Bavaria commits to Program for Contractual Nature Protection

Bavaria's government, state in southern Germany, launched the Bavarian Biodiversity Strategy, which aims to protect and enhance the state's ecological diversity. One of the key components of this strategy is the Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection (Bayerisches Vertragsnaturschutzprogramm). This program's flexibility and the possibility to combine measures make it accessible to different nature conservation requirements. Projects like A.ckwert and Green Band help farmers and landowners learn about their options and discover how to work more nature-inclusively.

Project A.ckerwert
Beeld: ©David Schreck

The strategy and program are a response of the government to the result of the most successful referendum in Bavaria’s history, which is called Save the Bees. In this referendum, more than 1.7 million Bavarian citizens (18% of the electorate) voted to protect biodiversity. The Program for Contractual Nature Protection is designed to preserve and improve ecologically valuable habitats that depend on effective conservation management. Farmers who work their land while simultaneously striving for nature conservation are compensated for the extra work they put in and the reduced yields they may experience. The measures implemented under the program will be in effect for a period of five years.

Red List

The Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection is an essential instrument to develop the European Natura 2000 network and to achieve the goals of the Bavarian Biodiversity Strategy, to which the state is investing around € 64 million per year, including EU subsidies. The program has seen widespread adoption, with approximately 23,000 farmers participating in an area covering 160,000 hectares.

The measures under the program mainly apply to ecologically valuable grassland, willows, arable land, and ponds. Research has shown that biodiversity and the number of threatened species listed on the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List have clearly increased because of the program's efforts.

Distribution of VNP-areas

Reducing impact

To make the program accessible, the Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection is open to farmers, collectives of farmers, other land managers, recognized nature conservation associations and landscape conservation organizations. The individual measures, which consist of a basic service for the biotope type and additional services, can be flexibly combined to meet different nature conservation requirements. Examples include waiving fertilization and plant protection, adherence to specific mowing times, or the use of special machines designed to minimize environmental impact.

Projects like A.ckwert, Green Band and Biodiversity Consulting are examples on how this program is implemented in Bavaria. They help farmers and landowners learn about their options and discover how to work more nature-inclusively. These projects can be an inspiration for Dutch agriculture to increase biodiversity.

Project A.ckerwert

The project A.ckerwert in Bavaria focuses on agricultural landowners and encourages them to implement more nature-inclusive farming methods in dialogue with their tenants. The project is financed by the administration for rural development in Bavaria. Lioba Degenfelder, the founder of the project, explains that arable land is in decline, agriculture turns more intensive and valuable soils are being built over. As a result, biodiversity is decreasing, and soil health is deteriorating. In addition, intensively managed farms are driving up lease prices and intensifying competition with smaller, less intensively managed farms. Around 60% of agricultural land in Germany must be leased by farmers, and in Bavaria, 3 out of 4 farms lease land.

At the same time, the leasing market and ownership of land are also changing. Many people become landowners due to inheritance communities. In some cases, these new owners do not have any connection to their new property, the farmers, or the countryside. In other cases, they have a strong interest in ecological improvements but lack the knowledge to implement them or the ability to ask their tenants to do so.

This is where Project A.ckerwert steps in. The project helps landowners and farmers find mutually beneficial solutions that prioritize environmental sustainability. Many landowners are willing to accept lower rent if their land is farmed according to higher environmental standards. Farmers can then use this opportunity to work more extensively and focus on biodiversity or soil health. An additional benefit is that landowners and farmers get to know each other, creating a shared responsibility for land use. A.ckerwert is financed by the administration for rural development in Bavaria.

‘The Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection has seen widespread adoption, with 23,000 farmers participating in an area covering 160,000 hectares’

Green Band

A similar initiative is Project Green Band in the north of Bavaria, in the Coburg region. As part of the Bavarian Biodiversity Strategy, the district of Coburg buys and leases land under the condition that prospective land users participate in the Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection. By imposing this requirement, the district contributes to biotope protection in the agricultural landscape. To make the land more attractive to farmers, the district is prepared to reduce lease prices or, in most cases, to waive rent entirely.

Recently, about 60 hectares of Green Band land have been used for a special breed of cattle, the tail cattle (Heckrind). These animals can be kept outdoors year-round and help maintain the landscape, creating diverse habitats and promoting biodiversity as a result.

Biodiversity consults

Biodiversity consults is another project of the Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection. In total, there are 42 consultants who help farmers obtain information about subsidies and different methods for nature-friendly farming. They also assist with planning and facilitating the transition process. That way, they ensure that farmers have the resources and support they need to implement environmentally sustainable practices.

In conclusion, the Bavarian Program for Contractual Nature Protection offers a lot of possibilities for farmers to reduce the impact to the nature and to work more nature-inclusively. The government is working with different approaches from the public and private sector to achieve the goals of the Bavarian Biodiversity Strategy.

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Would you like to know more about the current developments in the domain of agriculture and nature in Germany or contact the agricultural team at the Netherlands Embassy in Germany?

You can visit the country page of Germany at the website of the Netherlands ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. You can also send an email to

This article is part of the latest edition of e-magazine Agrospecial (June 2023) about nature-inclusive farming. The teams of our Netherlands Agricultural Network showcase nature-inclusive practices and initiatives in 36 countries worldwide. They delve into the development, benefits and challenges of this innovative farming approach. Each team has a different story to tell. Click here to read more about insights into the potential of nature-inclusive farming practices worldwide!