Smart Solutions

Climate Smart Farming on Peatlands

Farmers cooperate to implement area-based water infiltration systems to reduce CO2 emissions due to peat oxidation.

Implemented inArea Meijepolder

Country : Netherlands

What’s the solution?

Farmers cooperate to construct innovative water infiltration systems in the peat soil over their collective land in order to prevent soil subsidence and reduce peat oxidation and CO2 emissions. Farmers thus take joint responsibility for their contribution to climate goals.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because

  • It uses innovative techniques to address the major challenge of climate change
  • It uses ‘learning by doing’ on a regional scale
  • It creates local partnerships to develop and share knowledge and experience.
  • It achieves multiple objectives at the same time, including capacity building, climate solutions, improvement of water quality, environment and biodiversity

The project gives substance to the climate objectives for 'agriculture and land use'.

How is the solution implemented?

An area process is designed and structured as a roadmap with the following stages:

  1. Preparation - start of an initiative
  2. Support - discussions with potential participants
  3. Planning - concrete elaboration of measures
  4. Formalizing agreements - organization, grant application
  5. Implementation
  6. Management phase

In what local context has it been applied?

Area Meijepolder is located within the 'Groene Hart' (Green Heart) area of the Dutch Randstad conurbation. It is a relatively sparsely populated peat meadow area located in between several major Dutch cities, including Rotterdam, The Hague, Zoetermeer, Leiden, Haarlem, Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Within the Green Heart are a number of smaller towns, but also a few medium-sized cities (with 50,000 to 100,000 inhabitants) such as Alphen aan den Rijn, Gouda and Woerden. The area was designated a National Landscape in 2004.

The inhibition of peat oxidation is an important task in the peatland area of the Green Heart, because of the subsidence and CO2 emissions that this process causes. This in turn is an important part of the Dutch Government's 2019 response to the 2015 Paris climate accord. With the plans for the peatland area, the Cabinet is committed to achieving a reduction of 1 megaton of CO2 equivalent. This is a substantial task, which only can be completed in cooperation by all stakeholders together.

Who was behind the implementation?

The 'Climate smart farming on peat' project is a public-private collaborative initiative of:

  • Two agricultural collectives (NGOs)

    • Rijn, Vecht en Venen U.A. – Area Cooperative
    • Rijn& Gouwe Wiericke - Agricultural Nature and Landscape Management Association

  • A water board

    • Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden water board

Since 2020, the Amstel, Gooi and Vecht Water Board, LTO Noord, Zuid Holland Province and Utrecht Province have also participated in this collaboration.

Area Meijepolder:

Twelve landowners and agricultural nature society De Parmey are the initiators of this polder process. They found each other in a shared ambition and that is how the ball started to roll. Together with the knowledge and support from Hoogheemraadschap De Stichtse Rijnlanden, they are working on concrete measures to make the peat meadows future-proof.

What was the local journey?

Around twelve landowners and agricultural nature associations found that they had common aims to reduce subsidence and greenhouse gas emissions in the Groene Hart area and so the ball started rolling with their collaboration.

They started working together with the knowledge and support from water boards, municipalities and provinces on concrete measures to make the peat meadows future-proof.

The climate measures were applied in three polders, together covering 800 ha. The focus was on water infiltration systems (basic and pressure), but also wet cultivation and soil improvement measures.

The farmers in seven areas started a bottom-up area process, to create support and jointly develop and implement area-specific soil subsidence mitigation and climate measures. They work together to implement these measures, monitor the results and learn from them in practice.

In each location, an ‘area process’ is designed and structured as a roadmap with the following stages:

  • Preparation - start of an initiative
  • Support - discussions with potential participants
  • Planning - concrete elaboration of measures
  • Formalizing agreements - organization, grant application
  • Implementation
  • Management phase

Each area process is coordinated by a project manager and for each area process a local project team is formed, for example consisting of: agricultural collective/legal entity as representation participants; water board representative(s); approximately two active participants with a driving/connecting role; possibly the local LTO department and/or the municipality; and possibly the province (depending on the task at hand).

The cooperation is confirmed in a cooperation agreement. The partners, together with the client, will meet several times a year as a steering committee to discuss the progress of the pilot project and to make any necessary adjustments.

For each area, the collaboration leads to the creation of an implementation plan on 'water management of the future', in which effects on the water system are linked to measures that inhibit subsidence

In addition to a reduction of subsidence and CO2 emissions, the initiators are also striving for better water quality, less ammonia emissions, more biodiversity and a better business perspective for farmers.

In the process, a knowledge network is created. Knowledge development and sharing is an essential part of the project, aiming to develop to ever improved vision and practices for future water management.


  • Willingness of agricultural entrepreneurs to participate in thinking about and paying for physical investments. The willingness to do this depends in part on trust, a well-managed area process and market developments.
  • Prior to the project, the agricultural collectives were not yet organized in such a way that they could direct the process of scaling up soil subsidence control without support. The project proposal 'climate smart agriculture....' aimed to build capacity to facilitate and empower the professionalisation of these agricultural collectives and collectives and partnerships.
  • Measures to inhibit/retard subsidence require additional fresh water. Addressing this issue at supra-regional and national level is important to define responsibilities. For that reason, the project approach is holistic and a cooperation on different levels and with different stakeholders.

Financial risk on 'Water management of the future'.  At the start of the project it was not yet known what technical modifications would have to be made and what costs would be involved - both for initial investment and for management costs / data and information management.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • Over 12 farmers participate in creating water infiltration systems
  • Water Infiltration Systems are applied on about 282 ha of peatland
  • 30-70% less subsidence and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improved water quality,
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Reduced ammonia emissions.
  • More awareness of subsidence and the measures to be taken by farmers in the peatland area

What does it bring the village/community?

  • The solution can enhance the long-term environment sustainability of agriculture in the region, securing income and livelihoods in the face of climate change pressures.
  • Improvements in water quality and soil structure can also improve the quality and yield of agricultural production, providing better economic prospects for farmers
  • Develop better methods to predict subsidence and emissions and to make decisions in peatland management

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:
Financial needs:

Human resources

The project core team was supported by an independent coordinator.

Project core team: The implementation is in the hands of a compact project core team that is responsible for the (management of) the implementation. The project core team is formed by coordinators/employees of the collectives and water board(s). Each member is leader of one of the project components and where necessary reinforced with (ad hoc) working groups.

Steering group: Principals and contractors. The boards of the three agricultural collectives, together with HDSR (and possibly other water managers). The four partners are jointly responsible for the management of the project components and the organization of the entire project. Final financial responsibility lies with the steering committee. In the first few months it will be investigated whether it is necessary and desirable to set up a it is necessary and desirable to establish a legal entity.

Physical resources

• Water Infiltration Systems

What to do…

  • Be sure that a substantial part of the landowners participate. Only if at least 65% of the land owners are prepared to participate an area process can continue, otherwise the impact of the measures on area level would be too little.
  • It is important that participants make their own financial contribution. A personal financial contribution ensures involvement, even though a 100% subsidy is sometimes possible for the measure itself.
  • Apply a fixed amount per ha for the own contribution for construction. That is transparent, easy, clear and equal for everyone.

and not to do

  • Top-down approach.

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