The cooperative helping farmers to preserve land and biodiversity

The cooperative helping farmers to preserve land and biodiversity | FT Food Revolution
Farmland ownership in the Netherlands is merging preservation and profitability. Watch how farmers and environmentalists are working together to create more sustainable agriculture practices.

We are in Friesland, southwestern part of Friesland. Meadow birds in
the Netherlands are decreasing in numbers. More of the land isn’t compatible anymore for the
meadow birds to breed in so we need to find new ways to fit in the biological habits of
the birds into the farming practices we do here, in southwest Friesland.
My name is Pieter van der Valk. We milk about 125 milking cows on the 70ha of grasslands.
As a farmer, today is a challenge to be profitable. Land prices
are very high, it’s very difficult. The intensive farming we practise now does affect
the land because we get a loss of biodiversity. We cultured our land in a way that’s been
optimum for our cows but it isn’t optimum for biodiversity.
I set up the Rijkdom co-operative because I believe that we have to face the challenges as a
whole as a society, and Rabobank helped me to set up the whole financial structure behind it.
Rijkdom combines private and public investors to farmers. They buy, on a 50/50 share,
land – so they own it together. They make an agreement about how they use the land.
Investing in land is important for me and my family. For the farmer, the land rent
normally is a couple of percents. And in this case, it’s only one per cent.
So for me, it’s not financially profitable for me. However, in the long run, the landfill will
increase in value, so the immaterial proceeds for me are much more important that we restore the
land in its old condition and to improve the living conditions for the meadow birds.
Normally there is a conflict of interest between the farmer and the people who are worried for
nature preservation for meadow birds. In this project, there’s a common
understanding and co-operation. We can face every ecological challenge
within Rijkdom. Here it is metal birds, in other regions it’s another ecological challenge.
We want to make the world a little bit of a better place when it comes to biodiversity.

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