Providing for growing food demand while minimizing environmental degradation is a major contemporary environmental challenge. Agri-environmental schemes (AESs) are often promoted to meet this challenge by providing subsidies to farmers who adopt agri-environmental practices (AEPs). The success of these schemes depends on the ability to engage farmers, thus understanding farmers' perceptions about AEPs is pivotal. Yet, current knowledge is limited as most research explores farmer's attitudes towards existing AESs, often based on subsidies. We explored the attitudes of farmers and their communities towards five different AEPs, and towards a potential AES, in an area of intensive agriculture in Israel, where currently no AES are implemented. We conducted five focus group sessions with 41 farmers, 12 follow-up interviews, and a survey with 296 community members. Findings indicate that farmers' willingness to implement AEPs was driven by environmental, personal, and social considerations, particularly perceptions of “good farming” practices, such as community cohesiveness and maintaining control of one's field. Farmers' lack of trust in the government, and lack of personal or local experience with specific AEPs, are other major barriers for joining a potential AES. Farmers perceived financial compensation as a safety net, but placed social and cultural values on par with, or above, financial considerations for joining an AES. Farmers' communities demonstrated high support for implementing AEPs, indicating that communities could be an asset for AES development. Therefore, while incentives for many AESs are based primarily on monetary compensation, to achieve their desired long-term results they should also focus on farmer resilience, independence, knowledge creation, and socio-cultural capital development.
- Agri-environmental practices (AEP)
- Agri-environmental schemes (AES)
- Farmer habitus
- Farmer perceptions
- Theory of planned behaviour (TPB)