Scholarly article on topic 'Mapping the Rural Problem and Development: What do Greek Landowners Think?'

Mapping the Rural Problem and Development: What do Greek Landowners Think? Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

CC BY-NC-ND
0
0
Share paper
Academic journal
Procedia Economics and Finance
OECD Field of science
Keywords
{"Landowners’ perceptions" / "rural development" / "alternative crops"}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Georgios Tsantopoulos, Christos Karelakis, Eleni Zafeiriou, Dimitra Tsoulakaki

Abstract The adoption of alternative farming practices is regenerates production methods towards new directions, while comprises a new development path for less favoured areas (LFAs). Engaging in off-farm income generation activities can create new standards for employment, new professions and new midd le-c lass employees that will support development despite the downturn in trad itional agricultural activities. The present study examines the attitudes and perceptions of landowners regarding various options for rural development and the existence of alternative prospects for enhancing primary production, family income and, consequently, quality of life. Primary data were gathered through personally administered interviews (using a structured questionnaire) in the prefectures of Rodopi and Evros that were analyzed through multivariate data analysis methods. The results indicate the non-existence of significant d ifferences between the two regions. The majority of respondents consider the state and political parties as being responsible for environmental problems and they argue that future regional development may depend on agriculture and livestock production. Furthermore, most of them wish to engage in alternative crops like truffle, pomegranate and dogwood and the reasons behind such a decision are the competitive profile of and increased demand for such products, along with state subsidies.

Academic research paper on topic "Mapping the Rural Problem and Development: What do Greek Landowners Think?"

CrossMark

Available online at www.sciencedirect.com

ScienceDirect

Procedia Economics and Finance 9 (2014) 208 - 218

The Economies of Balkan and Eastern Europe Countries in the Changed World (EBEEC 2013)

Mapping the rural problem and development: what do Greek

landownersthink?

Georgios Tsantopoulosa* Christos Karelakisb Eleni Zafeiriouc Dimitra Tsoulakakid

aDemocritus University of Thrace, Department of Forestry and Management of the Environment and Natural Resources, Pantazidou 193,

68200, Orestiada, Greece, e-mail: tsantopo@fmenr.duth.gr bDemocritus University of Thrace, Department Agricultural Development, Pantazidou 193, 68200, Orestiada, Greece, e-mail:

ch ka r el @agr o .d ut h .g r

cDemocritus University of Thrace, Department Agricultural Development, Pantazidou 193, 68200, Orestiada, Greece, e-mail:

ezafeir@agro.duth.gr

dDemocritus University of Thrace, Department of Forestry and Management of the Environment and Natural Resources, Pantazidou 193,

68200, Orestiada, Greece, e-mail: demi.sapes@gmail.com

Abstract

The adoption of alternative farming practices is regenerates production methods towards new directions, while comprises a new development path for less favoured areas (LFAs). Engaging in off-farm income generation activities can create new standards for employment, new professions and new middle-class employees that will support development despite the downturn in traditional agricultural activities. The present study examines the attitudes and perceptions of landowners regarding various options for rural development and the existence of alternative prospects for enhancing primary production, family income and, consequently, quality of life. Primary data were gathered through personally administered interviews (using a structured questionnaire) in the prefectures of Rodopi and Evros that were analyzed through multivariate data analysis methods. The results indicate the non-existence of significant differences between the two regions. The majority of respondents consider the state and political parties as being responsible for environmental problems and they argue that future regional development may depend on agriculture and livestock production. Furthermore, most of them wish to engage in alternative crops like truffle, pomegranate and dogwood and the reasons behind such a decision are the competitive profile of and increased demand for such products, along with state subsidies.

