EnviroMentor

EnviroMentor

Agricultural and Economic Environmental Impact Assessments are conducted to assess the environ¬mental impact of various proposed activities on general economic, socio-economic, agricultural, agro-tourism and ecological conditions, as well as development potential. Some examples are:
• The assessment of the impact of new roads, power-lines, urban development, tourism develop¬ment and other developments on agriculture and land-use.
• The assessment of the long-term impact of developments on local communities and sensitive ecological systems.

Experience

Associates of this company were requested by the departments of Agriculture, Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs to assist in the planning, supervision and follow-up of large-scale eradication of harmful waterweeds on the Hartebeestpoort Dam and the Crocodile River System. It was found that the effect of the herbicides on aquatic life was minute, compared to the comprehensive effect of the on-going supply of oxygen to the water.

Personnel of this Company have created a method whereby a matrix of factors and impact areas are combined to form the basis of many future Environmental Impact Assessments where the potential effects of heavy infrastructure have to be quantified.

An in-depth study was conducted on behalf of a very large client on the potential impact of planned new infrastructure on a few hundred farms stretching over a distance of more than 250km. The study and resulting report covered aspects, such as the potential impact on existing and potential economic activities; land value; security risk to farms; soil erosion; local aviation; and agro- and ecotourism potential.

Why are agricultural economists involved in environmental impact assessments?

• A recent study clearly indicated that, contrary to common belief, the mere quality of dry land soils did not constitute the most important indicator of potential impact. It was found, instead, that the application of irrigation, as reflected in the operation of the equipment and the high potential value of production to be achieved, was of far greater importance than soil quality. • In many environmental impact studies currently being conducted, the incorrect approach is being followed, whereby soil quality is elevated to a position of being the most important determining factor. In the study it was clearly found that the potential future impact on land value and saleability should be quantified, especially where new irrigation opportunities can be developed.

• The significance of the introduction of irrigation to farmland represents a degree of importance that is much higher than that represented by differences in soil quality. It seems that, in most cases where Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are conducted in areas where there is an impact on the agricultural and forestry sectors, agriculturists are seldom involved.

• Nevertheless, soil scientists are occasionally requested to analyse soils and determine their quality. Whatever the importance of this for an EIA, the potential impact on the agricultural sector is not merely determined by the quality and type of soil.

• Agriculturists can play a far greater role in EIAs. Whenever the land-use of a particular portion of land changes, as in the case of the conversion of a cattle farm into a game farm for eco-tourism purposes, a proper EIA needs to be conducted. It is, therefore, tragic that agriculturists and, specifically, agricultural economists, are hardly ever involved in these processes.

• Economic models and empirical instruments have been developed to properly evaluate and analyse new developments that might affect a safe and sustainable agricultural industry.

• One such model is the cost benefit analysis, which is used to evaluate the economic value of projects versus the economic value of activities before the project was implemented. Various techniques are used to develop these models, such as the calculation of shadow prices for output and labour. Both qualitative and quantitative cost and benefits are considered. Apart from agriculture, this is also applicable in the following industries: forestry, aquaculture and eco- and agro-tourism.

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