Green Agriculture in Prague 12 Foto: Vojta Herout,

Green Agriculture in Prague 12

Until recently, a large agricultural cooperative farmed the agricultural land in the Prague 12 district the usual, conventional way. This caused a reduction in biodiversity, soil degradation, desiccation and erosion by rain and wind. After torrential rains the peripheral streets of Cholupice and Točná were often flooded and covered with mud from the fields. The local memorial oak was not thriving due to ploughing very close to its trunk and the landscape did not attract walkers.

The municipal district authority, therefore, decided to manage its land differently. It leased part of the land, with the condition of green management. The rest is managed by the municipal district authority itself, with the help of the local community. They have planted a community permaculture orchard and a wildlife corridor, sowed meadows, and tree avenues grow again along the roads. The project also included the rescue of the memorable oak tree and an important wetland. The project will be implemented on a total of 12 hectares of land, of which 7 have already been completed.

The Adaptation Journey

The positive impact
The measure addresses most of the problems associated with climate change, such as rising temperatures, drought and torrential rains. The municipal district authority now cooperates with specialist institutes and universities in the care of land. Experts also advise new tenants with the change in the management of their land. The aim is to gradually repair the damage and restore the landscape to its original water management capacity.

Many municipalities own agricultural land but are not interested in how the tenants cultivate the land. They argue that they do not have in-house experts. Now they can use the experience from Prague 12, where joint care of land also develops community life.
How does it work?
Firstly, the previous inappropriate way of farming on arable land was abandoned. The changes were proposed with regards to the former character of the area and the runoff and precipitation conditions of the area. Part of the land is newly leased with the condition of green management of these plots of land, and the possible creation of hedges and other anti-erosion measures.

David Ježek became one of the first new tenants in 2019. He planted a wildflower meadow on one part of the field. He then built a beehive and planted thirty flowering shrubs around it for grazing bees. He planted fruit trees and installed perches for birds of prey instead of using chemicals to kill voles. A study of precipitation-runoff conditions recommended a cascade of seepage ponds. Herbs will continue to be grown in part of the field, and an original road will be restored.

In another field, where rapeseed was previously grown, the municipal district authority planted s permaculture orchard in cooperation with the locals and with the support of the Sázíme stromy association. Now there are sixty fruit trees and a similar number of shrubs. In addition, the area will be freely accessible for growing vegetables and herbs.

One of the plots of land, through which storm water used to flow into the streets, is now leased to grow hay and forage for a local horse farm. Pavel Jeřábek, a member of the Brontosaurus Kandík movement, planted a 300-meter-long and eight-meter-wide wildlife corridor on the edge of the plot. Another plot of land is leased with the condition of having boarders created. There is also a restored wetland; in cooperation with experts, its condition is gradually being stabilized by a combination of various measures.

The municipal district authority also took steps to save the memorable oak tree, which suffered from the brown-tail moth caterpillars so severely that they repeatedly completely stripped the tree of all its leaves. The tree was also not getting enough water because of the soil being ploughed too close to its trunk. Therefore, the town hall banned ploughing; the tree was watered by local firefighters; the nearby soil was mulched and all the moth’s cocoons were cut off in the spring following an expert’s advice. The condition of the tree is now gradually improving.
Original state
The plots of land owned by the Prague 12 district were originally managed by a large agricultural cooperative in the usual way. Chemical fertilizers and sprays were used, the continuous fields did not provide shelter for small animals, and water management was complicated by inappropriate land reclamation.

At the same time, no one oversaw the taking care of the agricultural land in the municipality authority. Therefore, no one was concerned about whether the management was suitable and whether it benefitted not only the farmers, but also the landscape and the local community.
Operation and maintenance
Maintenance consists mainly of watering planted trees and shrubs for at least three years. It is also planned to prune the trees, replace ties and so on. There are 305 planted trees and 3,800 shrubs, the estimated cost is half a million crowns. Costs will depend on precipitation and the resulting need for watering.

Grass will also be mowed, and shrubs cut out in the wetland; the work being done by volunteers, so only about 50 thousand crowns will be needed to pay for biowaste removal.

On the other hand, other activities can be profitable - for example, harvesting grass, growing herbs or keeping bees.
Why was the measure chosen?
Once the municipal authority decided that it wanted to change the way it managed its land, three options came to mind. Take care of all the plots of land, lease them all to new tenants, or combine both of these approaches. The municipal authority chose the third option as the most suitable. It leased some land with the condition of green management, including specifications about where the hedges, trees and shrubs must be. The municipal authority kept the land with the newly planted fruit orchard, the wildlife corridor, the memorial oak, all the tree avenues and most of the wetland.
Obstacles and challenges
The first problem was that no one in the municipal authority office was in charge of the agricultural land management agenda. The Property Department dealt with property leases, but not land management. The Department of the Environment had protection of the agricultural land on its agenda, but not its management. The municipal authority office, therefore, used its own self-governing powers and set aside a person, working between the two departments and also cooperating with research institutes and universities (especially the Research Institute for Soil and Water Conservation, The Crop Research Institute (CRI) and the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague).

Farmers consult with the municipal authority office and the experts about work on the leased land. The risk is that not everyone has experience with agriculture; and they might lose their initial enthusiasm.

When planting trees, the soil turned out to be so dry and hard that it was necessary to use machinery. The covid pandemic also caused problems; otherwise schools and employees of sponsoring companies would have been more involved in the work within their teambuilding and improving the company's environmental footprint.
Operation and maintenance
The measures show other municipalities how it is possible to manage municipal agricultural land - several municipalities have already been inspired by this project. Many people and professional institutions were involved in proposing the changes, thanks to which a variety of measures were created; and the measures managed to even support local community life. People picked up on the idea of farming on the municipal land, helped with planting, went to watch the trees grow and so on. The planting also allowed for school practice for students at the Komořany gardening school for children with multiple disabilities and for disabled employees of Fokus Praha. The permaculture orchards will probably be taken care of by the pupils of the Montesorri classes at the Na Beránu Elementary School. Research institutions also had the opportunity to try new methods there - the state of land reclamation in the vicinity of the wetland was examined, with the help of a drone, and organic pellets were used to capture water at the roots of trees.
How much did it cost?
The costs are estimated at 2.3 million crowns, not counting the work of volunteers who dedicated countless hours of their time to the project.

The change in management was funded by the Prague 12 district authority, the Operational Program Environment, the Nature and Landscape Protection Agency as well as by sponsorship donations, subsidies from the Capital City of Prague and tenants’ investments.

The return on investment is expected to be 10 years for fruit trees, 3 years for fruit bushes, 3 years for grassy areas and 3 years for beehives. The lifespan of trees and shrubs is expected to be 70 years, the lifespan of the wetland is expected to be 200 years, measures concerning the soil should last 50 years, beehives 10 years and perches 20 years.

Flood prevention can be estimated at hundreds of thousands of crowns per year, but improving the quality of agricultural land and landscape has an incalculable value. If the memorable oak can be saved, we can talk about a financial benefit of up to half a million crowns.

Agriculture landscape Biodiversity Floods and torrential rainfall Lack of water and drought Soil erosion Landscape greenery 

Prague 12 – Cholupice and Točná, the Capital City of Prague
2019 – 2021
Prague 12, VÚMOP, CRI, Czech University of Life Sciences Prague
Prague 12, David Ježek, Pavel Jeřábek (Hnutí Brontosaurus Kandík), Sázíme stromy, tenants
Prague 12 municipal district authority, the Capital City of Prague, sponsors, tenants and others
Deputy Mayoress Ing. Eva Tylová
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