We published the toolkit for the conservation of semi-natural habitats

Finally, we made freely available in our website the first open version of the Toolkit for the conservation of semi-natural habitats in agricultural lands, tailored for farmers and agricultural technicians.

This guide has been jointly written by six European organisations: Fundació Emys (Catalonia), Fundatia ADEPT (Romania), Conservatoire des Espaces Naturels d’Occitanie (France), Comitato per le Oasi WWF dell’Area Fiorentina (Italy), Český Svaz Ochránců Přírody (Czech Republic) and Xarxa per a la Conservació de la Natura (Catalonia).

Cover page of the first open version of the toolkit.

The toolkit provides a range of tools for people engaged in agriculture and livestock farming, or who offer technical advice in this area, to know the benefits that semi-natural habitats of farmlands, such as field margins, hedgerows, ponds or tree lines, provide to biodiversity and farming activity, and how to properly manage or create them.

Drawing of a field with the associated semi-natural habitats.

The entire guide and every chapter can currently be found only in English, but we will make them available soon in French, Romanian, Italian, Czech, Spanish and Catalan. If you have any comments or suggestions to improve the guide, they will be very welcome and will help us to make a better final version, which is expected by the end of 2021.

During this spring we will also make free and practical face-to-face training events in several countries, based on this toolkit and with an approximate duration of two morning sessions. These sessions are aimed at professional and semi-professional farmers, as well as agricultural technicians. You can find further information here.

We conducted pilot training events for farmers and agricultural technicians

December 2020

After finishing the first internal version of the toolkit on management of semi-natural habitats to promote biodiversity and enhance farm resilience and productivity, we needed to test its usefulness and gather feedback from our land stewardship farmers and some close agricultural technicians. This was meant to improve the internal version of the toolkit, in order to make a second version, which will be made available on the project’s website. This version will be free and open to everyone and trainings will be conducted again, in order to gather more feedback and make a final and definitive version by the end of 2021.

During November and December 2020, pilot training events for farmers and agricultural technicians were conducted in several countries. These training events were centred on the role of biodiversity and semi-natural habitats on farm productivity and resilience, and on recommendations to create and manage these habitats. They were based on Resifarms toolkit content and, whenever possible, they included a practical part in the field to discuss on real management examples.

In France, the actions envisaged had to be adapted due to the situation related to COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the different chapters of the guide were sent to different partners for proofreading: around ten contributions were obtained from farmers, agricultural technicians and naturalists, as well as teachers. At the same time, we took advantage of a field workshop for pastoral breeders in November in Pic Saint-Loup territory (six participants) to address the issue of the management of isolated trees and tree-covered spaces to provide a sustainable pastoral resource while integrating conservation issues. Discussions made it possible to transmit information from Resifarms toolkit and collect feedback from participants.

Pilot formation in France November 2020
Face-to-face training in Pic Saint-Loup territory, France. Showing management of tree-covered spaces to achieve both production and conservation goals (Photo: CEN Occitanie).

In Spain, a training consisting in two morning sessions was conducted online in November and December. It had eight attendees: four organic farmers, one conservation technician and three agricultural technicians. Participants previously selected the tools they were most interested in, in order to further deepen into the topics they preferred, which were: Positive and negative effects of agriculture in the environment, Biodiversity the core of agriculture, Field margins, Ponds and ditches, Tree-covered spaces, Hedgerows and Open spaces. Participants appreciated the approach and enjoyed the online training, but considered there was not enough time to deal with all the topics and missed the most practical, face-to-face part.

Pilot formation in Catalonia November 2020
On-line training in Spain. (Photo: Fundació Emys).

In Romania, a two-day face-to-face training was made in December, in the Angofa Wildlife Centre, a former school that became a training facility and tourist information and activities centre. The meeting was attended by 15 people, mainly farmers, but also a Local Action Group representative, a newly established cooperative representative, a WWF communication specialist, and the manager of the local ecotourism destination. During the first day, most of the toolkit content was explained, with an emphasis on the role that farmers play in the protection of biodiversity. The next day was devoted to the on-site visit to a cattle farm, where a model on how grazing can restore open habitats and how water is valorised was shown, but also the future restoration of a hedge in a less favourable conservation status was discussed in-situ.

Pilot formation in Romania December 2020
Face-to-face training in Angofa Wildlife Centre, Romania. Training on toolkit content (Photo: Fundatia ADEPT).