© 2014The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierB.V.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Kavala Institute of Technology, Department of Accountancy, Greece

Keywords: Landowners' perceptions; rural development; alternative crops

1. Introduction

In less favoured areas (LFAs), the adoption of alternative practices by farmers, along with the protection and conservation of the countryside, have emerged as key levers of development and as a means of coping with adverse economic conditions. The integrated development of LFAs constitutes a key objective and can only be achieved through a multidisciplinary approach and the effective exploitation of the true potential of such areas. It is recognized that the modernization of agricultural production brought about negative repercussions, as regards the connection between farming and product quality and safety, and also between farming, natural environment and landscape preservation (van der Ploeg et al. 2000). Within the context of the subsequent

* Georgios Tsantopoulos. Tel.: 0030 25520 411 18, e-mail address: tsantopo@fmenr.duth.gr

2212-5671 © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Kavala Institute of Technology, Department of Accountancy, Greece doi: 10.1016/S2212-5671(14)00022-7

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, policy schemes aimed at alleviating these negative effects, by highlighting a broader perspective for rural development and a more holistic cooperative approach for the agricultural, forestry and livestock sector (Kassioumis et al., 2004). Such schemes include farm diversification and development, early retirement and compensation payments, and are oriented towards the structural improvement of the agricultural sector and the enhancement of agricultural income in LFAs (Karelakis et al. 2013). Additional measures, on a broader perspective, may refer to the strengthening of rural tourism and agro-processing industries, two activities that do not strictly refer to aspects of agricultural production, but definitely contribute to the conversion and diversification of farming systems, thus highlighting the multifunctional role of the countryside (Arabatzis, 2008).

The adoption of alternative farming activities regenerates production methods towards new directions, constituting a new development path for these regions. Engaging in off-farm income generation activities can create new standards for employment, new professions and new middle-class employees that will support development despite the downturn in traditional agricultural activities (Arabatzis et al. 2006). In recent years, the Greek agricultural sector has been looking for new development opportunities, particularly oriented towards pluriactivity in farming and investments in alternative crops. Such crops focus on boosting the farmers' income and the agricultural economy, while supporting the rural population and highlighting the abundant natural resources of LFAs and disadvantaged areas; however, the serious repercussions of the economic crisis have limited any private initiatives related to this kind of investment.

International scholars have highlighted the fact that the development of rural areas is mainly affected by integrative, inter-sectoral, developmental approaches (Kassioumis et al. 2004) and does not depend solely on the role of commodity agriculture. In the case of remote and mountainous regions, policy measures have aimed to reduce disparities with lowland areas, and achieve comparable income levels for producers. Nevertheless, policy changes related to people's prosperity in such areas, require an understanding of the agricultural developmental model, the relationship between agriculture and society, the regional socio-economic structure and rural economic status, the individual landowners and their behaviour, and local policies and institutions (Elands and Praestholm, 2008). This relationship, and in particular the links between rural and urban economies and cultures, are all important elements for rural development (Long et al. 2011).

By drawing attention to the above-mentioned considerations, the present study endeavours to investigate the attitudes and perceptions of landowners from two LFAs in Greece, regarding rural development and the existence of alternative prospects for enhancing primary production, family income and, consequently, their quality of life. The objective is to examine how landowners in these areas perceive the rural problem and the various aspects of development for their region, along with the possible future options for engaging in alternative crop production, in order to enhance their income and improve their quality of life. The remainder of the study is outlined as follows: the section below provides a description of the main socio-economic and political characteristics that contribute to the development of the countryside, and an illustration of the current situation in Greece regarding aspects of agriculture and rural development. Next, the research methods employed to achieve the study's objective are presented, followed by the results, the discussion and some concluding remarks.

2. Contribution of socio-economic and political characteristicsto the development of the countryside

A multidimensional issue like the development of the countryside requires an integrated and efficient policy context that acknowledges key differences in the agricultural systems and key development features of a region. Yilmaz et al. (2010) argue that the determinants of this type of development include the geographical position and size of the area, land productivity, land use, the active population, proximity to a river, housing amenities, the quality of the drinking water, cooperativeness, social investments and infrastructure. The development prospects of the countryside, offered in the context of community participation, have been at the central focus of the CAP on a European, national and regional level over the last 10 years.

