Watershed conservation and biodiversity protection

Location: France

Impact Area

  • Nutrition
  • Water
  • Rural Development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Compliance
  • Community engagement
  • Gender balance & diversity
Oct 23, 2013, updated October 2013

Watershed conservation and biodiversity protection
Protecting natural water sources:Agrivair employee Olivier Petitjean and Nestlé Waters specialist Christophe Boursier taking a water
sample near Vittel, France.

In 1992, Nestlé Waters established the agricultural advisory firm Agrivair, based in Vittel, France to preserve the quality of the Vittel, Contrex and Hépar Springs in the Vosges water basin in France.

The Agrivair initiative promotes intensive, perennial and profitable agriculture, creating employment all the while protecting water resources. The overall area of the project represents approximately 10,000 hectares and covers 11 villages, making it one of the world’s largest private protected areas.

Programme description

The Agrivair initiative is the most comprehensive example of Nestlé Waters’ successful development of support programmes and awareness-raising campaigns in the areas of ecosystem services and sustainable agriculture.

By providing financial, research and technological assistance to local farmers to promote guidelines on environmental farming techniques, such as crop rotation, elimination of pesticides, and composting of all animal waste, the project has encouraged farmers to stop using artificial fertilisation and pesticides, implement crop rotation to improve soil conditions, and abandon farming of crops such as corn, which create nitrogen pollution. Similar assistance to other landowners, such as golf courses, park and race track establishments, has also eliminated the use of pesticides, herbicides and nitrates. Agrivair has also developed a thermal weed control process for paths, parking lots and railroad tracks.

These activities have been implemented in 92% of the areas of Vittel and 85% of Contrex’s. Through partnerships with local stakeholders, over 20 years the project has helped to initiate positive action to preserve the quality of water resources in the region.

Watershed conservation projects will also be delivered through the Terre-Eau (Earth-Water) association. Agrivair is a founding member of Terre-Eau, a regional stakeholder partnership that focuses on protecting water resources. Terre-Eau supports actions initiated by Agrivair.

Value to Society

Agrivair has proven a valuable model for watershed conservation. Many of its initiatives have been adopted at our other sites, and it has won external recognition from the French Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea and the French Environment and Energy Control Agency and the ESSEC business school in France.

Agrivair provides:
  • Financial, research and technological assistance to local farmers on environmental farming techniques;
  • Increased protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the region; and
  • Employment generation.

Value to Nestlé

Increased quality of Vittel and Contrex water springs.

Next Steps

Future Agrivair projects will focus on improving the already rich biodiversity of the basin. This will include tree planting – in collaboration with farmers and other land owners – to recharge the aquifer, protect soil from erosion and to provide recreational and educational areas for the local community.

There are also plans to reshape the river so that it flows more slowly, to encourage greater biodiversity on and near to the riverbanks (also known as renaturation).