The Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) invests in grass-roots projects with the aim of delivering economic, environmental and social benefits to New Zealand’s primary industries and rural communities. The Fund was set up in 2000. In the subsequent 14-year period MPI spent $122.8 million on 906 SFF projects.
Working closely with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), we undertook an evaluation of the SFF during 2013. The evaluation assessed outcomes, value for money and possible adaptations to ensure the Fund remains effective and fit for purpose.
Value for money was assessed using an evaluative rubric that integrated economic, environmental, social and cultural values with the underpinning logic adopted by the SFF (the Bennett’s Heirarchy).
The evaluation drew together evidence from range of sources including: review of the SFF database; an online survey of project managers; case studies of three clusters of projects; workshops with MPI staff and fund managers; and review of past evaluations and SFF documentation.
The evaluation found that the SFF is good value for money and makes a worthwhile and valuable contribution to primary industries and rural communities. It supports the interests of science, the environment, agribusiness and the community in ways not replicated by other funding programmes.
Among the key benefits of the SFF are its contribution to:
Increased capability for problem solving at individual, community and sector levels
Enhanced relationships and networks between farmers, rural communities, scientists, local government and industry bodies
Behaviour change that supports sustainable farming, including farmer engagement and emergency of leaders to champion ongoing change
Development and adoption of new technology and environmentally sustainable practice
Protecting and growing the economic value of primary industries, including export opportunities ·
Cumulative impacts from related projects over time, with later projects building on learnings from earlier ones
Supporting Māori self-determination
Development of skilled project managers who help broker relationships, support individual and group change, and facilitate project management.
The evaluation was extensively quoted in a report to the OECD Trade and Agricultural Directorate which highlighted the value of using soft measures to support agri-environmental policy implementation.