Innovation in the field: The Bornholm CIL visit farms to explore Carbon Farming

Innovation in the field: The Bornholm CIL visit farms to explore Carbon Farming

On May 26, the CIL of Bornholm arranged visits to farms practicing non-tillage faming, Conservation Agriculture and holistic grazing. Twelve participants, farmers, advisors, authorities and researchers, visited three farms to learn more on these practices in relation to Carbon Farming. The participating farmers, both hosts and others, were very enthusiastic about these farming practices in relation to reducing the impact of farming on climate and for making future farming on Bornholm more resilient to climate changes. However, when discussing trade with CO2-certificates as a tool to support the farmers economically in adopting these practices, the farmers were very skeptical. They identified six major reasons for not contracting reductions in emissions and increased storage of carbon in order to sell CO2-certificates:

  • The economic incentive is far too low with currently expected prices of certificates
  • The administrative work is too time-consuming
  • Long-term contracts limit the room to maneuver in the strategic management
  • The model-based calculation of certificates is not reliable
  • The reduced emissions and increased storage of Carbon should be kept in the farming sector
  • Uncertainty of fit of certificates with future changes in the subsidies and regulations
Simplicity is key for an attractive scheme

Instead, the farmers want simplicity. They would like to see non-tillage systems, Conservation Agriculture and holistic grazing acknowledged as practices contributing to climate-neutral and climate-resilient farming and included in a Carbon Farming eco-scheme in the next generation of support under the Common Agricultural Policy. A few ticks in the right boxes of the yearly application for support should be sufficient paperwork.

In need for fresh ideas

In the CIL of Bornholm, we had the idea of developing new innovative contracts as an add-on/extension to an existing scheme on CO2-certificates, improving and adding elements to increase the uptake and the outcomes in terms of climate impacts of the contracts. However, the farmers currently do not see contracts based on the sale of CO2-certificates as an option for funding farming practices contributing to the development towards a climate-neutral agriculture. Therefore, for the Bornholm CIL the next steps of the Carbon Farming track is currently unclear. Bottom-up innovation is challenging and not always a straightforward process. 

Written by Erling Anders (University of Copenhagen), Photo: © Vivi Granby

Results-based contracts – positive feedback from UK farmers

Results-based contracts – positive feedback from UK farmers

Since 2016, results-based contracts have been trialled in two pilot areas in England – on hill farms in the Yorkshire Dales National Park and arable land in the lowlands of East Anglia. With monitoring data from four years of environmental performance and farmer attitudes, these pilot schemes provide a rich source of learning about the practical aspects, advantages and disadvantages of this novel contract approach.  DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) recently renewed the contracts for a further year.  This new phase will see farmers co-designing new measures and exploring opportunities to expand results-based contracts across the farms.

The University of Aberdeen, together with Contracts2.0 action partner Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, have recently surveyed participating farmers in the National Park to find out more about their views on key support mechanisms, barriers and management practices within the results-based scheme. They found that farmers welcomed the additional agency afforded by a results-based approach and recognised pragmatic benefits such as simplified paperwork and flexibility.  Participants appreciated good financial rewards for continuing or adapting sustainable management practices to maintain or improve habitat quality. Findings further indicate the perception among farmers that longer duration results-based contracts offer potential for greater improvements in habitat quality. Also, of great importance and value to the farmers has been the strong working relationships and consistent dialogue with the scheme’s administering bodies.

For more information of the trialled results-based schemes check our partner’s Website: Results-Based Agri-environment Payment Scheme (RBAPS) pilot study in England – GOV.UK (

For more on results-based examples check out

Written by Annabelle LePage(Natural England)

monitoring grassland
Visualizing future farming in the Dutch case studies

Visualizing future farming in the Dutch case studies

The Contract Innovation Labs in the Netherlands worked with an illustrator to produce a visual representation of the “dream farming landscape”, an imagined ideal future for the landscape and its agricultural landuse practices. This tool is used by the Innovation Labs to have a point of departure for identifying the changes that need to happen to make this vision a reality. In this blogpost, BoerenNatuur shares their experience with the process of developing a shared vision of the ideal future of farming.

Written by Lisa Deijl (BoerenNatuur)

Presenting the Dutch case: the collective contract

The Dutch case in Contracts2.0 is unique because it revolves around the only nation-wide fully implemented collective contract-model for nature conservation by farmers in the world. In the Netherlands, since 2016, this collective contract was set up by farmers and the national and provincial governments. Now, there are 40 collectives of 11.000 farmers who carry out this subsidy scheme for nature conservation. BoerenNatuur is the national umbrella organization of the 40 collectives, and the action partner in Contracts2.0. You can read more about what we do here:

As an action partner we are excited to be able to have the opportunity to study, together with research partners from around Europe, how the collective contracts are working and what improvements can be made. These questions we aim to answer in the Contract Innovation Labs.

