XCT has been developing land stewardship agreements in the agricultural sector. Through these agreements, we can ensure the combination of improved economic viability for the farms, and environment protection. These stewardship agreements often rest on the commitment of both farmers and landowners. They also often count with a strong involvement of other stakeholders: conservation organisations, consumers, municipalities, companies, etc.
Agriculture and environment are two inter-related areas with great potential to obtain mutual benefits. It is thus necessary to promote agricultural management systems that can bring economic viability (fundamental for the survival of the agricul¬tural sector) combined with preservation of the environment. As an approach, land stewardship provides an effective means to engage local stakeholders in the direct implementation of core nature conservation policies, which are also policy priorities in areas such as agriculture (land access), rural development and social cohesion.
Through voluntary stewardship agreements on sustainable agriculture practices, be¬tween the owner or farmer and the or¬ganisation, both parties are committed to achieve the maximum possible from a list of measures. The agreement allows other actors, public institutions or companies in other sectors to collaborate. In addition to the sustainable management of the proper¬ties, the stewardship organisations and the landowners agree to monitor the environ¬mental effects of the agreement.
Stewardship organisations can also deliver train¬ing days, to facilitate exchange of experienc¬es and projects concerning the relationship between agriculture and nature, as well as to find new partnerships. Other educational activities may include volunteer workshops to di¬rectly help management activities on farms, or activities at school, so youngsters learn about farming and what lies behind all of the products, the farmers, the countryside, nature, and so on. They can also publicise and promote the farms’ products as part of the stewardship agreements, and therefore helps to boost the economic viability of farms. This includes participating in fairs and markets in the area, organising local product tastings, and other marketing strategies to promote the products and the stewardship agreement it¬self. Some outstanding initiatives are a video and a spot related to the project.
Land stewardship networks and organisations must explore these opportunities, both at the European and the National and regional level, and making the best use of comparative research for regions and member states applying the CAP funds with the best land stewardship and bio¬diversity conservation approach. There is also the possibility for farming and nature conservation interests to join together within the context of the proposed European Innovation Partnerships, particularly those based on the theme of sustainable agriculture.