Nevertheless, this potential has been limited and further will be, due to the lack of access to relevant information for rural communities, and for local governments and organisations that work cooperatively. Community participation could fulfill the role required for rural development to proceed, by allowing direct local interventions to address the perceived local issues and needs. This can be achieved by obtaining information and providing broader access to other projects and community efforts, and by creating a network for the exchange of such information, thus preventing a possible repetition of the mistakes made by other communities and, subsequently, the loss of a sustainable endeavour (Midgley et al. 2005).

The development of rural areas in Greece has followed a policy path defined by the CAP reforms, aiming to adapt to the particularities of the Greek landscape and agricultural sector. The agricultural sector in Greece differs from that of other European countries, and also differs from other sectors of the Greek economy, since it

includes features associated with socio-economic, demographic and cultural parameters, climatic conditions, etc. The main obstacles for successful rural development are the fragmented small-sized farms, the low and uncertain farm income, low productivity, the downgraded conditions of rural life, the mobility of young people to major urban centers, the unfavourable age structure of the agricultural labour force, the poor cultural level of rural society, as well as the inadequate infrastructure and training of the predominantly older farmers (about 60% are over 55 years of age) (Karelakis et al., 2013). Consequently, only those farms, which are favourable in terms of soil and climatic conditions and have the right mix of productive sectors, can actually ensure the efficient use of the family labour available and thus a satisfactory income level. The above-mentioned characteristics, along with the existence of a centralized state that maintains a low educational level and standard of living for rural communities, while effortlessly supporting any decisions in the form of agricultural subsidies within the CAP, have all negatively affected the structure of the agricultural sector in Greece.

3. Area of study

The region of Anatoliki Makedonia and Thraki (AMT) comprises the eastern part of Greek Macedonia along with Greek Thrace (Figure 1). It is divided into the Macedonian prefectures of Drama and Kavala and the Thracian prefectures of Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros, including the islands of Thassos (Kavala Pref.) and Samothraki (Evros Pref.). Until Cyprus entered the EU in 2004, AMT formed the southeastern tip of the European Union. It has a land area of 1,415,700 hectares (11% of the total land area of Greece) and borders to the west with the region of Central Macedonia (Serres Pref.), to the north with Bulgaria and to the east with Turkey. AMT is a less favoured and mountainous region, consisting of coastal flats, mountainous and semi-mountainous areas.

Its primary sector, i.e. agriculture, depends on the exploitation of important fixed and renewable natural resources, and on the area's mild climatic conditions; despite its limited contribution to the regional economy, it comprises a key growth sector for the region in the long term. The crop composition mainly includes arable crops, which are largely contingent upon CAP payments, whereas the use of positive data for rural development comes up against major obstacles that do not exist in other EU countries, such as ambiguity regarding the status of land use and the fact that the farmers' profession is not safeguarded.

Figure 1: The region of Anatoliki Makedonia and Thraki (AM T)

The prefecture of Rodopi borders with Bulgaria to the north, the prefecture of Evros to the east and the prefecture of Xanthi to the west. It occupies an area of 2,565 km2 (1.92% of the country's total) and has a population of 111,610 inhabitants (NSSG, 2011). It is characterized by mountainous land covering 30% of the total area, whereas 32% are semi- mountainous areas and 38% are plains. As regards land use, 32% are forests, 12% are woodlands, 40% is arable land, 8% are pastures, 1.6% is barren land, 1.4% settlements etc. The agricultural sector approximately accounts for 21% of the regional GDP (8th highest share on a country level), producing 2% of the total agricultural production of Greece. Rodopi is the 5th tobacco producer in the country (7% of total production), the 8th producer of cotton (4% of total production) and the 10th producer of wheat (4% of total production). The secondary sector accounted for 10% of the region's GDP in 2002 compared to 5.7% in 1997; furthermore, 0.6% of the country's total manufacturing output is produced in this region.

Concerning land use, 870,000 acres of this region are cultivated primarily with cotton, wheat, corn, tobacco, sunflower, sugar beet and tomatoes (87%).

