Roadside and farmland hedgerows in Normandy (France) were disappearing. Local inhabitants wanted to preserve this traditional landscape feature. So they decided to generate an economic value for the hedgerows and set up a short wood supply chain. Involving all local groups in this was essential.
A forgotten tradition
Hedgerows containing trees of various sizes as well as hedges and other plants and flowers, were traditionally not only a natural resource for fuelwood in Normandy, but they were also a characteristic feature in the landscape. They could be found framing farmland and lining the roads. The traditional way of maintaining these hedgerows was to cut them back completely every 12-15 years, which allowed a healthy and sustainable regeneration of the trees and plants and produced a large amount of wood. This technique has been slowly replaced by regular trimming, which does not produce any wood and has proven to weaken the trees and plants. Other hedgerows have been removed permanently. Wood was therefore imported from elsewhere and people used other energy sources instead.
Promoting hedgerows and generating a resource
A group of local inhabitants decided to promote hedgerows and to bring back the traditional method for maintaining them to ensure the existence of these ecosystems, to improve the health of the trees and plants and start using the wood again as a resource. They first evaluated the potential resource of wood in the hedgerows (the supply) and the needs for local firewood (the demand). Then a campaign was run to raise public awareness through communication, networking and contracting. A call was launched ‘Ca chauffe dans le bocage!’ (It’s heating up in the hedgerows!) and the local community responded positively.
Local participation to create supply chains
So they established a formal cooperative- SCIC (Community-oriented enterprise cooperative) Bois Bocage Énergie bringing together producers, consumers and local authorities to sell and buy wood by-products (chips, shavings), recycled wood and agricultural by-products like straw. The cooperative is non-profit, they had to find a balance between the cost of the raw material and the selling price. This means that the producers get a fair price and the customers agree with the price they have to pay. At the same time, it has generated jobs, a local sustainable short supply chain which is environmentally friendly and a tool for local development at the service of the local people.
They are now sharing their experiences with other local communities by organising visits, events and info-days.
There are a number of other similar projects also appearing across France.