Alain Canet, director of the association Arbre & Paysage 32 in Southwest France, explains how simple, practical changes in thinking and practice could bring both economic and environmental benefits to European farmers and the land they work.
By allowing self-seeding, native trees to grow in uncultivated bands alongside water courses, zones required to be left fallow under existing Common Agriculture Policy rules, farmers and those around them would gain multiple benefits. Current practice sees such areas periodically mown to prevent weed growth, destroying tree seedlings that could in time provide shade for stock animals as well as improved soil fertility and organic content, water retention and surface soil protection. They would also play a role in capturing carbon, locally and cheaply.
Such practices, combined with the principles of agro-forestry and the re-planting of previously grubbed up native species hedges to delineate smaller fields, would help restore local biodiversity and soil fertility while mitigating many of the other problems brought about by modern agricultural practices.
Such cheap and simple techniques are habitually ignored or discounted by the different parties involved in establishing farm policy and practice. Producers question what benefits they will bring while environmentalists pushing for more radical or wholesale changes.
Arbre & Paysage 32 sees the conflicts between and within different parties as self-defeating. It sets itself the goal of fostering dialogue, trust and collaboration between groups that often have little of either. It argues that the issues surrounding tree husbandry, and their treatment, as offering a template for finding wholesale, integrated solutions to European farm questions.
(Interviewee: Alain Canet, Interviewer: Patrick Chalmers, Camera operator: Natacha Yellachich)