Conservation projects around the world have been impeded by conflicting land uses. In Greece, although agriculture is considered to have significant impacts on wetlands and adversely to have affected conservation, the attitudes of Greek farmers to wetlands and conservation have not been assessed. Data on demographic variables of farm operators, characteristics of the farming operation, irrigation practices, attitudes towards environment and the wetland resources, knowledge on the impact of agriculture on the local environment and opinions on the Common Agricultural Policy reform, were collected through a survey using personal interviews from a random sample of 196 farmers operating in two wetlands, Lakes Mikri Prespa and Kerkini (Ramsar sites), and 141 farmers operating in a plain, in Macedonia, northern Greece.
Analysis of the data revealed that farmers practise crop and stock agriculture more intensively in wetlands than in the plain, and exploit wetland resources excessively. Hunting, fishing and wood harvesting are practised, and lake water is used intensively for irrigation by both groups of farmers, with no care for loss of the resources. Alternative methods of irrigation for improving efficiency of water use or alleviating hydrological pressures on the wetlands are not considered. Sustainability of agriculture is at risk as present practices result in impoverished soils, salinization of the fields and waste of water resources. Wetland farmers seemed to have a more negative attitude toward the wetland resources and seemed to be more ignorant of conservation issues or the impact of their practices on the environment than plain farmers. Moreover, their awareness and willingness to adopt an environmentally-friendly type of farming was very low.