Netherlands Case Study: Overview

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Article by Jacqueline Boivin, with assistance from Dr. Solen le Clec’h.

Primary Researchers:

  • Rob Alkemade (Wageningen University and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency)
  • Solen Le Clec’h (Wageningen University)

The Netherlands and Northwestern Europe are currently facing many challenges such as pollution related to food production climate change and biodiversity loss. According to Dr. Solen le Clec’h of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, climate change is a main concern due to the country being below sea level. This can lead to increased instances of flooding and droughts, which negatively impacts farm crops and other economic sectors and human activities. The Netherlands has hotspots of biodiversity that are under threats from human activities such as urbanization, agriculture activities and climate change.

The Netherlands has a long history of implementing MPAs (marine protected areas)1, such as Natura 20002. However, unfortunately biodiversity is still decreasing. Currently, marine protected area coverage is 26.86% and terrestrial and inland waters protected area coverage is 22.47%.

Fig 1. (Source:

Against this background, the Dutch government has adopted a new policy concept of “nature-inclusive” or “circular farming.” This practice promotes sustainable agricultural that minimizes biodiversity impacts and carbon emissions while maximizing their benefits to nature and people. Similar policy goals are set for fisheries under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policies that the Netherlands is a part of.3

The project goals of this case study are to explore pathways for nature inclusive and healthy food futures, by developing integrated scenarios at the FCB nexus. Pathways and scenarios will have the potential for upscaling and outscaling to Northwestern Europe. For example, upscaling means to apply a method to a larger area that has been seen to work in a smaller area, and outscaling means to extend that method to other areas.

These pathways are meant to consider trade-offs and synergies between the three nexus components (food, climate and biodiversity). These pathways are aimed at minimizing trade-offs by relying on sustainable and resilient food systems, such as circular agriculture and nature-inclusive food systems.

From Wageningen University, Netherlands:  Nature-inclusive agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture based on a resilient food and ecosystem4. A nature inclusive food system might be one where wild flower pastures are integrated alongside more formal farmland usage.

Dr. le Clec’h explains that circular farming5 relies on the use or processing of residues (left-overs) from the agricultural sector and the food supply chain as renewable resources and inputs into new products. In circular farming, cycles are closed: inputs should be taken as locally as possible, although they can come from much further away places, if necessary. It results in less biomass waste, fewer imports such chemical based fertilizers and remote livestock feedstocks. In circular farming, the production capacity is determined by the availability of circular resources.

Nature-inclusive agriculture

Nature-inclusive agriculture is a form of sustainable agriculture based on a resilient food and ecosystem. Wageningen scientists are looking at how agriculture can go hand in hand with increased biodiversity, such as in flower- and herb-rich grassland, and how farmers can be better rewarded for investing in changes. We do this, among other things, by drawing up future visions that show how food can be produced within the boundaries of nature, the environment and the living environment.

Fig 2: Nature-inclusive agriculture (content source –

Dr le Clec’h explains further that the approach will be to review and create an inventory of what already exists. Existing models will be explored, although they are not yet integrated at the nexus of these challenges:  food systems, climate change and biodiversity. These current models exist at sea and at land, but not at the interface.

Potential trade-offs across the FCB dimensions between and within these scenarios will be explored, and new scenarios of these systems will be developed along with stakeholder consultation and participation. Obstacles will be considered, such as at the economic and government levels, and a plan for upscaling out to Northwestern Europe.

Upscaling and Outscaling:

The case study leads are attempting to clarify the “what and how” of upscaling and outscaling to Northwestern Europe. The overall aim is to expand their findings (pathway definitions and consequences on the nexus components, as explained above) from the Dutch territories to a broad area that covers the Atlantic arc – from South France to North Denmark. They plan to investigate to what extent the upscaling is possible and under what conditions. 

In summary, the Netherlands case study aims to tackle many integrated scenarios while considering trade-offs and synergies. They intend to focus sustainable and resilient systems, such as circular agriculture and nature-inclusive food systems. The findings and processes will eventually be expanded to the rest of Northwestern Europe.



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