The future of peatlands depends on cooperation with local stakeholders!

From 16 to 18 April 2024, the partners of the Interreg NWE BUFFER+ project met in the town of Geel in Flanders, an opportunity to discover emblematic wetlands and discuss how to involve stakeholders, particularly farmers, in the project’s activities, as well as to exchange ideas and experiences.

Just an hour’s drive east of Antwerp lies a network of wetlands being restored by the Flemish association NatuurPunt. With its 130,000 volunteers and its team of permanent employees, it manages almost 500 nature reserves across Flanders. As a partner in the Interreg NWE BUFFER+ project, it welcomed the project partners, including AC3A and the Chambers of Agriculture of Brittany and Pays de la Loire, within its territory from 16 to 18 April 2024.

This meeting was a great opportunity for the Chambers of Agriculture to find out about the work being carried out in the fens and wetlands with the help of local volunteer communities: re-streaming rivers, restoring a former landfill site, combating invasive species such as Japanese knotweed, returning water to a fen, restoring riverbanks using a coconut fibre geotextile, building a nature centre in an old watermill, etc. The visits were rich in information and gave us the opportunity to talk to managers of natural areas, landowners and members of the association, as well as to meet up with all our BUFFER+ partners for some convivial moments.

The event was also an opportunity for European partners to discuss different approaches to engaging communities in their territories. AC3A was able to present to them the method advocated by the Chambers of Agriculture in France for co-constructing tomorrow’s practices with farming communities. The Chambers of Agriculture coordinate a network of progress groups initiated and run by farmers themselves throughout France. There are 156 groups in the Pays de Loire region and 147 in Brittany, covering a wide range of topics: income, the environment, biodiversity, agro-ecology, technology, gender equality, communication, energy or protein self-sufficiency, etc. The chambers of agriculture have a facilitating role to play in these groups, supporting farmers in their reflections and helping to free up the discussion and ensure that it runs smoothly. Our objective in BUFFER+ will be to set up, by 2027, discussion and progress groups with farmers in Brittany, Normandy and the Pays de la Loire on the subject of Payments for Environmental Services in wetlands and peatlands, a formidable tool for supporting and encouraging sustainable livestock farming in wetlands. 

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