The Netherlands is one of only a handful of countries that has a comprehensive strategy aimed directly at stemming the decline in pollinators. Launched in 2018, the National Pollinator Strategy encompasses a range of ongoing efforts and carries clear and measurable benchmarks for success. The good news is that it's already providing a roadmap for other countries looking to conserve their pollinators.
The Netherlands’ awareness of the importance of pollinators began growing over the past decade following dramatic declines in bee populations that began in the mid 1940s. As wilderness and countryside became farmland and towns, and pesticides grew in use, more than half of the country’s nearly 360 bee species have become endangered. “There are too many pressures on the Dutch landscape,” says Marten Schoonman of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden.
Acknowledging the critical role played by pollinators in agriculture, the Netherlands - the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products - began conservation measures over a decade ago. In 2013, the government launched the Bee Health Action Program, an initiative focused on honey bees. In 2016, along with 13 other countries, the Netherlands became one of the founding members of Promote Pollinators, a coalition of countries (now numbering 30) sharing knowledge about protecting and conserving pollinators.
But it was the country’s National Pollinator Strategy that set it apart from its peers. Launched in 2018 with some 70 initiatives, from creating more nesting sites to improving pollinators’ access to food, the Strategy set out to make the Netherlands a haven for pollinating insects. “We have destroyed a lot [of biodiversity] in the past,” says Nicky Kruizinga, the Strategy’s project leader. “We have a lot of catching up to do.”
The National Pollinator Strategy currently consists of 120 initiatives, underway both in urban centers and agricultural regions. These programs are created and executed at the stakeholder-level, be it a nonprofit, a collective, or a city or province. They follow the general guidelines necessary to create food and nesting opportunities for insect pollinators.
“There’s a lot of energy going into the Strategy, which is a big change from 10 years ago,” says David Kleijn, a professor of plant ecology and nature conservation at Wageningen University who was involved in formulating the Strategy’s objectives. “It has drawn attention to pollinators, it has gotten people to think about their decline, and motivated them to do something about it. Today, there are over a hundred initiatives. In that sense, it’s a big success.”