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NATURE IN THE SERVICE OF AGRICULTURE
HIGH NATURE VALUE FARMING: A CONCEPT THAT PROTECTS NATURE AND BIODIVERSITY WHILE AT THE SAME TIME FACILITATES SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF RURAL COMMUNITIES
The concept of "high nature value farming" originated in the early nineties and is closely related to the European Union's intention to integrate nature protection into the Common Agricultural Policy.
This concept combines the protection of biodiversity and nature values of rural areas with the need for continual food production. The word "value" in the title of the concept refers to the value of preserving the diversity of habitats, or wild species of plants and animals in the exploited agricultural area.
This concept is most prevalent in those areas in Europe where agriculture is the main mode of land use and where agriculture supports, or is associated with, a high diversity of species and habitats, or the presence of species that are of paramount importance for conservation in Europe (Andersen et al, 2003)
Why is the concept of high nature value farming important for agriculture?
In the first place, because it implies the preservation of traditional low-intensity farming systems (small and medium-sized farms). Many endangered habitat types and many endangered species also depend on some of the traditional agricultural practices this concept seeks to protect and support.
High nature value farming includes agricultural land and agricultural practices of high nature value. In this concept, agricultural land is defined in relation to the land cover of high nature value (e.g. pastures, orchards, arable land), while agricultural practices refer to the practices applied on that land (eg. grazing, mowing, pruning).
In addition to preserving biodiversity, high nature value farming provides a large number of other nature services for society such as clean air and water, preservation of genetic diversity, as well as traditions and cultural values specific to different regions of Europe and the Western Balkans.
In most parts of the Western Balkans, agriculture is the most important branch of the economy. For centuries, farmers have been using the high natural potential of this region for performing agricultural activities. This is illustrated by the fact that the share of the agricultural area is 40% of the territory of the Western Balkans. Livestock and agriculture, two supporting pillars of agriculture are deeply rooted in the tradition of these areas.