A river basin and coastline landscape consisting mostly of agricultural farms in France.

The Adour-Garonne River basin covers 3 regions: Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Auvergne Rhône Alpes, in the South-West of France. It is a bioregion of approx. 11,600,000 hectares. It includes 120,000 km of rivers, natural and artificial lakes, and 420 km of coastline.   

The region is one of the largest rural regions in Europe representing more than 25% of GHG emissions and one of the regions most exposed to erosion risk. Most of the agricultural land in the Adour Garonne River basin is devoted to cereal crops, livestock and, in some areas, to wine and fruit growing. Run-off and soil erosion are amplified by the conventional agricultural practices mainly used.  

Wine production with a high level of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other toxins is having an impact on health and water quality; 38% of surface water bodies and 40% of free groundwater bodies present significant phytosanitary pressure. Lack of water is also a very serious topic. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be only half of the water available compared to the current situation. Thus, the basin is a particularly sensitive rural area, with fragile and unpredictable resources to be protected and where a change in agricultural practices is necessary, both for environmental and public health reasons. 

Since 2022, AFAF is member of the BWL Collective and building a Weaving Team, led by Anaïs Rousseau. In June 2023 the first multi-stakeholder workshop took place to explore commitment from 3 other organisations to collaborate for the joint mission to restore, protect and regenerate the bioregion. Priority is to build a strong Weaving Team with commitment of strategic partners in the region. Also, stakeholder interviews are taking place to map the key influential changemakers in the bioregion, to engage in a potential Weaving Lab. 

Vision 

From the first multi-stakeholder workshop in summer 2023 a few action steps emerged that need to be taken, before aligning with the relevant stakeholders on a concrete, joint vision and mission for the bioregion. 

Challenges:  

  • Building a functional Weaving Team, including optimisation of administrative and financial management of actions, and translating it to a concrete action plan. 
  • There are polarised views on practices between conventional and progressive actors in the region, and it’s difficult to integrate “unengaged” actors (notably conventional farmers) into a process of transformative change​. 
  • It is hard to get long term engagement of public and private actors, including education stakeholders. ​ 

Opportunities:  

  • The visible consequences of climate change, droughts, and floods provide an “emergency context”, where the urgency and opportunity to act becomes clearer to many stakeholders in the bioregion. 
  • There is potential for BWL to include the whole natural ecosystem in this bioregion: from mountains to farming land to the seaside, and a huge potential for natural regeneration, and proof that agroforestry works. ​ 
  • Groups of committed actors with respective active networks, skills, expertise, and initiatives are already active in the region. Specifically, there is momentum in the department of Gers: the focus for regional funding is shifting to ecosystem building to facilitate the transition. Multiple actors are working towards transforming the landscape. 
  • The regional governments have plans and initiatives in place where BWL can align and integrate with (e.g. Neo Terra Roadmap, Pact for Sustainable Food Occitania, La Farbique des Transitions)   
  • The national government funds so-called Public Interest Groups (GIP), that form regional consortia with semi-public organisations for a joint cause. GIP Transitions Occitanie forms a consortium with Inrae, Regional Occitanie and national government, Chambre de Commerce Agriculture, and l’Agence de l’Eeau Adour-Garonne to develop strategies to work with farmers and citizens to promote sustainable agriculture practices. Big themes: water quality and retention, healthy soil. BWL can align and integrate with this GIP. 
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