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How to engage farmers and communities in water management

Time: 10:40-11:50 Tuesday 8 November

Venue: Riddarsalen

It’s time to realign our resources and efforts for healthy water and a productive countryside. The workshop discusses sustainable and resilient water management strategies and policies towards 2030 and beyond. It invites policy makers, entrepreneurs, researchers and the public to propose and test ways to manage our landscape and water in the Baltic Sea catchment area for the common benefit of all.

Like half of the inland waters in the EU, the waters in the Baltic Sea Region catchment area and the Baltic Sea itself still receive excess amounts of pollutant inputs from human activities. Nitrogen and phosphorus, transported by rivers, constitute the biggest external load to the Baltic Sea. These inputs have declined very slowly regardless of billions of euros spent on, for instance, agri-environment programmes. The recently published long-term data on water quality shows that the goals set in the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan will not be met. However, there have been improvements in the environment in many coastal areas where measures have been undertaken, by single farmers or farming communities. This is highlighted through the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award, where initiatives have been recognised for their cooperation to apply and promote good environmental practices in the agricultural sector.
The inefficiency of agri-environment programmes has been noted in several reports (for example, EU Court of Auditors 7/2011, 3/2016). Yet, in the Rural Development Programmes, over EUR 600 million is allocated annually in the Baltic Sea Region to the agri-environment-climate measure (M10) alone (EC, 2016). It can be strongly argued that the current farm-based agri-environmental management is not able to generate the solutions needed to bring about improvements in water quality on the landscape, catchment and river basin level. Looking ahead, climate change both necessitates stronger focus on water management, but also offers synergistic opportunities for economic, environmental and societal gains. 
Agriculture, crop production and livestock grazing are significant land management activities which are interconnected with water bodies (for instance, three-quarters of fields in Finland are adjacent to or within 300m of a waterway). The scientific evidence is clear about the water catchment being the most relevant scale of assessing water quality and the effectiveness of individual measures. Yet we lack the planning, monitoring and implementation mechanisms to realise water management on the catchment scale. In the current financial situation of shrinking public budgets, we owe it to the current and future tax payers that the money is used effectively and efficiently. We also know that the natural complexities do not allow for a precise cost-efficiency evaluation of our actions. Monitoring is difficult and expensive, and, also, often in technical calculations we do not put sufficiently high value on effects which occur in the long term.
This political seminar wants to encourage a critical look at the current environmental management framework and point to the need for cooperation between different sectors to create the enabling conditions at the landscape level to improve water management. For instance, we invite the participants to reflect on:
·         How could the various sectors and stakeholders cooperate better to address water management at the landscape level?
·         How do we use the available funds efficiently to achieve the results we want to see at landscape level?
·         What kind of values and ecosystem services do we want and need to preserve in rural areas?
Elisabeth Backteman, State Secretary to the Minister for Rural Affairs, Sweden
Staffan Lund, Head of Unit, SLU
Lennart Gladh, Senior Advisor, Baltic / Freshwater
Gun Lindberg, Sustainability Strategist, Västervik municipality, Sweden
Kristina Yngwe, MP and Vice President of the Swedish Parliamentary Committee for Environment and Agriculture
Markus Eerola, 2015 WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year
Maira Dzelzkaleja, Vice-Chairwoman, Farmers’ Parliament, Latvia
Michelle McCrackin, research scientist, Baltic Eye, Stockholm University


Political seminar

Main organiser
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) 
WWF, Baltic Ecoregion Programme

Seminar contact person
Kaj Granholm, SLU
Ottilia Thoreson, WWF

Sub-objective of the EUSBSR:
Save the Sea