Henning Wilhelm Battermann, Mark Deimel, Ludwig Theuvsen
October 21, 2015
Agriculture in rural areas – a comparative analysis using network and cluster concepts. The article analyses the existence of cluster structures in rural areas of Lower Saxony. By comparing two areas that differ with regard to their agricultural structures and key aspects of production as well as by combining different concepts for identifying clusters, new insights into cluster structures in rural areas could be derived. It is shown that in both areas agriculture and food production are of aboveaverage importance. Whereas some authors argue that rural regions per se represent clusters of agriculture and food production, we propose a more differentiated perspective based on in-depth analyses of cluster structures in rural areas. In order to prove the existence of cluster structures in both research areas, two different approaches were used: a top-down approach measuring regional concentration of industries and a survey-based bottom-up methodology focusing on network relationships and information exchange between network actors. It is shown that both areas do not have all characteristics typical for clusters. Nonetheless, both approaches show that the region of Weser-Ems, characterized by intensive livestock production, complies better with cluster criteria than northeast Lower Saxony which is dominated by arable farming. We conclude that more clear-cut criteria for identifying cluster structures in rural areas would be helpful, not at least for political decision-making processes addressing structural policy for rural areas in which agriculture and its supply chain partners play an important economic role for the local economy due to a lack of economic alternatives.