As for the prefecture of Evros, it lies in the northeastern part of Greece, forming a natural border with Bulgaria to the north and Turkey to the east; it is also one of the two three-nation points of Greece. Evros is a lowland prefecture, since mountains cover only 10.3% of its land, while extensive plains occupy 62.4% of the total area, a large part of which is cultivated. The river Evros substantially contributes to crop cultivation through its tributaries and irrigation canals. The main occupation of the inhabitants is the cultivation of land and agricultural production, individually and collectively, through local cooperatives. The local farmers mainly grow cotton, wheat and beets. Animal husbandry is the second most important occupation in the prefecture, despite the great decline observed in this sector.

4. Methodology

Primary data were collected through a survey (questionnaire) involving landowners in the prefectures of Rodopi and Evros. The value of this method is that it elicits specific information from respondents, provides the most accurate and recent market information, and is recommended when secondary data are scarce (Fowler, 2002; Babbie, 2004). Data were collected through personal interviews, in an attempt to increase the respondents' participation rate. The questionnaire was constructed in an optical readable format, and confidentiality was assured. The survey instrument included questions regarding the socio-economic characteristics of the respondents, their attitudes and perceptions regarding those they consider responsible for the problems faced by farmers, the future development of their region, their willingness to engage in alternative crops and the possible reasons for such a decision.

The first step of the analysis involved descriptive statistics and the non-parametric Friedman test. This specific Friedman test is used to compare the values of three or more correlated groups of variables. The distribution of the Friedman test is ?2 distribution with df = k-1 degrees of freedom, where k is the number of teams or samples. This test classifies the values of variables for each subject separately and calculates the mean rank of the classification values for each variable (Hair et al., 2010).

As a second step, categorical regression was employed in order to identify which factors have an impact on the decision of the landowners to engage in alternative crops. The introduction of numerous qualitative variables in the model made the use of categorical regression for data processing imperative, since it reduces the underlying risks from the arbitrary codification of the data. Categorical regression is an extension of the principles of classical linear regression and logarithmic analysis. By using a type of scaling, it attributes values to each category of variables in such a way, so that they are optimum as regards regression and reflect the characteristics of the initial variables (Tsantopoulos, and Karamichas, 2009). Categorical regression scales both the nominal and the ordinal and numerical variables in an optimum way by quantifying their categories, so that the square of the correlation between the quantified dependent variable and the linear combination of the quantified independent variables is maximized. The interpretations are related to the transformed variables, but they are also related to the initial variables, due to the relation that exists between the two. A significant advantage of the method compared to classical linear regression is the handling of the non-linear relations between the variables through their transformation.

Accordingly, in the present study, the dependent variable in the model involved the landowners' willingness to change their current crop with an alternative one, that was gauged through a 4-point Likert scale ranging from "I wish a small part of my land" (1) to "I do not know" (4). Furthermore, the independent variables in the model involve the respondents' answers to the question "Which factors would motivate you to cultivate an alternative crop?", which included eight items and was assessed via a 5-point Likert scale ranging from "very much" (5) to "notatall"(1).

Regarding the socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents (Table 1), nearly 80% are male, while over half are aged 3 1-50 years old, and are married with two children.

5. Results

Table 1: Socio-demographic characteristics of respondents

Rodopi

Male Female

7 9.2 20.8

31-40 28.4 26.4

41-50 29.2 25.6

51-60 17.2 23.2

>65 9.2 11.6

Marital status Single 15.6 14.8

Married 82.4 80.4

Divorced 0.4 1.2

Widowed 1.6 3.6

Number of children 0 17.2 17.6

1 20.0 15.2

2 57.2 54.4

3 5.2 10.8

More than 4 0.4 2.0

Education Primary 56.4 54.4

Lower Secondary 32.4 26.8

Upper Secondary 8.8 11.2

Technical School 2.4 6.8

University/Polytechnic 0 0.8

Profession Private Employee 13.2 14.0

Civil servant 0.8 0.8

Freelance 33.2 34.8

Agriculture - Farming 31.6 24.0

Household 11.2 12.8

T? iatiriarl 10 0 144

% of income from agricultural activities 33.76 29.56

Number of acres 30.41 27.23(mean)

The majority has completed higher education and their professional activities are related to agriculture, livestock and working on a self-employed basis. They mainly possess an average of 27-30 acres and the percentage of their household income that stems from agricultural activities is about 30-33%.

