Western Peat Meadows, the Netherlands
Typical for Holland, peat meadows are home to cows, windmills and (migrating) bird populations. However, the intensification of farming activities, systemic drainage and dewatering have turned Holland’s western peat meadows into ‘green deserts’ where biodiversity declines whilst farmers also struggle to make a living. In 2016, in partnership with the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation (Natuurmonumenten), we started exploring how 4 Returns can help restore the ecological functions of a peat meadow landscape in the Vechtstreek and allow farmers to achieve sustainable incomes. The ultimate goal is to restore 125.000 hectares with futureproof land-use practices adapted to the carrying capacity of the land.
In 2017, we began by working with eight farmers in the Vechtstreek that lease land from the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation. Together with these and other farmers, we are testing various trajectories that restore the ecological functions of the peat-meadow landscape. Activities include nutrient-recycling and short supply chains as well as experiments improving the soil micro-biology, rotational grazing, herb-rich pastures and improved manure.
In 2018, Wij.land entered into a collaboration with the Society for the Protection of Birds (Vogelbescherming) and the The Dutch National Fund for Green Investments (Nationaal Groenfonds) to support the launch of the Amstel Farmers (Boeren van Amstel), a dairy cooperative. This 20-farmer strong co-op, which sells dairy products locally on Amsterdam markets, now encourages bird-friendly peat meadow farming.
Other Wij.land initiatives include creating investment opportunities to enable farmers to transition to regenerative farming models and provide young farmers access to land as well as creating a biodiversity pilot fund.
Today, Commonland continues to offer Wij.land financial and technical support, such as exploring alternative land use and revenue models for Wij.land’s farmers – models ranging from soil regeneration, planned grazing and the business case for regenerative dairy. By doing so, we believe we can transform Holland’s ‘green deserts’ into a source of pride, value and nature for farmers, citizens and businesses.