The contribution of the commons to the persistence of mountain grazing systems under the Common Agricultural Policy
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Land Use Policy 117 : (2022) // Article ID 106089
[EN] Mountain grazing systems, based since ancient times on common land, are finding it increasingly challenging to ensure their economic viability. Although marginal in productive terms, these systems are high-value natural areas that provide multiple benefits for society (e.g. biodiversity and ecosystem services). They are usually studied from an institutional or local perspective, but little is known about how mountain common land interacts with policies at a higher level, e.g. the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) in Europe. This study assesses the contribution of the commons to the persistence of mountain sheep grazing systems in Europe under the CAP. To that end, we analyse economic and land use data on 20 farms in the mountain common grazing lands of Aralar (Basque Country, northern Spain). We find that CAP payments associated with common land account for 42% of net margin while the resources extracted from common grazing lands in the summer months provide on average 30% of annual energy requirements, which equates to 22.5% of farms' net margins. We conclude that under the current CAP the common land can play a key role in securing additional resources for the small farmers who engage in low-input traditional management practices that sustain these valuable grazing systems. The way in which existing intertwined institutions adapt to the emergence of new, higher level conditions such as the CAP will determine the future of ever-changing mountain commons.