The recovery of wild nature in the Oder Delta is supporting a growing number of economic opportunities. The launch of the Wild Oder Network in September saw people from across the delta come together to discuss ways of collaborating and developing nature-based business together.
Straddling the German-Polish border on a key ecological crossroads, the Oder Delta is one of Central Europe’s wildest regions. With nature-based tourism on the rise, growing numbers of people are visiting the area to reconnect with nature and enjoy a chance to spot the so-called “Big Seven” – the Atlantic sturgeon, grey seal, beaver, white-tailed eagle, elk, wolf and the European bison.
The recently launched Wild Oder Network is a cooperative network of nature-based enterprises located in and around the Oder Delta rewilding landscape, whose business is aligned with rewilding principles. The network will enable members to benefit from wildlife comeback in the delta, and to benefit from and drive the further growth of the area’s nature-based economy.
The first meeting of network partners, which took place at the end of September, saw entrepreneurs from the hospitality, healthy food, and nature guiding sectors joined by representatives of the educational sector and NGOs. Participants enjoyed presentations, excursions in the rewilding landscape, and a visit to the new Oder Delta rewilding centre in Glashütte.
“The network is purposely being kept quite open at this early stage,” explains Rewilding Oder Delta Enterprise Manager Suleika Suntken. “We used the launch to introduce our vision for how it might develop, and to give participants an opportunity to talk about what’s important for them, and what their requirements are in terms of collaboration and how they are promoted. We are now looking forward to expanding the network, based on their feedback.”
“I really enjoyed the launch meeting,” says Henriette Ziermann from the Hotel Postel Wolgast on Usedom Island, which is located in the north of Oder Delta rewilding landscape. “It was great to meet inspirational people from across the delta with a common interest – saving nature and rethinking the way we interact with it. I’m looking forward to being part of the network and developing nature-based business together.”
“Developing the network is an excellent course of action,” says Sławomir Zagrodzki of the Pierogi Dobra catering company. “This is just the sort of programme we are keen to participate in. I dream of a community where local nature-based entrepreneurs strive to distinguish themselves by offering, as in our case, healthy and fresh food.”
Further details about the Wild Oder Network are available on the Rewilding Oder Delta website – and those businesses who are interested in joining can get in touch with the Rewilding Oder Delta team. The range of potential members is envisaged to include everyone from accommodation owners and manufacturers of local products to companies and individuals offering nature-based experiences and restaurants and caterers.
Members of the Wild Oder Network will enjoy a number of benefits. One of the network’s primary aims will be to develop links between business sectors, creating a stronger commercial environment that fosters cooperation instead of competition. Bringing businesses together will also enable the region to be marketed as a whole, with its significant natural and cultural values promoted more effectively.
“Through marketing activities carried out by Rewilding Oder Delta, members will have the opportunity to attract new customers from right across Europe,” explains Suleika Suntken. “This form of support is already working successfully in other rewilding landscapes.”
Being part of the network will also help members to develop sustainable business models aligned with rewilding principles, create new touristic offerings in partnership with each other, and exchange knowledge through regular workshops and meetings.
Nature-based business networks are a growing feature of Rewilding Europe’s expanding portfolio of rewilding landscapes.
“The idea is to bring businesses together under a shared rewilding vision for the landscape,” explains Daniel Veríssimo, who manages Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility. “Business networks facilitate the creation of new tourism packages, help close gaps in tourism experiences, and create new economic opportunities. They mean local communities can enjoy direct economic benefits from wilder nature, which in turn generates more support for rewilding.”
The most fully developed example of a rewilding landscape-based business network is the Wild Côa Network, which was established in the Greater Côa Valley in Portugal in 2021. It now has more than 40 members – who meet online once a month and in person once a year – and provides eco-tourism training opportunities. And in the Central Apennines rewilding landscape in Italy, the local rewilding team has created a network of local producers, tour operators, and accommodation owners. This has led to the sale of high-quality food from the Central Apennines through so-called “Bear-Smart Boxes“, and the development of “Rewilding Weeks“, which aim is to reconnect professionals and businesses with nature. In addition to helping local nature-based businesses, these products and services help to promote rewilding and enhance human-wildlife coexistence in the landscape.
Rewilding Europe Capital is available to help scale up businesses in rewilding landscapes and has already provided loans to various members of local business networks. There are plans for new business networks in the Affric Highlands (Scotland), Southern Carpathians (Romania), Iberian Highlands (Spain), and Velebit Mountains (Croatia).