Published April 30, 2021 | Version v1
Technical note Open

Supporting knowledge networks for sustainable farming practices in Lower Saxony

  • 1. Thünen-Institute of Farm Economics
  • 2. Chamber of Agriculture Lower Saxony


The willingness to implement agro-ecological practices is shaped by trust between farmers and other actors. While the level of trust between the advisory services and farmers is often rather high, lack of trust is an issue when implementing or monitoring policy measures, such as agri-environmental schemes. The attitude and beliefs of farmers are also negatively affected by knowledge gaps on suitable agro-ecological practices and their benefits. These gaps can be explained by low levels of cooperation and capacity building regarding agro-ecological practices, and due to farmers being unaware of funding opportunities for receiving suitable advice.

Recommendations were co-constructed with local actors to address knowledge gaps and attitudes. Building trust between farmers and actors who are, or will, collaborate in the context of converting to agro-ecological farming is particularly important to also achieve the objectives of the “Lower Saxony Path”, a new agreement by the ministries, the agricultural sector and nature conservation associations to enhance biodiversity and water quality. Recommendations include:

  • Establishing formal knowledge networks of farmers and other rural actors with trusted and skilled agro-ecology advisors as permanent network managers.
  • Amplifying trusting relationships between farmers and advisors to facilitate the network development, and building on peer-to-peer engagement through farmers that are already experienced in cooperation.

Support is required that facilitates the education and introduction of local network managers, the integration of advice into agri-environmental schemes, and improving agro-ecological know-how of advisors and controllers.

This Policy Brief of the German case study in Lower Saxony is one of a set produced by the H2020 UNISECO project. Others are accessible on the Zenodo repository under the UNISECO Community.

UNISECO is a European research project aiming to develop innovative approaches to enhance the understanding of socio-economic and policy drivers and barriers for further development and implementation of agro-ecological practices in EU farming systems. Learn more about the project:

This project has received funding from the European Union's H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 773901.

This publication reflects only the authors' view and that the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.



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UNISECO – Understanding and improving the sustainability of agro-ecological farming systems in the EU 773901
European Commission