Managing rural areas: methods for the ex-ante evaluation and selection of Land Consolidation actions (LC’s) to implement (Published)
Rural areas are confronted with problems of economic development and of the management of natural resources and national heritage against a background of increasing competition between regions and of rapid socio-economic and institutional change. Trough history, a continuous effort has been made to adjust the structure of the countryside to human needs. During the last 25 years, land consolidation has been an important instrument of rural planning in Portugal and, essentially, a tool for improving the effectiveness of land cultivation and for supporting rural development. During these years, the objectives have grown from a pure agrarian instrument, to increase agricultural production, towards an integrated rural planning instrument, taking into account all functions accountable to rural areas. Presently, in Portugal, we are under a situation where the demand for Integrated Land Consolidation actions (LC’s) clearly exceeds the available public resources affected to do it. So, a decision-making support system approach, to aid the preordination and selection of the submitted projects will proposals, is viewed as a critical issue. The main objective of this paper is to respond to that necessity and sustain the advantage of possessing a simplified method for the selection of the LC’s to implement. With those purposes we developed a multiple regression model that explains a significant proportion of the variability of the economic results as a function of some variables capable to capture and describe de main characteristics of the LC’s. Such a model may be a simple, easy and effective tool to evaluate a priori, in the initial stage of the previous study and based on the ex-ante economic evaluation, the urgency and the potential of a particular area to be beneficiated with a land consolidation action. The paper is structured in four sections: in the first, the introduction, we present a general discussion about the necessity, the purposes and the extent of doing land consolidation actions; in the second, we present and detail the data from twenty previous studies of LC actions carried out in Portugal in the last three decades; in the third, we present and estimate the linear regression, suggesting the basic factors to include in a decision support system for the selection of the Land Consolidation actions to implement; lastly, in the fourth section, we report the conclusions of this study.