Hedgerows: natural capital for agriculture, nature and landscape
Developing an area-specific vision on hedgerows and coaching farmers to manage and integrate hedgerows into their farming activities.
Hedgerows are in decline or disappearing all over Europe, even though well-managed hedgerows are structural networks that provide shelter and a possible food source for insects, birds and small mammals. Up until the 1960’s, hedgerows were used as fences and plot boundaries and were an important source of firewood. The main reason for their decline is that nowadays farmers do not see the possibilities, or the value hedgerows can add to their businesses.
The project supported bilateral meetings between local and regional governments and ecologists for the development of an area-specific vision on hedgerows for the local communities of Kasterlee and Olen in the Campine area of Belgium. It also provided coaching to farmers on how to manage the hedgerows on their farms and integrate them in their economic activity.
25 farmers were coached on the management and/or the planting of new hedgerows, considering their specific business model.
The project improved the economic situation of the farmers by creating new business opportunities, namely, using the wood from hedgerow management to produce bioenergy in local (communal) projects, e.g. heating a local school, or heating water in a dairy farm.
Preserving hedgerows is an important cultural-historic element in the rural landscape; and it helps improve the local CO2 balance.