- Learning Network
Challenges · Biodiversity · Water
Spain’s Doñana Wetlands, located where the Guadalquivir River meets Atlantic, are considered one of Europe’s most valuable and iconic wetland areas. Each year, the area’s marshlands, beaches, dunes, and forests host millions of migratory birds as well as endangered species such as the imperial eagle and Iberian lynx. Local communities engage in farming, particularly of strawberries, mining, tourism, and other development that poses a risk to the ecosystem and agricultural activities, especially around issues of water quality and quantity. Opportunities are ripe for productive collaboration among strawberry producers and other key stakeholders to improve water stewardship in the area.
As an agronomist with a major in Economics and Politics of Natural Resources, my main professional interest has always been to promote and facilitate the sustainable production of agricultural material – from a technical as well as a socio-economic and a political angle. After graduating, I worked for two years as Associate Economic Affairs Officer for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), where I was in charge of analyzing the sustainability of the production and use of agricultural raw materials and fisheries in developing countries.
In May 2002, I was recruited by three companies to help establish an organization for pre-competitive collaboration on sustainable agriculture: the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform. Since then, the Platform has grown from 3 to almost 100 member companies. I am now in charge of three main streams in the organization: Learning, Development and Implementation. My tasks cover a wide range of programs and projects from developing training material and courses on sustainable agriculture and sustainable sourcing to helping members develop and implement sustainable sourcing strategies as well as managing multi-stakeholder projects on the ground.
Amongst these, the Doñana Strawberry and Sustainable Water Management is one of the most exciting but also, to be honest, most complicated projects. It is one of the very few landscape projects that my organization coordinates, and we are learning as we are doing. But all the group stakeholders are very knowledgeable and committed, and we are making great progress.Emeline Fellus Head, Learning, Development and Implementation, SAI Platform
Since 2014, the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform (SAI Platform) and leading companies that source from the region and local farmers have been working with WWF-Spain through the Doñana Strawberry and Sustainable Water Management Group. This partnership seeks to improve water management to ensure wetland conservation and the sustainability of the strawberry value chains within the landscape. By aligning stakeholders more effectively, the coalition has sought to support and harmonize their efforts with effective public policy and enforcement to reduce illegal water extraction and pollution, engage suppliers and retailers in sustainability efforts, and shift farming practices toward water resource protection through greater engagement and support.
The Doñana Strawberry and Sustainable Water Management is a Sub-Group of the SAI Platform, which includes private companies as well as WWF-Spain. All stakeholders take an active part in the strategy development and implementation through regular e-mail exchanges, calls and meetings. The SAI Platform, led by a local manager based in Seville, ensures overall project coordination. Meetings are held regularly with the Spanish authorities, local producer organizations, technical consultants, and other partners to work together to improve water stewardship in the landscape.
To learn more about the project, please visit the SAI Platform website.