continued supply of the ecosystem services that we all need. This applies even more urgently to those parts of Europe where farmed ecologically functioning landscapes still exist: it is easier by far, and less costly, to preserve ecosystems than to re-create them.
See the Communication for the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the European Innovation Partnership on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability, Brussels, 29.2.2012 COM(2012) 79 final.
This new path is brought together under the theme of innovation, as part of the European Commission’s new European Innovation Partnership (EIP). This is not a direct source of funding, but is a vision for policy-making, and for integrating the varied funding and technical support possibilities that exist.