The first step of the methodology was to investigate who is responsible for the problems of the agricultural sector on a five-point Likert scale ranging from "very much responsible" (5) to "not at all responsible" (1). Figures 2 and 3 illustrate that the respondents, as concerns the evaluation of stakeholders, exhibit a similar behaviour in both regions with minor variations.

Education of agriculturists / foresters

Mass media Notat all

Cooperatives A little

Scientists

Businesses Enough

Local administration Much

Political parties

State-government Verymuch

Ourselves

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Figure 2: Landowners' perceptions regarding those responsible for the agricultural problems in Rodopi

Education of agriculturists / foresters Mass media Cooperatives Scientists Businesses Local administration Political parties State- government Ourselves

Not at all Alittle Enough Much Very much

20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Figure 3: Landowners' perceptions regarding those responsible for the agricultural problems in Evros

The next step was to examine whether differences existed between the aforementioned perceptions of the landowners from the two prefectures, through the application of the Friedman test. The results showed that the responsibility for the agricultural problems in both areas was attributed to the state-government, with a mean rank of 7.62 for Evros (? = 250 Chi-Square=1330,481 df =8 Asymp, Sig = 0,000) and a mean rank of 7.87 for Rodopi (? = 250 Chi-Square= 1331,448 df =8 Asymp, Sig = 0,000). It is worth mentioning that the political parties came second in this ranking (Table 2).

Table 2: Friedman test results for evaluating the level of responsibility for the regions' agricultural problems

M ean rank

Evros Rodopi

Ourselves 1.83 1.66

State-government 7.62 7.87

Political parties 7.26 7.51

Local administration 6.85 6.78

Businesses 4.41 4.81

Scientists 3.60 4.32

Cooperatives 4.84 4.46

Mass media 5.62 4.33

Education of agriculturists / foresters 2.98 3.26

? = 250 Chi-Square=1 330,481 df = 8 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Evros)

? = 250 Chi-Square=1 331,448 df = 8 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Rodopi)

The sectors that were perceived as most likely to contribute to the future development of the region were examined through a 5-point Likert scale ranging from "very much" (5) to "not at all" (1). These sectors included agriculture, livestock, cottage industry, industry, trade and tourism. As regards Rodopi, the respondents perceive that the region's future development will depend upon livestock activities, agriculture and, to a lesser extent, forestry (Figure 4). On the other hand, the landowners from Evros believe that their future development should depend on livestock and agriculture and not on industrial activities (Figure 5).

Tourism

Trade Notat all

Industry Alittle

Cottage industry Enough Much

Forestry Very much

Livestock

Agriculture

n 0% 20% 1 40% 60% 1 80% i 100%

Figure 4: Evaluation of the perceived sectors that could contribute to future development in the prefecture of Rodopi

Tourism Trade Industry Cottageindustry Notat all Alittle Enough

Forestry Much

Livestock Agriculture Very much

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Figure 5: Evaluation of the perceived sectors that could contribute to future development in the prefecture of Evros

Next, the statistical differences between the above perceptions for the two prefectures were assessed using the Friedman test (Table 3). The results demonstrate that, for both Evros and Rodopi, the most important sector on which their future development could depend is agriculture with a mean rank of 5.98 for Evros (? = 250 Chi-Square=1154,177 df =6 Asymp. Sig = 0,000) and 6.05 for Rodopi (? = 250 Chi-Square=1067,912 df =6 Asymp. Sig = 0,000).

Table 3 : Friedman test results on the most important sectors for future development

M ean rank

Sector Evros Rodopi

Agriculture 5.98 6.05

Livestock 5.82 5.82

Forestry 5.64 5.16

Cottage industry 2.56 3.09

Industry 2.26 2.20

Trade 3.34 3.74

Tourism 2.41 1.94

? = 250 Chi-Square = 1154,177 df = 6 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Evros) ? = 250 Chi-Square = 1067,912 df = 6 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Rodopi)

The landowners' willingness to invest in alternative crops is highlighted in Figure 6. It is clear that the respondents from both prefectures positively view such a prospect, since almost 60% wish to invest in alternative crops. In fact, the respondents from Evros wish to cultivate such crops on a larger part of their land.

