Western Peat Meadows, the Netherlands

Using inspiration as a driver to regenerate peat meadows in the Netherlands

Fewer things are more typically Dutch than watery peat meadows, with sweeping green landscapes dotted with windmills, dairy cows and migratory birds. However, decades of intensification of farming and systemic water drainage in these meadows have resulted in biodiversity loss, increased carbon emissions and reduced income for local farmers. 

To tackle these challenges, Commonland founded Wij.land in 2016, which became an independent landscape organisation in 2018. Wij.land works with Natuurmonumenten, the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation, applying the 4 Returns framework to restore ecological functions and promote sustainable farming in the landscape.  

With a network of 160 active farmers, nature organisations, companies, and citizens, Wij.land inspires, facilitates, and accelerates the transition to a regenerative Dutch peat meadow landscape through sustainable business models.

“I am convinced that we will achieve much higher returns by investing in soil life and fertility than we would ever with mineral fertiliser.”

Monique van der Laan, local farmer on the organic De Beekhoeve farm

Vision 

  • Wij.land aims for a healthy, biodiverse and resilient landscape that creates ecological, economic and social value for future generations. Wij.land restores the balance between agriculture and nature by working hand in hand with farmers to help them shape their farming businesses for the future with passion and craftsmanship.

Challenges 

  • Low soil fertility due to intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides
  • Reduced farmer income as a result of poor soil health
  • Decreased soil water levels caused by systemic drainage
  • Spike in carbon emissions because water-depleted soils no longer capture carbon
  • Rise in the pricing of land for (regenerative) farming due to speculatory practices

Opportunities 

  • Inspire citizens and organisations to help Aardpeer purchase land to lease to farmers transitioning to regenerative practices (€10,1 million raised to date)
  • Sow herb-rich grassland, which improves soil health and supports sustainable business models: cattle are better fed, leading to higher dairy quality
  • Amplify regenerative, nature-inclusive dairy farming, which results in the same or higher incomes than the Dutch national average
  • Sell carbon credits to yield revenue for farmers who increase carbon capture on their land (pilot underway with Rabo Carbon Bank and 10 farmers)

Impact for this landscape

160+

Farmers

actively experimenting with regenerative techniques.

150+

Jobs

created or supported.

620

Hectares

under improved regenerative/restoration management.

5

Business cases

identified or set up by landscape partners

What has happened in the different zones

  • Natural Zone
  • Combined Zone
  • Economic Zone

Regenerating a landscape’s ecological foundation by restoring and protecting native vegetation, trees, and biodiversity.

Activities

Collaboration with tenants from the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation; supporting a soil trajectory with farmers and the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation; supporting a nutrient-recycling trajectory by using hay and grass from the natural zone; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.

Restoring the topsoil and biodiversity, and delivering sustainable economic returns through regenerative agriculture, agroforestry and rotational grazing.

Activities

Facilitating farmers to transition to biological or nature-inclusive farming; supporting pilots on wet agriculture (Azolla); supporting improved management of livestock (‘Graas’ group); supporting development of the landbank (grondfonds) as to enable young farmers to get access to land and farm regeneratively; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.

 

To deliver sustainable economic productivity with dedicated areas for value-adding activities like processing. This zone is typically concentrated in urban areas.

Activities

Processing and marketing a peat meadow bird-friendly dairy; processing and marketing of tea from herb borders of Wij.land farms to promote biodiversity; engagement and mobilisation of farmers, community members and other stakeholders; research & development; monitoring, evaluation and learning.