Why are big brands like Coca-Cola investing in Norfolk farm projects?
PUBLISHED: 13:48 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:48 15 March 2019
A project promoting “water sensitive farming” in Norfolk has secured an extra £500,000 to continue its work – helped by cash from global food and drink brands.
The money will extend Norfolk Rivers Trust’s (NRT’s) partnership with Coca-Cola, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and The Rivers Trust for another three years.
The NRT works with farmers in the Broadland Rivers, Cam and Ely Ouse (CamEO), North Norfolk and North West Norfolk catchments to identify potential issues with agricultural pollution and sediment run-off.
Farmers are encouraged to adopt practical measures to stop silt, fertilisers and pesticides from escaping into rivers, and offered free advice on how to utilise a range of funding sources.
As well as the Coca-Cola / WWF partnership, the trust has also secured support from Tesco to allow Norfolk farmers to trial tramline disruption equipment to stop soil erosion, and it brings businesses together under the Courtauld 2025 Commitment, an environmental voluntary agreement for the UK’s food and drink sector.
Ed Bramham-Jones, head of farming and water at the Norfolk Rivers Trust, said water stewardship on East Anglian farms was important to big brands like Coca-Cola, with sugar beet grown in the region being a key ingredient in the drinks firm’s UK products.
“It is key from a sustainability point of view, and for the longevity of their supply chain,” he said. “We have got to be working with nature to produce food and clean water.
“Our role is to work with farmers to improve water quality, and keep soil and water in the field for crops to use. The majority of Norfolk’s rivers are failing under the standards set by the Water Framework Directive, so we need to get these rivers back into a good state.
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“With this new funding we have got to deliver something like 40 water interventions – which are things like silt traps, wetlands and moving high-risk gateways – plus 2,000ha of land use improvements, through cultivation changes, buffer strips and cover crops.”
One beneficiary of the Water Sensitive Farming is the South Pickenham Estate, near Swaffham, where the trust has found funding for silt traps to catch sediment from sloping fields, and fencing and a gravel crossing to prevent the farm’s organic cattle from trampling soil into the River Wissey.
Estate manager Richard Cobbald said: “Without people like the rivers trust, a lot of us would be unaware there is a problem in the first place.
“We are farmers, so we don’t necessarily know we need a stone crossing for our cattle. We also don’t necessarily know the funding is out there without people coming to see us. So the rivers trust’s input has been invaluable.”
The funding has also allowed the appointment of a new NRT farm adviser – Sam Hurst – who will be working in the CamEO catchment covering the Lark, Cam, Wissey, Little Ouse and Thet rivers.
WATER SENSITIVE FARMING BY NUMBERS
The Water Sensitive Farming initiative’s achievements between 2012 and June 2018 include:
• 140 farmers directly engaged and worked with.
• 1.2 billion litres of water returned back to nature through changes in farming practice.
• 5,394 acres of land use improvements such as the adoption of winter cover crops, creating grass and wildflower buffer strips, tramline disruption, removing high-risk gateways and installing stock-proof fencing to exclude livestock from watercourses.
• More than 2,500 farmers engaged via events, workshops and talks.
• 63 water run-off interventions such as silt traps, ponds, wetlands and bunds.
• For more details on the Water Sensitive Farming initiative see the Norfolk Rivers Trust website or call 01263 711299.