Iam not interested in alternative crops 23%

I don't know 12% _

Rodopi

I wish a small part of my crop 50%

I wish a large_

part of my crop 15%

I am not interested in alternative crops 17 %_

I don't know 17%

I wish a small part of my

crop ^33%

- I wish a large part ofmy crop

Figure 6: Willingness to cultivate part of farmer's land with alternative crops

The possible reasons for investing in alternative crops were gauged through a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from "very much" (5) to "not at all" (1). Accordingly, for the prefecture of Rodopi (Figure 7), the respondents argued that possible incentives for their decision to invest in such crops would be state subsidies, an increased market demand, the development of the industry and, to a lesser extent, the establishment of cooperatives, the development of exports and support for farmers from scientists. Similarly, the respondents from Evros (Figure 8) perceive the existence of state subsidies and the growth of market demand and of the relevant industry as being the primary incentives.

Continuous farmers' education on alternative crops

- Notat all

Scientific su pport for farmers

Developmentofan advertising campaign for products Alittle

Financial supportfrom the state (subsidies) Enough

Establishment of agricultural cooperatives Much

Developme nt of exports

- Very much

Industry development

Increasedmarketdemand

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%

Figure 7: Possible reasons for investing in alternative crops in the prefecture of Rodopi

Continuousfarmers' education on alternative crops Scientific support for farmers Not at all

Development of an advertising campaign for products A little

Financial supportfromthestate (subsidies) Enough

Establishment of agricultural cooperatives Development of exports Much

I ndustry development Very much

Increased market demand

0% 20% 40% 60°% 80°% 100%

Figure 8: Possible reasons for investing in alternative crops in the prefecture of Evros

The potential statistical differences between the two areas concerning the reasons that would encourage respondents to engage in alternative crops were assessed through the Friedman statistical test. The results indicate that the main factor that would guide respondents towards alternative crops is an increased market demand (Table 4) with a mean rank of 6.42 for Evros prefecture (? = 250 Chi-Square=843,818 df =7 Asymp. Sig = 0,000) and 5.98 for Rodopi (? = 250 Chi-Square=508,857 df =7 Asymp. Sig = 0,000).

The final step of the methodology involved the application of categorical regression analysis. The results (Table 5) indicate that, for the prefecture of Rodopi, the most important factors affecting the landowners' decision to cultivate alternative crops involve the "Establishment of agricultural cooperatives" (38.6%), followed by the "Development of exports" (19.8%) and the "Development of an advertising campaign for products" (18.3%).

Table 4: Friedman test results on possible reasons for investing in alternative crops

Entity

Evros Rodopi

6.42 5.98

5.58 5.15

3.62 3.51

3.36 4.02

6.37 5.93

2.96 3.62

3.94 4.49

3.75 3.31

Increased market demand

Industry development

Developmentofexports

Establishment of agricultural cooperatives

Financial support from the state (subsidies)

Development of an advertising campaign for products

Scientific support for farmers

Continuous farmers' education on alternative crops

? = 250 Chi-Square=843,818 df =7 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Evros) ? = 250 Chi-Square=508,857 df =7 Asymp. Sig = 0,000 (Rodopi)

M eanrank

Accordingly, for the prefecture of Evros, the most important factors involved "Continuous farmers' education on alternative crops" (34.8%), "Increased market demand" (24.8%), "Development of an advertising campaign for products" (24.1%) and the "Establishment of agricultural cooperatives" (20%). Factors of secondary importance included "Development of exports" (7.2%) and "Scientific support for farmers" (7.5%), albeit with a negative impact.

