Attitude of farmers and municipal authorities of the Leningrad region to investments in natural capital / environmental protection measures (review of respondents’ answers).


Attitude of farmers and municipal authorities of the Leningrad region to investments in natural capital / environmental protection measures (review of respondents’ answers).

The questionnaire survey of respondents in 2020 was attended by agricultural producers of the Leningrad region, including the heads of small and medium farms, who implemented investment projects for the reconstruction and overhaul of reclamation facilities in 2016-2019. The respondents presented six administrative districts of the Leningrad region.

At the same time, representatives of municipal authorities from the Leningrad region and one deputy of the Legislative Assembly took part in the questionnaire survey. The choice of respondents – representatives of local authorities was due to the active implementation over the past 4 years of projects for the construction and reconstruction of reclamation systems by agricultural enterprises located in their subordinate districts of the Leningrad region.

The results of the survey made it possible to draw a number of conclusions:

First, the ecological state of the farm and the environment is an important aspect of agricultural activity – more than 80% of the surveyed farmers and agricultural specialists in the Leningrad region think so. At the same time, the state of soil and water is the most significant in the medium and long term for the respondents.

State support represents a significant incentive in the implementation of activities related to water management. In particular, in the opinion of the survey participants, land reclamation activities are of primary importance, and the construction of wetlands is secondary, possibly due to the low awareness of agricultural producers about the possibilities and parameters of this environmental measure.

At the same time, the most significant obstacles to the implementation of measures related to water management for agricultural producers in the Leningrad region are the high cost and low effect of the implementation of environmental measures, as well as the insufficient level of state support (organizational and financial).

The survey showed that implementing environmental projects, agricultural organizations and farmers are primarily aimed at increasing the profitability of agricultural activities, as well as preserving and accumulating the potential of land and water resources for future generations.

Secondly, it should be noted the low level of awareness of the respondents about the technologies of using natural biological filters and wetlands.

As a priority area of ​​investment in measures aimed at improving water resources on the farm, the respondents noted the option of creating or improving reclamation systems. Heads of farms, due to their lack of knowledge about the practice of using modern technologies (wetlands, biofilters, etc.), and their insufficient prevalence in our country are not yet ready for their implementation. Therefore, measures such as the construction of additional water purification systems, the implementation of measures to sequester carbon in the soil, the creation of buffer zones by sowing various plants are secondary to investments. Nevertheless, as follows from the survey, the implementation of pilot projects of these measures, including the construction of wetlands on the territory of the Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions, would allow accumulating and generalizing experience, transmitting it in the agricultural and rural areas.

Thirdly, in the opinion of local authorities, the most significant is information on the quality of water in natural reservoirs, as well as on the state and status of manure storages. This confirms the assumption that the problem of pollution of natural water bodies by runoff from fields with an increased content of nutrients is significant for local authorities. However, information on drainage projects is less important for respondents due to the lack of understanding of the direct relationship between the use of modern drainage systems in agricultural enterprises, supplemented by agro-ecological measures, and the purity of water in water bodies.

All participants in the questionnaire survey among representatives of municipal authorities agreed on their lack of awareness of the problems associated with the state and use of water resources, such as the quality of water in reservoirs, compliance with water quality standards at treatment facilities, the quality of drinking water in public wells, the state of wastewater in sedimentary reservoirs, the possibility of using drainage projects, the availability of water resources or their shortage.

At the same time, the respondents noted the need to improve interaction with local agricultural producers on the state and use of water resources in the following areas:

1. Strengthening control over the use of mineral fertilizers by farmers, increasing the share of applying organic fertilizers to fields;

2. Improving access to water bodies;

3. Prevention of the process of stagnation of water in reclamation structures before it enters the water intake and local water bodies;

4. Strengthening information support and maintenance for land reclamation projects and involving more farmers in them;

5. Engaging qualified environmental engineers to improve the competence of local authorities in this matter.

In conclusion, it should be noted that the results of surveys, research and development in the WATERDRIVE project are of interest when creating regional concepts and plans for rational environmental management, taking into account the specific conditions of rural areas.

Authors (text and survey): Mikhail Ponomarev, Natalia Nikonova, Khapsat Dibirova, Elena Payurova, Julia Nikulina and Alexei Nikonov – St. Petersburg Federal Research Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SPC RAS); organization department – Institute of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development (IAERD).