The economic and environmental performances of rural districts in Italy: Are competitiveness and sustainability compatible targets?
This paper analyses the economic performances of the rural system and the level of land sensitivity to degradation in Italy. Three indicators (district value added, share of agriculture on total product, and a composite index of land sensitivity) were used to classify 784 Italian local districts into eight performance classes. Four classes share a combination of high environmental quality (in terms of land degradation), high (or low) economic performances, and high (or low) productivity of the primary sector. The remaining four are characterised by a combination of low (and declining) environmental quality, high (or low) economic performances, and high (or low) productivity of the primary sector. The eight classes were grouped into four ‘environmental quality’ types and four ‘target performance’ categories to discriminate among high- and low-performance districts by considering twelve additional variables within a Discriminant Function Analysis (DFA). 148 high environmental performance districts (18% of total) were identified mainly across the Alps and Apennine while 314 districts (41%) were classified in the lowest performance class and concentrated in flat areas of southern Italy. The districts with high environmental performances were characterised, on average, by medium to low district value added, moderately low economic weight of the primary sector, and tourism specialisation. Districts with high economic performances and low environmental performances were characterised by high sensitivity to LD, low district value added, high share of agriculture in total product, and the lowest productivity of labour in all economic sectors. In these districts the risk of entering a downward spiral of rural poverty and environmental degradation is potentially high.
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