The abandonment of traditional agricultural practices in Natura 2000 sites has led to a decline in the species and habitats that rely on farming practices. Recognising that promoting the natural value of these sites and the products coming from them could result in a win-win situation for local communities and nature, the co-operative Terre dell’Oasi was created by WWF Oasi (member of the WWF Italy group) and local producers. The goal was to create a new brand ‘Terre dell’Oasi’ and niche market for organic farming products from four different Natura 2000 sites and other protected areas, while reintroducing the traditional agriculture practices of the local communities and at the same time supporting farmland species that have come to depend on these farmed landscapes.
Local farmers from and around these Natura 2000 sites grow spelt, rice and an old variety of wheat and produce whole food products now sold nationwide. Products include pasta, olive oil, honey and salt. Creating a special local brand and linking the organic products to the natural value of the sites have added value to the products and increased the revenues generated from direct sales on site and online. In addition, collaborations with restaurants and other national partnerships have been established. Thanks to this initiative, farmers and producers have expanded their agricultural activities and new organic products are being promoted and sold.
The project has created new work opportunities, with three full-time and five part-time jobs created so far, and farming being carried out on more than 53 ha. Revenues have increased nine times in 5 years. This represents a win-win for farmers’ incomes and nature. Furthermore, the farmers’ perception of protected areas, which was initially considered a limitation to their work, was changed into an opportunity for organic farming possibilities and new niche markets.
Terre dell’Oasi is growing and will be introducing new products and expanding to new sites. It can represent a model of sustainable agriculture applicable to Natura 2000 sites or nature reserves where agriculture shapes the landscape and biodiversity.