Table 5: Categorical regression results: reasons forthe adoptionof alternative crops

Standardized Coefficients

Rodopi -Biti-Bootstrap (1000)- F Sig. ImmP™^

Esti mate of Std. Error ( )

Increased market demand -.114 .091 1.543 .204 .043

Industry development -.117 .300 .152 .859 -.017

Development of exports .259 .147 3.094 .017 .198

Establishment of agricultural cooperatives -.414 .143 8.430 .000 .386

Financial support from the state (subsidies) .114 .161 .498 .608 .056

Development of advertising campaign for products -.258 .124 4.289 .006 .183

Scientific support for farmers .066 .166 .159 .691 -.008

Continuous farmers' education on alternative crops .3 00 .248 1.460 .226 .159

Increased market demand -.294 .113 6.812 .000 .248

Industry development .186 .147 1.588 .206 -.041

Development of exports .294 .123 5.716 .018 .072

Establishment of agricultural cooperatives -.237 .162 2.134 .077 .200

Financial support from the state (subsidies) .112 .126 .785 .377 .008

Development of advertising campaign for products -.269 .164 2.704 .046 .241

Scientific support for farmers .350 .200 3.065 .029 -.075

Continuous farmers' education on alternative crops -.345 .194 3.147 .026 .348

6. Discussion

The aim of the present research was to compare two rather different Greek prefectures as regards the perceptions of the local landowners regarding an array of topics involving rural development and the adoption of alternative crops. Initially, the differences may be identified in that the prefecture of Evros consists of 1.4% of the Greek population and presents a downward trend, its processing industry accounted for 11.8% of the gross domestic product of the prefecture in 2011 compared to 6.2% in 2010, and wheat is the main crop that accounted for 9% of the total production in 2010. As for the prefecture of Rodopi, it accounts for 1.0% of the Greek population and presents a downward trend, with large cultural contrasts stemming from the East and West, and with the existence of the Muslim minority as a striking feature. The processing industry accounted for 4.8% of the regional GDP in 2011 compared to 5.8% in 2010, and tobacco is the main crop that accounted for 7% of the total production in 2003, followed by cotton and wheat.

Landowners in both prefectures face serious impediments that absorbed substantial support in recent years on behalf of the political parties and governments. Nevertheless, despite these longstanding problems, landowners continue to insist that the regions' future development lies in primary production, and more specifically in agriculture, livestock and forestry. Additionally, pluriactivity is perceived as a key antidote and a promising means to overcome the situation. Many landowners are seeking to invest either a small or large part of their property in alternative crops, in line with the existing culture, mainly due to the fact that they believe that many of these products have a high market demand and may be subsidized.

Significant differences were also revealed between the prefectures, concerning the factors that may motivate landowners to cultivate alternative crops. The respondents in both areas jointly perceive, as the most important determinants for engaging in alternative activities, the development of exports in conjunction of the increased advertising for these products and the potential establishment of cooperatives, that could help them increase their bargaining power in the market. Nevertheless, the respondents in the prefecture of Evros also regard the increased market demand for these products, along with the continuous education of farmers on such crops, as significant factors. A result that was not anticipated was the significant, albeit negative, impact of scientific support for farmers regarding their decision to cultivate alternative crops; this could be attributed to the downgrading of the scientists' role in Greece in recent years.

The state authorities should support landowners, whether this involves timely compensation for cases where crops or livestock suffer a disaster or through the continuous provision of information regarding the latest developments on agricultural issues. There is also a need to change the mindset of landowners, since the majority considers subsidies as an important reason to invest in alternative crops. However, to depend on subsidies for a farm's economic survival is not really viable in the long-term, bearing also in mind that any future suspension of subsidies may well lead to the sector's collapse. The farming sector in Greece was largely depended upon subsidies until recently that actually resulted in functional and viability problems; in this case, the education of farmers on recent agricultural developments and the effective use of subsidies seem indispensable tools for coping with these negative repercussions. Furthermore, additional importance should be placed on the development of the countryside and rural development, as an integral part of the developmental process in Greece. Rural development programmes may comprise the means to achieve the ultimate goal, which is regional development with equal opportunities for all, within a creative environment.

