BENEO has embarked on a long-term program to promote biodiversity in the vicinity of its Oreye, Belgium production plant. In collaboration with not-for-profit environmental organizations, Natagora and Natagriwal, BENEO is transforming a former settling pond and the surrounding area into a sanctuary for wildlife, including rare birds, beavers, bats, deer, and frogs. The project will contribute to the protection of indigenous and endangered species in Wallonia, Belgium, and at the same time will enrich the local community.

Caroline Moitroux, the environment engineer in charge of the biodiversity program at BENEO, said: “This project is our chance to play an active role in restoring some of the natural equilibrium that has been lost over time through human activity. Our settling ponds are an environment in which fauna and flora thrive. We see it as our responsibility to preserve and nurture them. As BENEO’s expertise is in food ingredients, we have sought advice from experts in this field. Thanks to our collaborations with not-for-profit environmental organizations Natagora and Natagriwal, we are taking informed action to establish a healthy, natural eco-system in and around our ponds.”

The history of the settling pond dates back to when water was used to wash and transport sugar beet to BENEO’s Oreye processing facility. The water was passed through the pond to allow the soil to settle on the pond-bed and the clean water to be re-used. Thirty years have passed since the pond was employed for this purpose and in the interim period it has been left undisturbed to give nature a chance to develop. 

During that time, many species of wildlife have made the pond and surrounding environment their home. The reedbeds that have colonized the water’s edge are an ideal habitat for migratory and native water birds, as well as attracting deer and foxes. Additionally, the woodland beyond provides a hideout for raptors, passerines, rabbits, bats, and beavers. The pond’s close proximity to the neighboring municipal nature reserve also makes it a perfect location for encouraging wildlife to flourish. 

To build on these promising beginnings, BENEO has joined forces with Natagora and Natagriwal. With combined expertise in managing habitats and eco-systems as well as executing agro-environmental schemes, both associations will work with BENEO to implement a series of projects that will further develop and enrich the biodiversity of this space. For example, Natagriwal is working with the farmers who work the surrounding land to establish ecological corridors between crops and wild areas and sustainable practices. 

Aurélie Borensztein, field advisor for agro-environmental and climatic methods at Natagriwal said, “The cooperation with the local farmers and Natagriwal is very good and constructive. The various meetings have already led to concrete results on the site. One example are the strips and plots dedicated to the small fauna of the plains.”

Natagora, meanwhile, is taking the lead on protecting indigenous flora and fauna within the sanctuary, through initiatives such as species auditing and habitat creation. The organization is currently converting a disused electrical cabin for observing and ringing birds. 

Commenting on the program, Thierry Ory, project coordinator at Natagora, says: “The “Hesbaye” region is mainly made up of open-field areas where few stagnant bodies of water remain. Settling ponds therefore become very attractive for biodiversity, especially for birds and dragonflies. All parties are now convinced of the possibilities of coexistence between industrial processes and the enhancement of nature.”

The entire area extends to 30 hectares and includes four other ponds that are still in active use as settling ponds for the water used to wash chicory roots that are processed afterwards at the facility. The rest of the area is given over to farmland for BENEO, which has a proud tradition of being anchored in Oreye’s local agriculture for more than 130 years.