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Unpacking the governance of agro-ecosystem services – the case of Bulgaria

Bachev, Hrabrin (2022): Unpacking the governance of agro-ecosystem services – the case of Bulgaria.

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The issue of understanding, analyzing and assessing the governance of ecosystem services in general, agro-ecosystem services in particular, is among the most topical academic and practical (policies and business forwarded) tasks. Despite of the growing importance and interest in that new area, in Bulgaria, like in many other countries, there are few studies on the meaning, content, measurement and assessment of the specific governance of agro-ecosystem services. This paper tries to give answers to the following academic and practical (policies and business forwarded) questions: what is governance of agro-ecosystem services, which are components of the governance system of that important area, how to assess the governance of ecosystem services, and how to improve the governance. It incorporates the interdisciplinary New Institutional Economics framework and gives new insights on understanding, scope, and assessment of the system of governance of ecosystem services as well as outline the result of a large scale study on mechanisms, modes and impacts of governance in Bulgarian farms. First, it suggests a holistic definition of the governance encompassing (1) the governing agents, and (2) the available rules, mechanisms and modes for agents, and (3) the process of governing, and (4) the outcome (specific order and efficiency) of governance. Secondly, we present a framework for identification, measurement and assessment of the mechanisms and modes of governance, and associated factors, costs and benefits for related agents. Third, it identifies the type, amount, and importance of various ecosystem services maintained and “produced” by the Bulgarian farms. Forth, it identifies and assesses the mechanisms, modes, efficiency and factors of governance of ecosystem services in Bulgarian agriculture. The study has found out that muluple private, market, and public forms and mechanisms are used to govern agro-ecosystem services in Bulgaria. The country’s farms provide a great number of essential ecosystem services among which provisioning food and feed, and conservation of elements of the natural environment prevail. A great variety of private, market, collective, public and hybrid modes of governance of farm activity related to agro-ecosystem services are applied. There is significant differentiation of employed managerial forms depending on the type of ecosystem services and the specialization of holdings. Furthermore, management of agro-ecosystem services is associated with a considerable increase in production and transaction costs of participating farms as well as big socio-economic and environmental effects for farms and other parties.

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