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Interview Details

Interview with Ana Rocha

  • Forestry Adviser, European Landowners Organization (ELO)
  • Dated: Monday, February 28th 2011

  • EWP: Agriculture is the largest water user in Europe and worldwide. Southern European countries even use the largest percentages of abstracted water for agriculture. Do you think that European land managers are enough aware of environmental impacts?


    Ana Rocha: I believe that we have gone a long way in terms of environmental awareness, particularly in countries where water is scarce and usually the limiting production factor. Landowners are strongly dependent on water, either for food production, either for environmental services. And yes, our members are aware that they need to sustainably manage water resources to do that, especially because today’s agriculture has become a net polluter, inclusive on water, and they have to deal with its consequences. Fortunately, awareness and sustainable practices are increasing and various positive trends can be signalized: namely in terms of nitrate pollution, improved both in Groundwater and Surface water.


    In fact, the sector is coping not only with the negative impacts within the sector, but also from other sectors. Agriculture can contribute to the efficient use of natural resources, improve of the water quality and prevent water disasters, when properly managed.


    Still, awareness needs to be improved and information needs to be made available. The interrelations between water in agriculture and forestry are complex and the limited knowledge on the trade-offs, for instance the water pump effect of green covers, leads to various questions, even among the scientific community.

    EWP: The European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) is addressing the efficient use of natural resources as well as the exchange of experiences as key topics to stimulate the development of rural areas. With regard to Sustainable Water Management, could you please outline the ELO’s priorities and referring main activities in 2011?


    Ana Rocha: Landowners throughout Europe are contributing to secure water resources land and it is our job to communicate those actions and prevent burdensome and costly policies. We achieve this aim by

    ·        following up the development in water policies, particularly at EU level, namely the WFD and the Blueprint for water,

    ·        informing our members on good practices and technologies,

    ·        fomenting exchange of information on water issues by facilitating the means and places to do so, encouraging discussion and sharing experience among landowners,

    ·        and by being actively involved with the EWP, of course!


    EWP: On the 15th of March 2011, the annual Forum for the Future of Agriculture, initiated by the European Landowners’ Organization and Syngenta in 2008, will return to Brussels. The fourth edition will turn to the question of “Refocusing security on food and nature”. In this context, what are the main challenges which lands managers currently face especially with regard to water? And what are possible solutions to achieve better practices?


    Ana Rocha: Our globalized, urbanized, populated world brings a lot of challenges to farmers and foresters, who have to deal with an increase demand for food, fiber, energy, while having to cope with social problems such as abandonment and aging and the increase competition for our natural resources. The challenges arise when considering Climate Change, with important impacts such as floods, storms and droughts that likely will become more frequent, together with modified weather patterns. Even with these challenges, EU landowners must continue to feed a growing population and contribute to a greener society, which requires that natural resources are safeguarded.  ELO believes that land managers can provide solutions for many water issues such improving water quality and contributing to drinking water availability, by securing the good condition of land. Landowners can do more than maintain the resources as it is, they want to be given the opportunity to improve those resources, both to preserve nature and secure land productivity.

    EWP: The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is due to be reformed by 2013 and currently discussed by the sector.  From your point of view, what would be suitable CAP instruments to promote Sustainable Water Management? 


    Ana Rocha: Land managers are in fact producing in a regulatory framework consistent in different policies and legislations that cover water resources, namely the cross compliance. Land managers have to comply with several directives, being on nitrates, groundwater, pesticides, as well as the Water Framework Directive, which are dealt with in the CAP. The reformed CAP should contribute more to preserve our water resources, not only by strengthening existing tools, like measures to enhance training and advisory of landowners and managers or foment research and innovation , but also by contributing to the delivery of public goods. Environmental regulations alone cannot save the ecosystems. They are costly; landowners need incentives to produce cleaner air, soil and water, whether they come through green markets, preferably (for instance by establishing contracts with water companies) or public support.


    EWP: To conclude, what is your generic vision for Sustainable Water Management in Europe? And how can land managers contribute to realize this vision?  


    Ana Rocha: We agree with the EWP’s general vision of achieving “sustainable water resource management and universal access to modern and safe water supply and sanitation”, where the ones providing water services are rewarded. Farming is one of the economic sectors that can do much for, but also against it, in part due to the unfavorable conditions under which land managers operate. Therefore, these conditions need to change and it asks for proper political actions.


    EWP: Thank you for the interview.

  • Ana Rocha
  • Forestry Adviser, European Landowners Organization (ELO)
  • Ana Rocha joined the European Landowners’ Organization (ELO) in 2008. She is representing landowners and land managers all over Europe and advising the 67 member organizations plus associated members on agriculture, rural development and forestry policies. Due to the importance of water for both agriculture and forestry sectors, water assumes an important position in the agenda. Ana Rocha studied Agricultural engineering in Portugal, having done complementary education and training also in Belgium and in the Netherlands. She is also involved in different projects, namely within the European Water Partnership, being a member of the Working Group Agriculture of the EWP’s Water Stewardship program.
"Environmental regulations alone cannot save the ecosystems"

- Ana Rocha
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