Agricultural landscapes in the North of The Netherlands exhibit the same problems observed in other regions of intensive farming. High dependence on external inputs and financial subsidies, environmental pollution, GHG emissions and biodiversity loss; with the aggravating consequences of high land prices and farmers’ elevated degrees of financial indebtedness. Yet this northern region, comprising the provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe, has a great potential for agricultural production thanks to its favourable environment in terms of soils and climate, and to the know-how of its farmers and food producers.
In a recent international summer school, which focused in northern Netherlands agricultural landscapes and food systems as a case study, participants had the opportunity to visit farms, read landscapes and conduct interviews with various stakeholders to assess the multiple challenges and opportunities this region has to offer. Complemented with lectures by high-level guest speakers, the participants learnt about an array of tools for systems analysis, landscape design, local co-innovation and stakeholder processes. In other words, tools and skills that will be useful in any social-ecological context.
The information collected during the field visits and lectures was used to develop proposals and recommendations for landscape redesign, aiming at sustaining food production, circularity, biodiversity and ecosystem services in this challenging region. And, as we kept warning during the entire week, by challenging current views and popular narratives, the participants left the course with more questions than answers – which is a great start in a process of sustainable landscape redesign.
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