Topic: “Terres et Bocages” a farmers organization for hedgerows restoration in Brittany, Western France
Keywords : hedgerows, agroecology, landscape, autonomy, farmers groups
The hedgerows are a historic feature of the agricultural landscape of Brittany, Fance. They offered multiple resources to peasant agriculture: firewood, fencing and protection for the herd, rainwater storage thanks to the associated ditches … The agricultural modernization step contributed to the gradual disappearance of hedgerows. From the 80s, other qualities were put forward by the public authorities and the civil society around a set of public goods: the hedges contribute to reduce the erosion of soil by rain and wind, to retain and store pollutants of agricultural origin, to mitigate the homogeneisation of landscapes and to increase biodiversity niches and ecological corridors, to offer public pathes along the hedges…
Because of this, a large replanting program entitled “Breizh Bocage” hires private companies paid by European Union and Brittany region to take in charge the plantation of new hedges and their maintenance during the first five years. The benefits are obvious to farmers: no money, no effort but in return farmers are variously mobilised for those trees’ future and their integration to the farms logic: trees are sometimes perceived as conpetitors of farmland and dramatically pruned and pressured by shallowing.
In parallel, a farmers’ association called “Terres et Bocage” is also replanting agricultural hedgerows in northern and central Brittany. Based on the principle of autonomy, the group purchases tree seedlings (without public subsidies), participatory planting is organised as well as training programs to learn how to manage trees … The design of hedges and farms is in tune with an agroecological approach: the growing trees fully fulfill their functions of biodiversity, pollutant sensors, shelterbelts, shelter for wildlife. Farmers develop a more systemic vision of their farm and also consider its ecological dimensions and the interactions between the various sub-systems of which trees. Their action extends to the rest of the local society thanks to the participation of citizens or young pupils of the schools in the days of plantations, and to public training days.
The presentation will cover the operating details of “Lands and grove” (numbers, organization
…). It will highlight the political support which favour the initiative, in particular the French
national program supporting GIEE (Economic and Ecological Interest Groups) has proved
decisive for the financial stabilization of the organization and by underlining its public
recognition through a ministerial label.