‘Ten keys to co-ownership for nature projects’


The Polders of Kruibeke are a stone’s throw from Antwerp, along the river Scheldt. Before the restoration works began, the Kruibeke Polders were a patchwork of private plots composed of agricultural land and forestry, holiday homes and fish ponds. The activities of anglers were incompatible with the nature values of the area and the local youth, inhabitants and the wider public had little interest in the Polders. People perceived the marshy soil and the tangle of trees and dead wood as a kind of wasteland.

Yet, when the authorities decided to turn the polders into a large 600ha flood control area and nature reserve to protect the Scheldt basin from flooding during storms and spring tides, the resulting compulsory expropriation of the land created a lot of resistance among owners and neighbours.

Public opinion regarding the Polders of Kruibeke has evolved in 15 years from massive resistance to pride and enthusiasm. Life+ Scalluvia also played its part by making local residents co-owners of the area. It is precisely this last phase that will ensure the sustainability of the entire project. Clear communication and participation were key to the strong support. This process to co-ownership is summarized in 10 keys and can serve as inspiration for other nature development projects.

   Listen to the expectations of the users of the nature reserve.

We involved anglers, walkers, cyclists, local residents, traders, local nature, culture and youth associations in our project.

Invest in communication and focus on the end result.

Through the website, articles in the press, newsletters and by using social media (Twitter, Facebook) we were able to reach large numbers of people. Information films show ‘before and after’, the creation of works of art in a natural setting, the natural richness of Scalluvia and how children can learn more about the alder swamp forests. Watch our videos at scalluvia.eu/publicaties.

Visit similar areas to exchange knowledge and areas of concern.

Together with those involved we went to see how Life+ Hoge Venen alder forests were restored for the beaver, and how the banks of the Kleine Nete were made more natural for the rare spined loach (Life+ Kleine Nete).

Support bottom-up actions and go for quick results.

Schoolchildren literally helped build the project with tree planting campaigns, dead hedges and bee hotels. The local nature association KRUIN has been monitoring biodiversity over the years to be able to evaluate nature management.

Gain external recognition.

The visit of the Belgian royal couple and European funding impressed the proud local residents.

Experience in the field.

Information evenings and freely accessible guided site walks clarified the ‘how and why’. Site signs and information panels presented the current state of affairs

Train ambassadors.

We invested in the training and equipping of volunteer associations KRUIN, Barbiergids and Natuurouders (Nature Parents).

Invest in children and young people.

Young people can indulge themselves in the new play forest. With the ‘Scalluvia Jungle’ teaching package, the Natuurouders are focusing on 3rd grade primary education. Pupils from the Sint-Jorisinstituut in Bazel not only made nesting boxes and bee hotels, but also the work of art ‘Liefkesboom’. Some are even dedicating their final project to the nature reserve.

Use clear rules and supervision.

The accessibility regulations were drawn up in a participatory manner and are clearly communicated in the field. The forest ranger keeps an eye on the situation.

Give your project an identity.

The Polders of Kruibeke are a strong brand, with Xavier de Ree as their mascot.


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