Ms. Katariina Vapola and Mr. Jyrki Ankelo from Finland today received the WWF Baltic Sea Farmer of the Year Award at a ceremony, hosted by WWF, at the International Baltic Sea Conference “A greener agriculture for a bluer Baltic Sea” in Riga, Latvia. For the very first time, WWF, together with Swedbank, and in cooperation with the Baltic Farmers Forum for the Environment, and farmers’ organisations from all around the Baltic Sea, launched this annual competition meant to inspire farmers in the entire Baltic Sea region to take active part in combating eutrophication.
Ms. Vapola and Mr. Ankelo were chosen by an international jury among the winners of national contests in eight Baltic Sea countries. As the regional winners of the competition, they received the 10 000 Euro prize provided by Swedbank to recognize their accomplishment. The jury awarded the couple “for their strong and long commitment to environmental protection; for the high number of innovative measures to reduce nutrient runoff that have been implemented on their farm; and for the jury’s belief that most of these measures could easily be replicated and duplicated by other farmers around the Baltic Sea”.
The Vapola farm practices organic farming and the only fertiliser used is well-composted dry manure from the farm’s own cattle and small quantities of cattle slurry. The bedding used in the animal shelters is straw and peat, which are also used to soak up the manure and urine. The covered manure yard has a subsurface drainage installed and a sedimentation basin will be built alongside, allowing nutrient recovery from the yard effluent, as well as monitoring of the water quality. The drainage ditches cross a constructed wetland before entering a nearby lake which further minimises nutrient leakage.
“We believe that by doing our part to protect the water we can reduce the total amount of nutrient runoff”, says KatariinaVapola. “As the winners of this competition we have a duty to tell people about the importance of stopping the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea.”
The Baltic Sea is still one of the most threatened seas in the world. Eutrophication has been identified as the single most important threat to its health and agricultural runoff is the main cause. A major solution to the problem is to be found in the promotion of more sustainable farming and land management practices. The purpose of the award, which will be presented annually starting this year, is to highlight best practices in “Baltic-friendly” farming and to recognise and highlight farmers who are leading in innovative measures to reduce runoff from their farms.
“Farmers have an important role to play in the fight against eutrophication and they also represent a large percentage of our bank customers. Swedbank is committed to the principle of corporate responsibility and places a strong emphasis on sustainability” says Thomas Johansson, Group Sponsorship at Swedbank.
“When we look at farming and the Baltic Sea, the focus is often on the problem of eutrophication”, says Lasse Gustavsson, chairman of the WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme. With this award, we want to promote farmers who take the extra steps to go beyond the ordinary, and really contribute to the solution of the problem.”