Agricultural Research Centre’s (ARC) Agricultural Research and Monitoring Department (ARMD) has been the (ongoing) evaluator of Estonian Rural Development Plan (RDP) since 2004 for:
- RDP 2004-2006 agri-environment support scheme (AES)
- RDP 2007-2013 Axis 2 measures
- RDP 2014-2020 measures related to environment (Priority areas 4 and 5, measure "Animal welfare" (Priority area 3), activity "Restoration of stonewalls" (Priority area 2))
Tasks of ARC as the evaluator of RDP measures related to environment:
- Collecting and analysing environmental indicators of RDP 2004-2006, RDP 2007-2013 and RDP 2014-2020
- Preparing and carrying out surveys for agri-environmental measures (including assessment of the measure achievements and set targets)
- Communication activities (information days, articles, presentations, answering different enquiries etc)
- Other different tasks (elaboration and improvement of methodologies, participation in several working groups, international collaboration etc)
Evaluation data is collected mainly through existing databases, but also through farm visits and through special studies on indicators:
- Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB, the paying agency) registers (payments, agricultural parcels, farm animals etc)
- Data collected by other institutions related to support schemes (Agricultural Board, Environment Agency, Environmental Board, Ministry of the Environment, Veterinary and Food Board, Estonian Private Forest Centre etc)
- Records by different data collectors (Statistics Estonia, Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN) etc)
- Other available sources (regulations, scientific articles etc)
- ARC studies, data on different topics (special data collecting, questionnaires)
Estonia has a good national environmental monitoring programme already since 1990s but it was realised in RDP 2004-2006 design process that it included almost no information regarding state of environment of agricultural land.
Lack of data and poor quality was the main reason for ARC to start studies for the RDP evaluation on five main topics: soil, water, landscape, biodiversity and socio-economy. In addition, a comparative complex study is carried out which includes organic and conventional farming trials applying RDP measure conditions.
Designed monitoring and evaluation system for agri-environement has been improved continuously through the different RDP periods according to the changing needs.
Overview of studies conducted and indicators used by ARC during the period 2004-2021 can be found here (Excel file).
Importance of the studies conducted by ARC:
- Better knowledge about the condition of the environment of agricultural land
- Continuity of data collection and data storage
- Evaluation and constant improvement of the support measures
- Necessary data for answering the EU common evaluation questions
- Educational material for farmers (trainings)
- Motivating the farmers
- New general knowledge
Evaluation activities are co-financed through RDP Technical Assistance measure.
Annually, ARC compiles a report about the studies and evaluation of measures carried out during the previous year. The full report is handed over to the Ministry of Rural Affairs and published on ARC’s homepage (in Estonian).
Since 2018 ARC has also additional RDP evaluation related responsibilities:
- Rural Economy Analysis Department is the data collector for the evaluation of RDP measures of priorities 1, 2, 3 and 6
- Rural Network Department acts as Estonian National Rural Network Support Unit and is among other tasks collecting and disseminating project examples that have received support from RDP Community-led Local Development (CLLD)/Leader or other measures