7. Conclusion

The objective of the present study was to investigate whether the variations between the two prefectures -Evros and Rodopi - have an impact on the attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of landowners regarding rural development, on the existence of alternative options for the enhancement of primary production, and on strengthening family income and quality of life. The results indicate that, despite the differences in these two areas, the landowners' views do not differ significantly. They wish to engage in primary production in both regions and consider alternative crops as a promising perspective to deal with the decrease in their income. An evaluation of the prospects for rural development in Rodopi and Evros should be carried out in the light of the challenges of globalization and the new CAP, which involve new market trends, a growing demand, a highly competitive environment, issues regarding labour costs and new trends in nutrition, food quality and safety. Therefore, an integrated analysis of the current situation must contain a development plan, which will provide guidance for crops under the new market conditions and propose projects for a rural development that is realistic and feasible and will reflect international market trends.

References

Arabatzis, G., Christopoulou O., Soutsas K., (2006). The EEC Regulation 2080/92 about forest measures in agriculture: the case of poplar plantations in Greece. International Journal of Ecodynamics, vol. 1 (3): 245 -257.

Arabatzis G (2008). The individual and social characteristics of poplar investors-cultivators and the factors that affect the size of poplar plantations according to the EU Regulation 2080/92. Agricultural Economics Review 9(2):86-95.

Babbie, E. (2004). The practice of social research (10th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

? .T.E., (1996). Greek Agriculture in the Post-war Period. Impact from the accession to the European Union and

lessons for the future, A.T.E. publications, Athens. Development Agency of Rodopi S.A., (2007). 3rd Community Support Framework 2000-2006. Komotini. Elands Birgit H.M., Praestholm? S., (2008). Landowners' perspectives on the rural future and the role of forests

across Europe. Journal of Rural Studies 24, pp. 72-85. Fowler, F.J.Jr. (2002). Survey research methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hair J, Anderson RE, Tatham LR, Black CW (2010) Multivariate data analysis, 7th edn. Pearson Prentice Hall, New Jersey.

Karelakis C., Abas, Z., Galanopoulos K., (2013). Positive effects of the Greek economic crisis on livestock

farmer behaviour, Agronomy for Sustainable Development, Vol.33, Issue 3, pp. 445-456. Kassioumis K., Papageorgiou K., Christodoulou Ath., Blioumis V., N. Stamou V., Karameris Ath., (2004).

Rural development by afforestation in predominantly agricultural areas: issues and challenges from two areas in Greece Forest Policy and Economics, Vol.6, pp.483-496. ? .? .?.? . E.? .-Th., (2006). Annual regional business fair, centre for business and technological development of

Anatoliki Makedonia and Thraki, Komotini. Lobley M., Butler A. & Reed M., (2009). The contribution of organic farming to rural development: An exploration of the socio-economic linkages of organic and non-organic farms in England, Land Use Policy 26, pp. 723-735.

Midgley J. L, Shucksmith D. M., Birnie R. V., Geddes A., Bayfield N., Elston D., (2005), Rural development

policy and community data needs in Scotland, Land Use Policy, pp. 163-174. Muilu T, Rusanen J, (2004), "Rural definitions and short-term dynamics in rural areas of Finland in 1989 - 97"

Environment and Planning, A 36(8), pp.1499-1516. National Statistical Service of Greece (2011) Agriculture and livestock census. [Online]. Available at: http: //www.statistics.gr.

Shah, K., McHarry, J., Gardiner, R. (2002) Sustainable tourism - turning the edge. Towards Earth Summit 2002.

Economic Briefing No. 4. London: United Nations Foundation - Stakeholder Forum. Tsantopoulos, G., and Karamichas, J. (2009). Communication and Greek environmental organizations: Means of communication and influencing factors. Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology. 10:266284.

van der Ploeg, J. D., Renting, H., Brunori, G., Knickel, K., Mannion, J., Marsden, T., Roest, ? ., Sevilla- Guzman, ? ., Ventura, F., (2000). Rural development: from practices and policies towards theory. SociologiaRuralis, 40, pp. 391-408. Yilmaz B., Dasdemir I., Atmis E. & Lise W., (2010). Factors affecting rural development in Turkey: Bartin case study, Forest Policy and Economics 12, p.p. 239-249.