Setting up Contract Innovation Labs

Just like the other Contracts2.0 actionpartners in 9 European countries, BoerenNatuur established a Contract Innovation Lab in the Netherlands. The Dutch Innovation Lab gathers people that have expertise with this contract model from working as a practitioner in the agricultural sector. In the case of our Labs, these are farmers and employees of the farmers collectives or nature organizations.  Because BoerenNatuur is the national umbrella organization of the 40 local collectives, we chose to organize not one but two Innovation Labs in order to get more insight in what different challenges the collective approach meets in different parts of the country. The Labs are located in Limburg (the south of the Netherlands, an area with varied land use and the biggest collective with the most budget and the most members) and in Oost-Groningen (the north of the Netherlands, an area with mostly arable agriculture and a smaller collective). To successfully set up the Innovation Labs within Contracts2.0 and engage local stakeholders, we received a great amount of help from the local collectives Natuurrijk Limburg (NaLi) and Agrarische Natuurvereniging Oost-Groningen (ANOG).

Visualizing the “dream farming landscape” in the Innovation Labs

The end goal of the work in Contracts2.0 Innovation Labs is to make policy suggestions for improved contracts. Formulating an ideal future for the farming landscape is a step towards this, as it helps to pinpoint the changes that stakeholders would like to see. But the process began with analysing the here and now: by carrying out a SWOT-analysis of the contracts under investigation. With all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats laid out, we had a basis to start imagining the ideal future, the “dream landscape”. It was a very interesting process to try to come up with a coherent view for the local landscape in 2040, especially since there were different actors involved. After a while we were able to come up with a description of the dream landscape in 300 words, that everyone felt comfortable with.

It was then that Lenny van Bussel, our research partner from Wageningen University, suggested that we hire an illustrator to visualize the text describing the agreed upon dream landscape features. We thought it would be a nice gesture to the local stakeholders, to have a tangible product from this project that they had been working on. However, when the picture was presented to the groups, it turned out that people actually still had varying opinions. Apparently, words had hidden the different visions, but an actual visual rendition of the dream landscape drew them out again!

Keeping the conversation going

The reignited debate on the dream landscape in our Contract Innovation Labs was an unexpected result for us organizers. It showed us that working with the illustrator could have been a whole different path to explore when developing the shared vision of the dream landscape. We chose to make some small adjustments to the paintings, but did not aim for a ‘picture perfect’ vision, because this could have taken several more sessions. Instead we approach the visuals as a ‘praatplaat’ (a Dutch word for ‘a picture to use as basis for discussion’). This tool can help us in the discussions around the ideal future landscape and how to get there, especially when we engage with policy makers.

Local and regional policy makers have been involved in the SWOT-analysis of the current contract. However, they have not yet had the chance to react to the CIL’s dream landscape visualization. In the coming months, we will give them the opportunity to do so. First, we will present the visions in separate Policy Innovation Labs to inquire about the chances for the realization of the dream farming landscape. Secondly, over the summer, we hope to be able to organize ‘in person’ workshops in the respective regions with practitioners and policy makers , to present the results of the work  we did. We hope that these last workshops serve as an inspiration for local actors to continue working together also beyond the boundaries of this project, and to continue to keep the conversation going.

Improving funding scheme for landscape-scale agri-environmental management

Improving funding scheme for landscape-scale agri-environmental management

Katrin Prager (University of Aberdeen) from the Contracts2.0 team carrying out UK case study work provided input for a feedback call on the Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund. This funding scheme supports farmer collaboration and landscape-scale agri-environmental management. The feedback call was commissioned by England’s Rural Payments Authority (RPA) and run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT). The GWCT has now passed on a 33-page document of feedback. The feedback provides input to the responsible agencies and government department DEFRA, Natural England and RPA to help improve the funding scheme and collective efforts to strengthen the farmed environment.

For other ways that GWCT supports farmer collaboration, see the farmer cluster website: actions are intended to help form projects, gain inspiration and momentum and raise awareness for landscape-scale conservation.

Biodiversity in Tuscany: Strengthening the custodian farmer’s role

Biodiversity in Tuscany: Strengthening the custodian farmer’s role

On April 23, 2021, the University of Pisa organized a discussion about the “Strategy for an evolution of Custodian farmers’ role” in the Tuscany Region to protect regional genetic resources from extinction – an important pillar for protecting crop and species biodiversity. Our researchers Francesco Riccioli and Roberta Moruzzo, with the help of their action partner representative Cinzia Lenzarini, presented the current situation of custodian farmers in Tuscany and discussed strategies to improve the role of these farmers in the Rural Development Plan.

The in situ conservation of genetic resources at risk of extinction is a critical pillar for preserving the biodiversity of regional crops and species. As previous successful experiences (e.g., Aglione (garlic) della Chiana, Farro (emmer) della Garfagnana) lead the way, the next step for Garfagnana will be to start the valorization of the farmers’ efforts through the activation of a value chain specializing on regional crops and species. Remuneration of the extra effort will help to keep the local knowledge, traditions and methods alive. Protection by utilizing!