Multifunctionality of Agriculture:
A Review of Definitions, Evidence and Instruments

Guido Van Huylenbroeck 
Ghent University, Department of Agricultural Economics
Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

'External link'
Valerie Vandermeulen 
same address

Evy Mettepenningen 
same address

Ann Verspecht 
same address


In this contribution we try to look at the new role for agriculture in rural areas by reviewing the concept of multifunctional agriculture as well as the analytical frameworks used. Next, we review the existing evidence about the multifunctional role of farming. Although not overwhelming, the existing literature shows that agriculture contributes to the rural wealth not only through the production of commodities, but also by the delivery of non-tradable goods. This contribution can be both direct through increased values for properties or economic benefits in the tourism sector, but also indirect through conservation of rural heritage or agri-ecological systems. Next we focus on how this role of agriculture can be stimulated. It is argued that multifunctionality can be a unifying principle to bring the productive and non-productive functions into harmony. This requires the development of new institutional arrangements and a major change in policy incentives.

Keywords: Multifunctional agriculture, institutional arrangements, agricultural policy

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