The private Walloon cooperative, “Our Farmers, Our Water”, was officially opened on Tuesday in Montignies-Lez-Lens, in Hainaut, with the Walloon Minister for the Environment, Carlo Di Antonio, present. The farmers, who comprise the cooperative’s members, are entering the sphere of protecting Wallonia’s water resources.
Water and the protection of related resources in Wallonia lies at the heart of the cooperative “Our Farmers, Our Water.” The aim of the new cooperative is to develop a form of farming which shows greater consideration for Walloon water resources. The watchwords are “preservation” and “awareness-raising” in respect of the issues relating to water and water quality.
The project leaders indicate, “Our objective is to persuade farmers to refrain from using synthetic chemical pesticides.” They further state, “Although the adverse surface effects of these products are generally known, the consequences for water and groundwater supplies are every bit as important.”
The cooperative is open to cattle-breeding and crop-growing farmers, whether or not they use organic practices. The leaders go on, “Organic farmers are wishing to reach out to other farmers, those who show caution regarding pesticides, and those who still practise conventional agriculture, to raise their awareness not to pollute groundwater.”
A label “I am protecting Wallonia’s water” has been created to promote the cooperative’s project. The cooperative members state, “The label enables us to identify local agricultural products which respect water resources.” The label has three levels: products from conventional agriculture using pesticides, for which the farmer shows caution within his crop rotation and pesticide use, agricultural products which are pesticide-free without being organic, and products guaranteed to be organic.
Carlo Di Antonio emphasized the threat of crop protection products on Wallonia’s water reserves. He welcomed the willingness to open the new cooperative to all Walloon farmers and market gardeners who wish to participate in the scheme. The minister said, “The basis for the cooperative is in place.” He went on, “Now we have to attract other cooperative members and hope that the distribution network opens the doors for these products, for which the label is a guarantee of quality and respect for water, as well as of Walloon origin.”