Nutrient Cycle Assessment Tool: A tool for dialogue and ex ante evaluation of policy interventions aiming at closing nutrient cycles in agriculture

Bart Bremmer, Ferry Leenstra*, Theun Vellinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

One of the main challenges for modern agriculture is closing nutrient cycles better since nutrient deficits as well as nutrient surpluses can cause severe ecological issues. Current efforts to improve nutrient management are mainly focused on the farm level. However, closing nutrient cycles is not only a farm management issue, but also a policy issue. Here the farm should be considered in interaction with other scale levels: regional, national, and international. To develop effective policy interventions a thorough understanding of this complex system and the effects of the policy interventions is needed. The Nutrient Cycle Assessment Tool (NCAT) was developed as a tool to perform ex ante evaluations of policy interventions aimed at closing nutrient cycles in agriculture. To contribute to meaningful change, active involvement of stakeholders in applying the NCAT is essential. This article describes the design of the NCAT, and explains why and how complexity and joint learning, single and double loop learning, and systems thinking approaches are used as the key elements of the design. The NCAT focuses on facts and stimulates participants to postpone value judgements. A case study indicated that the tool provided stakeholders with clear insights in the potential effects of policy interventions. Applying the NCAT can lead to shared and enhanced understanding of the effects and consequences of an intervention among participating stakeholders, which is an important prerequisite when developing implementable and supported policy decisions. Observations and evaluation interviews indicate that this process stimulates cognitive learning as well as relational learning. By reflecting on the case study and the resulting insights, the scientific status of the results from using the NCAT is discussed, as well as its value for policy processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100330
JournalNJAS - Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences
Volume92
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jul 2020

Keywords

  • Learning
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Nutrient cycles
  • Phosphorous cycle
  • Policy interventions
  • Stakeholder participation

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