The socio-economic context refers to the characteristics of the place where landscape management and valorisation takes place in terms of general economic performance (especially outside agriculture) or population and urban density. Especially urban-rural-relationships, the proximity to potential urban consumers, their purchasing power and their demand for landscape goods and services represent important drivers for the valorisation of landscape. These encompass regional food supply as well as recreational, touristic and social services. Regarding the food production and marketing, the exploitation of the proximity to the urban-based consumers and their demand for regional, high-value and quality food represents a serious marketing possibility for peri-urban farmers, particularly for specialised horticultural vegetable and fruit growers.
The production of recreational values has especially gained importance with the rise of the post-Fordist society. With growing standards of living and extended leisure time, urban dweller now have more time and resources for outdoor recreation in the near countryside. Due to the proximity of urban centres as nuclei of societal and lifestyle transitions, this process provides an opportunity to valorize landscape and restructure farming beyond the industrial model that is based on pure commodity production. Examples are the diversification into non-agriculture activities, such as the provision of on-farm accommodation, hospitality and recreational services.
Empirical case study evidence
Proximity to urban area
Due to their population, cities and metropolitan regions represent important demand centres for rural goods and services. Urban population own property, purchase as regional (food) products or participate in day-trip tourism and other recreational outdoor activities. Due to the neighbourhood to Berlin, the valorisation of the natural capital (provided by agricultural landscape management or not) in the German case study region is to a large extent depending on urban visitors, which has been confirmed through empirical evidence. The ad-hoc study showed that 75% of the landscape visitor travelled from the nearby Berlin contributing to the local hospitality, gastronomy and other tourist service businesses. Also a macro-scale analysis across Austrian municipalities revealed significant relationships between closeness to (semi-)urban and economic efficiency of rural areas.
Empirical evidence has shown a frequent unbalanced demand-supply situation. Investments, e.g. in agritourism, have only little potential with corresponding demand (accordance with residents perception or additional tourists) as farmers are often production-oriented, whereas the demand is mainly linked to natural assets (wetlands), cultural heritage (UNESCO site), and seaside tourism (IT).
In addition, the availability of the potential customers in the specific area of the landscape management was found important for the possible contribution to rural competitiveness. So have for instance two Mediterranean case studies (Lowland Ferrara, IT and Corsica, FR) claimed a strong spatial mismatch of demand and supply of natural amenities through landscape management. Whereas most tourists are concentrated at seaside locations, they miss out the agricultural hinterlands, where the landscape measures are applied. Another type of mismatch has been found in the Turkish case study of Isparta, which despite their potential for tourism within the agricultural landscape, the demand is limited to specific time due to seasonality of attraction (rose farming).
Along with the natural conditions, socio-economic framework conditions (population density, proximity to urban and metropolitan areas) represent important preconditions for the valorisation of the natural capital from managed landscapes. Especially cities represent important consumer demand centres for rural goods and services related to agricultural landscape management.
Buciega, A., Pitarch, M.D. & Esparcia, J. (2009). The Context of Rural-Urban Relationships in Finland, France, Hungary, The Netherlands and Spain. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning 11(1), 9-27.
Piorr, A., Ravetz, J. & Tosics, I. (2011). Peri-urbanisation in Europe: Towards a European Policy to Sustain Urban-Rural Futures. A Synthesis Report. Frederiksberg: University of Copenhagen / Academic Books Life Sciences.