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 and systemic 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 the peat meadow landscape in the Vechtstreek while enabling farmers to achieve sustainable incomes. Wij.land was established, promoting a healthy and resilient landscape that balances agriculture, nature, and people. The ultimate goal is to restore 125,000 hectares with futureproof land-use practices adapted to the land’s carrying capacity.
In 2017, Wij.land began by working with eight farmers in the Vechtstreek that lease land from the Dutch Society for Nature Conservation. Today, we work with 120 farmers in 260 pilots to enhance soil microbiology, reduce input such as fertilizer, and contribute to biodiversity. Together with these and other farmers, we are testing various trajectories that restore the ecological functions of the peat-meadow landscape. Think, for example, about experimenting with rotational grazing, promoting herb-rich pastures, and improved manure.
Wij.land develops Sustainable Business models to support this transition. Initiatives include fleshing out the business case for regenerative agriculture, collaborating with local entrepreneurs to process and market regenerative produce from the landscape, e.g. dairy, meat (beef), and tea. The latter is about creating value on-farm and in the landscape and the connection with consumers.
Other initiatives are, for example, in the field of ecosystem services and financial instruments, exploring carbon and biodiversity credits, and giving farmers access to land. Earlier this year, Wij.land, in collaboration with ‘Aardpeer – together for land, launched an innovative model to facilitate the transition to regenerative agriculture by providing access to land for farmers by establishing a fund for land purchase. This new initiative aims to connect farmers and citizens and return a healthy balance to soil and biodiversity.
Next to enabling the transition to regenerative land use in collaboration with nature organizations and farmers, and the development of business models driving that transition, Wij.land works on Community & Inspiration. To inspire others to join our mission to restore the Western peat meadow landscape. Wij.land connects farmers and citizens by art and activities in the landscape, for example by organizing festivals, events and an art inspiration cycling route.
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 range from soil regeneration, planned grazing, and regenerative dairy business case. 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.