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Understanding and evaluating the “missing” governance pillar of sustainability – the case of the Bulgarian agriculture

Bachev, Hrabrin (2021): Understanding and evaluating the “missing” governance pillar of sustainability – the case of the Bulgarian agriculture.

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The importance of “good governance” for achieving agrarian sustainability has been increasingly studied in the last two decades. What has been a recent development is the inclusion of governance into (agrarian) sustainability as a new “fourth” pillar. Still there is no consensus on: what is governance sustainability; how to measure governance sustainability; how to integrate governance into the overall sustainability; what are critical factors determining sustainability levels, etc. The goal of this article is to present a holistic framework for defining and assessing the governance sustainability in agriculture, and assess the level of governance sustainability of Bulgarian agriculture at national, sub-sectoral, regional, ecosystem, and farming organization levels. The study has demonstrated that it is possible and important to assess the “missing” Governance Pillar of agrarian sustainability. Governance sustainability of Bulgarian agriculture is at a good but close to the inferior level. There is a considerable variation in the level of governance sustainability and application of the principles for good governance in different subsectors, agro-ecosystems, administrative regions, and types of farming organizations. At current stage, most critical for improving the governance sustainability are progressive changes in: farmers' participation in decision-making, agrarian administration efficiency, administrative services digitalization, possibility for lands extension, management board external control, level of informal system efficiency, subsidies in income, extent of CAP implementation, acceptability of legal payments, and land concentration. Suggested and other similar frameworks have to be further discussed, tested, improved and adapted to the specific conditions of agricultural systems and the needs of decision-makers. Accuracy has to be improved through the inclusion of appropriate indicators, improvement of precision of the information, increasing representation of surveyed farms, and experimenting with diverse types of agro-systems.

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