In Italy, a face-to-face training of one full day was conducted on a farm in the municipality of Montespertoli, in December. It had eight participants: two farmers, two agronomists (one also a farmer, the other also a town councilor in Montespertoli), a geologist (also a farmer), a forestry consultant, a real estate surveyor, and a conservation technician, which jointly examined most of the toolkit parts, with a special attention to Ponds and ditches tool. After that, participants did a visit to some parts of the farm, including a water reservoir and some orchards, to discuss semi-natural habitats management in the field. The mayor of Montespertoli was reported as interested to a preliminary joint examination of best practices relevant for promoting sustainable agriculture.

Pilot training in Italy December 2020
Face-to-face training in Montespertoli, Italy. Practical training with advice on pond creation and management (Photo: Comitato per le Oasi WWF dell’Area Fiorentina).

In the Czech Republic, no training event has been conducted yet.

Training events with a theoretical and practical part at each project partner’s country were planned for last autumn, but due to the situation related to COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted the training events to each country recommendations, or postponed them if necessary.

The first coordination and training meeting takes place in Catalonia

November 2019

The Resifarms kick-off meeting took place in the headquarters of Fundació Emys, the organisation coordinating this Erasmus+ project and a land stewardship organisation located in la Selva, a region in north-west Catalonia.

Both the coordination meeting and the learning-teaching training event took place within this exciting context during early November, with the participation of project partners from Romania, Italy, Czech Republic, France and Catalonia. Resifarms partners worked on the initial phase of the project, although some important steps had already been done before the meeting. During the coordination meeting, partners first discussed about tasks distribution amongst organisations and afterwards they delve into specific actions, such as defining Toolkit preliminary structure and content or evaluating different options for the self-assessment test platforms. Partners talked about and clarified different economic and administrative aspects of the project. At last but not least, a work plan for the coming months was established.

First learning-teaching training event at Fundació Emys (Photo: Fundació Emys).

Moreover, different members of each organisation participated in the learning-teaching training event, giving a talk about non-productive structures in agricultural lands and its conservation. Fundació Emys talked about pressures and threats to ponds and their biodiversity, Fundatia ADEPT about landscape and arboreal ecosystems, Český Svaz Ochránců Přírody about field margins, Conservatoire d’Espaces Naturels du Languedoc-Rousillon about open spaces, Xarxa per a la Conservació de la Natura about the effect of climate change in agriculture and Comitato per le Oasi WWF dell’Area Fiorentina about how to evaluate and monitor the impact of conservation. Participants had the opportunity to discuss about each topic after the session, learning about other participants’ experience and knowledge.

Vineyard visited during the field trip where IAEDEN is implementing conservation measures through a land stewardship agreement (Photo: Fundació Emys).

Later on, Emys organised a field trip for all members, to visit different estates where they or other organisation (IAEDEN) are implementing conservation measures, beginning by its own facilities, Can Moragues, in Riudarenes.

Talks and discussion information will be translated into a free toolkit, available for anyone interested in applying methods to improve biodiversity of non-productive agricultural lands.

Project Resilient Farmlands begins

Last September we started the project Resilient Farmlands: promoting education to boost ecosystem services of non-productive farmlands. This project focuses on improving the conservation of semi-natural habitats of farmlands to promote more sustainable and resilient food production.

The main objective is to build the capacity of farmers and agricultural technicians in the conservation of non-productive agricultural lands, in order to boost the implementation of the most direct and effective conservation actions.

Some of the planned tasks are:

  • To make a review and compilation of bibliographic material on management measures to foster biodiversity associated with agricultural lands.
  • To adapt, in an accessible and self-evaluative format, the reference material to the target audience: agricultural technicians and other key groups, such as land stewardship or rural development organizations.
  • To conduct practical training for the implementation of management measures.
  • To detect potential improvements in public policies for the promotion of these management measures.

The project is leaded by Fundació Emys (from Catalonia), and it involves five other organizations from five European countries or regions: Fundatia ADEPT (Romania), Conservatoire des Espaces Naturels du Languedoc-Roussillon (France), Comitato per le Oasi WWF dell’Area Fiorentina (Italy), Český Svaz Ochránců Přírody (Czech Republic) and Xarxa per a la Conservació de la Natura (Catalonia).

It is funded by the EU Erasmus+ programme, and it has a duration of 30 months.

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