Western Peat Meadows, the Netherlands
Total area (ha)
Business cases identified or set up
Mission in the landscape
In the Western Peat Meadows of The Netherlands, intensified farming and systemic drainage have decreased biodiversity. At the same time, farmers struggle to earn an income from (small scale) family farms. Wij.land promotes a healthy and resilient landscape that balances agriculture, nature and people. With a network of farmers, nature organisations, companies, and citizens, Wij.land inspires, facilitates, and accelerates the transition to a 4 Returns landscape. One in which farmers care for soil and nature; healthy, local food is produced, and major challenges, such as reducing nitrogen and greenhouse gas emissions, are addressed. Wij.land’s work focuses on three components: sustainable farming, sustainable income, and community & inspiration.
What happened in 2020?
Before 2020, Wij.land experimented together with more than 95 farmers in 130+ pilots, directly impacting over 700 ha. Pilots and – currently online – learning events include the engaging soil biodiversity programme and herb-rich grasslands, next to, for example, rotational/strip grazing and improved manure management. As such, Wij.land helps farms make the full transition towards becoming regenerative.
In the Sustainable Income programme, Wij.land works at various levels: farm level, including the farmer’s business case, product chain level (e.g. dairy, tea, beef) and its relationship with the consumer, and the level of (ecosystem) services and financial instruments (i.e. fund for land purchases: ‘Aardpeer’). In 2020, Wij.land started to explore the possibility of financially valuing farmers’ contributions to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prepared a carbon credits pilot for 2021.
At the product chain level, Commonland and Wij.land teamed up with Wilder Land, creating a more biodiverse landscape and diversifying farmer’s incomes through herbal tea production. Wij.land also started collaborating with Grutto.com, committed to a natural, healthy and waste-free meat sector.
To accelerate the transition towards more nature-inclusive farming and help as many farmers as possible to farm regeneratively, Wij.land, Stichting BD Grondbeheer Foundation, Herenboeren Foundation, and Triodos Regenerative Money Center established “Aardpeer – together for land”. This new initiative aims to connect farmers and citizens and return a healthy balance to soil and biodiversity. Aardpeer‘s website launched in 2020. On 31 December, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) approved the prospectus to place EUR 15 million worth of bonds, allowing for the purchase of farmlands to be leased to regenerative farmers at a fair price.
Since Wij.land believes a healthy landscape is co-created by all the people in the landscape, Wij.land, in 2020, developed an art cycle route and organised the first Wij.land festival. These initiatives demonstrate how we can work together to restore degraded soils, promote biodiversity and create resilient and sustainable agriculture and food systems.
1 million+ people inspired, 70 farmers participated in the initiative, 70 inspiring videos on regenerative practices.
1,000 ha under improved management practices, plus 250 ha of natural zones improved.
Stories of change
Increasing plant diversity through active seeding
The Netherlands’ bright green dairy farming pastures used to be rich in plant diversity, especially a variety of meadow herb species, which improve soil health and structure, improve animal health, increase biodiversity and provide a home for insects and meadow birds. Due to changes in grassland management favouring intensive fertilisation and high yields, herb-rich grassland has become rare.
Although herb-rich grasslands have been used for centuries, a modern production system and peat soil require a different way of working. That is why Wij.land, together with farmers and experts, pilots the creation of plant-diverse, healthy and resilient pastures in The Netherlands.
In 2020, the original nine pioneer farmers were joined by another 12. Together they sowed a variety of herb species on 100 hectares of grassland. Besides greatly improving biodiversity, pastures have become healthier – with better rooting and fewer open spaces, less vulnerable to dry and wet periods, and providing healthier cow feed. All lessons learnt will be gathered in a handbook on herbal grasslands.