Copa presents innovation prize for women farmers

At a Presentation Ceremony during the Congress of European Farmers 2014, Copas’ Innovation Prize for Women Farmers and Special Achievement Award were presented to Djûke Van Der Maat from the Netherlands and Maria Isabel Sanchez Vadillo from Spain.

Speaking at the event, Chairwoman of Copas’ Women Committee Willemien Koning-Hoeve said “The 13 women nominated for the Innovation Prize are a very good example of the great innovative strength of women on family farms. It is a matter of fact that the role of women in family farms is strong and they play a fundamental role to life in rural areas. Recent statistics indicate that women farmers represent 43% of the European Union’s agricultural workforce and over 20% of those women are farm managers. They play a crucial role in family farming!”

In 2012, Djûke Van Der Maat – the winner of the innovation prize – started her own fruit trading company and created a new market by exploring a niche between conventional and organic. In this system 8 farmers and several buyers are working together and all growers are producing fruit in the same sustainable way. Since 2013, she has started FAB-strips (Functional Agro Biodiversity) planted with flowers all around the orchard which now represent around 30,000 m2. She also introduced kiwi production on the farm. Djûke Van Der Maat is also a member of the Dutch Farm Organisation LTO and in 2013 was awarded Top 5 Best Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Netherlands.

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vadillo gained the Special Achievement Award for her role in developing a modern goat farm and devoting her life to safeguarding animals by breeding Veratas a goat breed in risk of disappearing. The project started in 1994 and is innovative in several areas. The latest technological innovations introduced in the milk parlour are gauges and specific teat cups for the Verata breed, that improve suction and animal welfare and improvements in the control of feeding. Maria Isabel Sánchez Vadillo is also a member of the Spanish Farm Organisation Asaja and in 2012 received an Award of Excellence for Innovation for rural Women.

The Innovation Prize for Women Farmers and Special Achievement Award introduced by the Copa Women’s Committee aims to highlight areas where women have shown their expertise in being innovative and underline the activities and benefits that women can bring to agriculture. It also aims to stimulate adoption of further innovative, competitive practices. The prize is awarded on the basis of criteria such as the use of new know-how, new methods or technologies in a given sector. Women farmers represent over 43% of the agricultural workforce in Europe and it is important to recognise the benefits they bring to the sector.

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