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Inspiration | Innovation | Cooperation

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That atmosphere seems to emerge straight away, when the frst speaker, the French Amélie Astruc, is afec-tionately introduced by her German colleague Heinz Peter Wierig. She is the project manager of La Bas-sée, a project in the Île de France region. It is located at the confu-ence of the Seine and Yonne rivers. Astruc discusses the combination of water retention and other func-tions. La Bassée is a good example of this combination, because besides water retention, ecological enhance-ment is a spearhead in the project. “ALFA was a fantastic opportunity to compare our projects to colleagues’ projects, and to convince people by showing them the other projects,” Astruc says.

One of the ones that La Bassée ben-efted from was the project of Hördt in South-Germany. Not only was this project geographically relatively close to La Bassée, it shared the same goals. Heinz Peter Wierig, the project manager of Hördt, tells how in his project water retention was combined with a focus on multifunc-tional land use. In Hördt, biodiversity and forestry are vital issues.

‘All projects have grown in knowledge of themselves’

During cofee, Robert Warburton refects on the ALFA project. He is a dairy farmer and as one of the trustees of the Eden River Trust, he has been involved in the British project. “I think all projects have grown in knowledge of themselves,”

he says. According to Warburton, an important lesson learned for all the projects is that public consulta-tion and education is crucial. “To be successful, you have to take every-body along. If you just impose your ideas on a community, the response will be negative. It works a lot better if you can convince them of your reasons.”

The second part of the programme, about stakeholder involvement, is commenced by Simon Hofstra. He is a project manager for the Overdiep-se Polder in the Dutch water autho-rity Brabantse Delta, and a relatively new participant in ALFA. “It was an eye-opener for me that we all need to deal with the water from above,” he says, “All projects in ALFA have the same problems.”

Two persuasive farmers

Many stakeholders were involved in Overdiepse Polder, and it was a challenge to convince all of them, Hofstra says. Some public parties were opposed to the plan of creating dwelling mounds. Hofstra shows a picture of Nol and Sjaak, two farmers who managed to persuade their fel-low agriculturalists. “They went to province, ministry and even to the Dutch parliament.” As a result, eight dwelling mounds were built, and as many new farms on these mounds.

After two other project managers, Kirsten Adamczak from Germany and Annelies Haesevoets from Belgium, share their stories about stakeholder

involvement, it’s time for the third theme: education. From the experi-ences described by the speakers, but also from the reactions in the room, it shows to be a topic that is relevant to all projects – although they all approach it diferently.

For instance, there is the Dutch Keizersrande project, presented by Floor Dijkstra. A public farm, the Natuurderij, is responsible for the maintenance of the foodplain along the river Ijssel. In the foodplain side channels have been excavated to allow the river to convey the peak fows and so protect the city of Deventer from foods. The farm and the area around it are accessible for the community. “There are biking trails, walking trails, there is an edu-cation center. We collaborate with artists.” Involving the public is a crucial component in the project.

‘It is really about people’

And then there is the Eden River pro-ject from the north of England, which is also unique in its approach to edu-cation. It is the only project in ALFA that is executed by a non-govern-mental organisation, the Eden Rivers Trust. The goal is to decrease peak fows in the Eden River catchment by land management. “It is really about people,” says Lucy Butler, scientifc

ofcer of the charity. “They make the diference, you have to get them in-volved.” Butlers team collaborates with local farmers a lot, and works with schools. “We challenge children to develop their own projects in food protection.”

Time for lunch. Yuksel Istanbullu, stock acquisition ofcer at Rijkswater-

staat, the Dutch water management centre, has been enjoying the confe-rence so far. “I’ve been working at Rijkswaterstaat for three years, so I’ve known the project for quite a while. Usually, I’m only involved in the fnan-cial aspect of it. It is very interesting to learn more about what has been achieved in seven years of ALFA.”

Four men engage in a panel discus-sion: Ruut Louwers, the director of INTERREG IVB Northwest Europe, the EU fnancing programme for coope- ration between regions in Northwest Europe that co-funded ALFA; Régis

The conference has yet to begin when everyone in the room touches the knee of the person beside them. Moderator John Hammond cheerily asked the audience to do so. Later, after lunch, he increases the level of intimacy a bit further: “Everyone, please give the person next to you a hug!” Hammond wants to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable enough to share their experiences after seven years of ALFA.

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