Although a relative small group of farmers in The Netherlands started implementing agroforestry, the Dutch agricultural sector in general is lacking behind compared to neighbouring countries. In an attempt to understand the factors behind this phenomenon and the need to know which stakeholders need to act, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality commissioned to draw up a Master Plan for the upscaling of agroforestry in the Netherlands.
As a result from literature research, past projects with agroforestry pioneers and the consultation of stakeholders, five general topics where identified that encompass most the pressing topics: (1) knowledge and research, (2) education and training, (3) rules and regulations, (4) finance and supply chain and (5) policy and land-use. A stakeholders meeting was organized and attended by 50 farmers, policy makers, researchers and other authorities. Based on these predefined topics, an overall SWOT analyses on the upscaling of agroforestry was drafted and discussed by the stakeholders. This SWOT analysis was then translated to a plan with work packages, pilot projects and estimation on necessary funds were added.
The main structure of the Master plan consists of 8 working packages (WPs) and 4 pilot programs (Fig 1). WP1 aims at creating and maintaining an overall structure in which the other WPs can thrive. Part of WP1 is coordinating the flow of information between other WPs and international partners. WP2 to WP 6 focus on topics in which the most urgent actions are needed. There is a need for a broad based definition of agroforestry in policy documents and rules and regulations need to be cleared up or adjusted to support agroforestry (WP2). The extremely valuable lessons that are learned by the small but motivated group of pioneering agroforestry farmers in the Netherlands need to be become available for other farmers, These young agroforestry systems can also be used to start monitoring projects (WP3). The contribution to ecosystem services of agroforestry systems in The Netherlands need to be quantified, to facilitate the rewarding of famers and other policy making decisions (WP4). For different agroforestry systems the amount of labour and the possibility for mechanization need to be investigated (WP5). And last, farmers are in the need for data on which reliable revenue models can be developed (WP6). The information from the preceding WPs need to be disseminated to other farmers and education institutes (WP7). Agroforestry is not only a tool to increase farm performances. In the Master plan it is also presented as a tool to increase the sustainability of entire areas with specific challenges such as drought and nature conservation. This process requires the involvement of specific stakeholders and is described under WP8.
The four pilots as described in the Master plan focus on the implementation of specific forms of agroforestry with high potential in the Netherlands, i.e silvopastoral agroforestry, trees in chicken runs, food forests and agrisilvicultural agroforestry. These topics concern different farmers with different questions and needs. Local networks and communities of practice need to play an import role in these pilots. Also field experiments and demonstration farms need to be funded and started.
The content of the Master Plan is supported by a broad group of stakeholders and offers a clear overview of the very essential steps for the upscaling of agroforestry in The Netherlands. For the implementation of this plan, the commitment of national government is needed and expected. The increasing group of famers is interested in applying agroforestry, so now I the time to embrace agroforestry as the way forward to increase biodiversity, offer sustainable revenue models to farmers, and achieving European objectives such as increasing the number of trees and reduction of nitrogen emission.
Figure 1. The 8 work packages and 4 pilots of the national Master plan to upscale agroforestry
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Evert Prins (chairman of Agroforestry Netherlands)