“Seeds of Change: Sustainable Agriculture as a Path to Prosperity for the Western Balkans” is a study undertaken to try to assess the environmental and economic consequences of a shift to “sustainable” agriculture in the four Western Balkan countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. The study, along with a related upcoming study on the energy sector aims to help policy makers and other stakeholders in the Western Balkan countries understand the potential positive impacts which could occur by investing in and designing sustainable policies for the agriculture and energy sectors.
One of the innovative aspects of this study is that it examines the externalities involved in agricultural production — comparing those of sustainable (organic) agriculture and conventional (high-input) agriculture. In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit which results from an activity or transaction and which affects an otherwise uninvolved party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. This study takes an approach which involves the economic valuation of ecosystem services and both positive and negative externalities. The authors are quite aware of the limitations of this approach.
Some things have intrinsic qualities which cannot be translated well — if at all — into monetary terms. For example, how much is human life worth? How much is the existence of a species worth? How much is clean water and clean air worth? While the study contains valuations of some of these issues, this does not imply that the authors believe that these values are accurate as such. Instead, the study demonstrates the level of scale of externalities (both positive and negative) that are currently completely unaccounted for when discussing the value added of the agriculture sector.
The study has been developed in order to examine the multiple factors that go into evaluating the economic performance of agriculture beyond simple calculations of GDP. This issue is of major importance as people, businesses and governments have increasingly been realising that economic development takes place in a world with ecological and resource boundaries that impact all aspects of society. There is an imperative for a different model for development in agriculture. It is the authors’ belief that the region has a great opportunity to change this model — to move away from agricultural practices that have high negative impacts and towards an agriculture sector that is more sustainable ecologically while creating more jobs and more real value.
The study takes a regional approach with differentiation of analysis according to each country. This is because the issues faced by each country related to agriculture are often consistent, and programmes to move towards sustainable agriculture could be developed on a region-wide scale.
Lead Author Dr Darko Znaor;
Secondary Author Seth Landau;
Contributions by Sonja Karoglan, Nataša Mirecki, Srdjan Mandić, and Radivoj Nadlački.