Assisting Environment and Climate Change Canada in Motivating On-Farm Change to Prevent Nutrient Loss in the Lake Erie Basin

Assisting Environment and Climate Change Canada in Motivating On-Farm Change

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) have implemented a number of programs to encourage farmers to adopt recommended practices to prevent the run-off of phosphorus into watersheds, such as Lake Erie in Ontario. These programs strive to motivate on-farm adoption of cover crops, minimize tillage, increase crop diversity as well as minimize soil erosion and protect fragile areas. It was estimated that, to reach their reduction goals, upwards of 20,000 producers would be required to adopt these practices.

ECCC came to ACER with several questions:

  • What increases the chance a farmer will participate in a program?
  • What factors influence adoption of best management practices?
  • Where should future resources be allocated to be most effective?
  • Can you create a program planning and evaluation tool to guide program development?


Responding to the Call

Our team joined up with Headlands Ag-Enviro-Solutions to conduct a series of key informant interviews, a province-wide survey of farmers, and a literature review to answer the first two questions. We also reviewed the characteristics of, and evaluation results for, over 20 programs focused on influencing on-farm adoption for environmental stewardship.

We identified a number of key factors within these programs that influence participation by farmers:

  • Institutional trust, accountability and transparency
  • Pedagogical approach and use of farmer-farmer learning groups
  • Bridging social capital and creating diverse partnerships
  • The use of a variety of tools and resources, communicated through multiple mediums


A Program Development and Evaluation Tool

Program development and evaluation are inherently linked. Developing an effective program not only requires resources and capacity, it requires a clear and explicit understanding of the goals and objectives, the desired outcomes, and specific steps that must be taken for implementation.

Informed by the previous work, ACER developed a tool to support program design and evaluation. Each section provides a list of questions to answer and key considerations to review. For each question answered, a rating was applied that refers to the likelihood that decision has of engaging farmers to participate in the program. The end result was a score that indicates how likely the designed program may be to engage Ontario farmers in the program.

While the tool is only for internal use by ECCC at this time, it is expected that this tool will be provided to the public for use in the near future to help inform program development and evaluation across Canada.


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Environment and Climate Change Canada

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