Protected Areas and Conventional Agriculture: opportunities and challenges for cooperation
Agriculture is the most important sector in rural areas, which is why EUROPARC is actively involved in supporting dialogue and partnership between Protected Area managers and farmers. In this webinar, we deepen into the existing relationships between them and the challenge that keeping the balance between nature protection and socio-economic development, whilst looking for win-win situations, poses.
Webinar summary and presentations
The session started with a welcome message to the over 140 participants by Stefania Petrosillo, Policy Officer at EUROPARC Federation, followed by a presentation about EUROPARC’s work on agriculture and Protected Areas.
Afterwards, the facilitation of the webinar passed to Lisanne Kruiswijk, graduating student MSc Forest and Nature Conservation at Wageningen University and Policy Assistant at EUROPARC Federation until recent date. We then focussed on the relationship between Protected Area managers and conventional farmers.
First, Ms. Kruiswijk presented her MSc dissertation, based on interviews and surveys done with EUROPARC members from Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. It explored opportunities for cooperation between Protected Areas and large conventional agricultural enterprises. Lisanne reflected on the different paradigms, or the way agriculture was understood, that prevailed in the last century and how they are changing along the years with the evolution of Protected Areas and agriculture itself. Additionally, she presented some results of her dissertation regarding the different perceptions about conventional agriculture that farmers and Protected Area managers have, as well as recommendations to improve the relationship between both sectors.
Second, Martine Stoll, from Upper Sure Nature Park, Luxembourg, spoke about collaboration with conventional farmers at eye level and the Agricultural Cooperation Upper Sure – LAKU (Belgium). The example of this cooperation included an explanation about the structure of the cooperation, the project River Contract that focuses on preserving an area to improve water quality and the challenges and solutions to work with conventional farmers. She explained the development of the dialogue with farmers starting from the Working group of Agriculture composed by Nature park, SEBES, Administrations and agricultural counsellors to the structured LAKU Committee, the results that were achieved, the difficulties and the current process to go forward. Additionally, Martine presented some technical solutions for improving conventional farmers’ work, ranging from subsidies to processes such as injection of slurry focused on decreasing agriculture’s negative impacts on the environment.
Finally, Hauke Zirfas, Forest Ecologist and Ranger at the International Nature Park Moor Veenland (Germany – Netherlands) presented the case study on the challenges of conventional agriculture in this Park. Starting with and overview of the Park, the Moor ecosystem that it shelters and the zoning scheme, he continued with the historically complex relation between nature, visitors and farmers in the territory and the long-term dialogue process between Dutch government representatives and local farmers. To conclude, he gave examples of the current cooperation between the Park and nature developers and farmers about the optimal landscape water balance.
After the questions and answers, the session was closed with some remarks by João Melo – Director Cascais Ambiente (Portugal) and co-chair of the EUROPARC Commission for Sustainable agriculture and Protected Areas. He highlighted the joint efforts that are being done by farmers and Protected Area Managers to find common solutions that fit both parties’ objectives and confirmed the crucial importance of establishing trust and an equal level relationship between the different parties, which was also strongly underlined by Mrs. Stoll and Mr. Zirfas in their presentations. Finally, Mr. Melo remind the responsibility that we, as consumers, have when choosing eco-friendly food and paying the fair price for it.