Mountain Agriculture


The Multifunctionality of Mountain Agriculture

Similar to forestry, agriculture is a special type of land utilisation that generally does not overbuild or seal and, consequently, does not irrevocably "consume" landscape. Compared to other types of land utilisation, agriculture uses and shapes the landscape in a less severe manner. Therefore, agriculture that is suitable for the location may generate results that go beyond the mere production of foodstuffs (FLURY et al. 2007; GIULIANI 2003, NORDREGIO 2004; RIEDER 1997; BROWER & GRABTREE 1999; TASSER et al. 2001;).

By cultivating the land, agriculture is conducive to the open appearance of the landscape and establishes a basis for a habitable settlement area. Agriculture turns natural space into a "cultivated landscape" and adds to a region’s attractiveness by creating a mosaic of areas with diverse utilisations. In many areas, agriculture also serves to protect its population from natural disasters and ensures a continuous food supply.

These "products" are certainly not marketable side-products of agricultural production with positive effects on the society (see table below). Rather, they have become a new, important factor for the subsidisation policy in the course of agricultural reforms (WTO, CAP, Swiss New Agricultural Policy) at the beginning of the 1990s. They enhance the functional range and responsibility of agriculture and are summarised under the term "multifunctionality".

Examples of marketable products and non-marketable, “multifunctional services” of a location-compatible mountain agriculture (LEHMANN, 2002 and BROGGI et al. 1997).
The term "multifunctionality" was created by the Swiss delegation during the GATT’s Uruguay Round in order to compensate the cutback of production-related subsidies and the liberalisation of trade and to maintain a food-producing agriculture in Switzerland. Then as now, the lack of competitive strength indirectly threatens multifunctionality (LEHMANN 2002). For mountain agriculture, the development towards multifunctionality provides an opportunity. Services for the public good are renumerated on a performance level without the risk of generating surpluses. Subsidisation strategies have adopted the multifunctionality approach. The agricultural sector receives direct payments that are largely unrelated to production; these are internationally legitimised within the framework of the WTO regulations (green box).

"Multifunctionality" will be recognised as an agricultural service only as long as society asks for it. Therefore, it is necessary to define and deliver these services in such a way that the acceptance by society will be maintained. This implies a categorical need for defined spatial, environmental- and structural-policy requirements (LEHMANN et al. 2007; STÖCKLIN et al. 2007).
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