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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.

For us, it’s all about striking a balance. We now farm extensively and don’t have to push the limits of our land anymore, which makes for a more balanced farming business.
Wilko Kemp, organic farmer

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.

We can make much better use of what nature already provides us.
Danielle de Nie, director Wij.land

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.

I am convinced that by investing in soil life and its fertility we will achieve much higher returns than we would ever achieve with mineral fertilizer.
Monique van der Laan, organic farmer

Photography by Wij.land & Commonland

Giving people hope and a sense of purpose.
Social Capital
Bringing back jobs, business activity, education and security.
Natural Capital
Restoring biodiversity, soil, water quality and capturing carbon.
Financial Capital
Realizing long-term sustainable profit.

Current status

Over 100,000 people have been exposed to 4 Returns landscape restoration in The Netherlands.


After an inception phase of two years Wij.land was launched in 2018. It inspired on- and offline communities, workshops in the field and cultural exchanges. By 2022, we aim to reach 1 million people and have activated over 75 farmers.

Current status

34 farmers are involved in 40 pilot projects.


We have established long-term 4 Returns partnerships with the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation and Amstel Farmers. Three farms are being primed to transition to regenerative or nature-inclusive farms.
By 2022, we aim to have over 75 farmers participating in pilots, several farms in transition, 100 professionals in our network and five long-term 4 Returns partnerships or investments.

Current status

34 farmers and an estimated 300 hectares under improved holistic soil management and restoration



Our focus is on restoring the balance of soil, overall soil fertility and productivity with no or minimal chemical inputs. More than 1,500 tons of natural cuttings were processed into Bokashi by farmers, which is being used as soil amendment, improving both below and aboveground biology.

Current status

Wij.land is developing and testing five 4 Returns concepts.


Through the pilot- and transition fund and the newly established innovation fund, we are kickstarting on-the-ground 4 Returns business activities. Supported by the COmON Foundation, we are developing an investment fund for agricultural land.


The 4 Returns holistic framework breaks down landscape restoration into 3 distinct landscape zones – natural, economic and combined.

Natural zone
Combined zone
Economic zone


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


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.


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.

Farm shop of farmer Monique van der Laan (farm De Beekhoeve)

Farm shop of farmer Monique van der Laan (farm De Beekhoeve)


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.