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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 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.