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The Netherlands

The Netherlands was one of the founders of the Coalition of the Willing on pollinators. The Coalition was established in Cancun on 3 December 2016 in response to the IPBES assessment on pollinators, pollination and food production.

Flag of the Netherlands

Why did the Netherlands decide to join the coalition?

The assessment clearly showed the urgency of taking action for a better protection of pollinators, and it was clear that cooperation was needed. So 14 countries jointly decided to work on this, the Netherlands being one of the initiators. To get the Coalition running, the Netherlands has offered to establish its secretariat and finance it in the first period. This secretariat should reflect the wishes and needs of the entire Coalition. The goal is to establish a lively, learning network.

Pollination is important for the Netherlands, both for our food production and our biodiversity. Many food crops and plants can only reproduce or flower once they have been pollinated by insects. Fruits such as apples, pears, strawberries and tomatoes all grow more vigorously when they have been pollinated by many different insects. Pollination is required for more than 75% of food crops in the Netherlands (predominantly fruit and vegetables) in addition to over 85% of plants. Insects are therefore vital to nature, agriculture and horticulture.

The global bee population is in decline

Concerns are being voiced about pollinators at both the domestic and international levels. The number of bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators continues to decline for reasons such as:

  • disappearance of natural areas
  • intensive farming (monoculture)
  • property development

Situation in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is home to 360 bee species, over half of which are endangered. These species are included in the bee category of the national Red List, which is an inventory of all species in the Netherlands that have become extinct or are at risk thereof. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality regularly updates this list and encourages research and activities to protect and manage these species.

The National Pollinator Strategy

On 22 January 2018, the NL Pollinators Strategy (NPS), which was signed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and various other partners, was officially launched. The key objective of the NL Pollinators Strategy is to increase the populations of bees and other pollinators. By 2030, these populations must be stable and/or displaying a positive trend. Many actors play a role in this issue, such as the agricultural sector, land owners and managers and government authorities. We want to achieve this goal by working together and sharing knowledge as part of a huge network. All of the parties involved must develop targeted bee-friendly policy and measures as well as taking into account how all of their activities influence the populations of bees and other pollinators.

The NL Pollinators Strategy includes a number of measurable targets. In 2023, we will examine whether we are on course to ensure that by 2030:

  • The number of bee species has increased by a minimum of 50% or at least remained at the same level (the baseline measurement for this target is the number of bees in 2018).
  • The presence of bees across the whole of the Netherlands has improved (the distribution in 2012 serves as the baseline measurement for this target).
  • In 90% of cases, there are no problems with the pollination of food crops or plants (the baseline measurement for this target is the level of pollination in 2018).

Contribution from partners

The NL Pollinators Strategy has over 80 partners who endorse the objectives of the NPS. These partners will be initiating around 100 different projects to help protect pollinators. The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is very keen to know whether the targets specified in the strategy will be achieved, and for this reason, it commissioned Naturalis to investigate this matter in 2018.

The study by Naturalis showed that the existing initiatives implemented by the partners are not yet sufficient and that more will be required in order to hit the targets. Based on the conclusions of this study, we decided to formulate a Theory of Change (ToC) together with our partners with the goal of clarifying the cohesion between the necessary changes required to protect pollinators, the role of the partners and the effect of the initiatives. The Ministry is enabling a variety of partners to work on the ToC and Naturalis is supervising the whole process.

Goal of the Theory of Change (ToC)

The initiatives in the NL Pollinators Strategy are mainly bottom-up. All of the registered initiatives are included in the strategy. Subsequently, the IPBES framework was added to provide a scope and parameters. This is a Summary for policymakers of the assessment report on pollinators, pollination and food production, 2016. One factor that was not investigated during formulation of the strategy is which combination of activities will be sufficient in order to achieve the national targets. At the level of the individual initiatives, the targets were created separately without paying specific attention to what would be required in order to hit the national target. They also did not specify what could be done differently and by whom. 

ToCs examine what needs to be done in order to reach the targets. By conducting a ToC, it becomes clear how the targets are interconnected and how they can be achieved.

ToC method

A ToC is a diagram with explanatory notes that describe cause and effect. It shows how the strategies (what we do) could result in the expected results (what other parties involved could do better) and how they contribute to the total impact (improvements at the level of the beneficiaries, i.e. the pollinators). An analysis of these actors and factors serves as the basis of the ToC. The added value of the ToC is creating co-ownership between partners.

Results ToC

  • A firm basis for discussions with partners.
  • A common thread for analysing the various elements required in order to develop a strategy that helps us achieve our objectives.
  • We can demonstrate how we expect the change to take place and show how we can contribute to this change (activities).
  • We understand which activities need to be performed in order to achieve the desired outcomes.
  • It has facilitated the development of shared ownership between partners.
  • We can decide which of the expected activity results will be monitored and determine the indicators on which this monitoring will be based.
  • A clear and interactive diagram that can be adjusted during execution of the process based on new insights.

The ToC was created in accordance with the following four pathways corresponding to the objectives of the NL Pollinator Strategy:

  1. Boost the number of bee species showing a stable or positive population trend.
  2. Promote species diversity and boost the number of pollinators.
  3. Promote the health of honey bees.
  4. Guarantee efficient pollination.

Click here to view the Theory of Change diagram for the NL Pollinators Strategy.


Knowledge Impulse – Pollinators

In order to protect pollinators and achieve the objectives of the NL Pollinators Strategy, we also focus strongly on boosting knowledge. For this reason, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality is investing in expanding our knowledge of pollinators and pollination services. This project is being conducted by a group of knowledge partners coordinated by Wageningen University & Research (WUR).


The objective of the Knowledge Impulse – Pollinators is to protect pollinators and boost their numbers by means of:

  • knowledge development
  • knowledge distribution
  • raising awareness

In this way, pollinators can continue to play their vital role in food production and natural ecosystems both now and in the future. In this context, the emphasis is on pollinating species (bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies). The target group includes all parties that are able to make a direct or indirect contribution to the conservation and promotion of pollinators.

This project has four specific objectives:

  • To help the target groups efficiently describe their contribution to the conservation and promotion of pollinators via targeted knowledge transfer.
  • To learn from both ongoing and new initiatives to promote pollinators by analysing which factors result in success and how existing problems can be resolved.
  • To help assess the extent to which new initiatives actually result in improvements for pollinators.
  • To gain further insight into the extent to which generic measures for pollinators can and do help protect rarer species.

The results of the project so far (various studies) can be found on the website of the Knowledge Impulse – Pollinators. You can also find specific information on pollinators via the Pollinators Guide. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the helpdesk via the information on the Knowledge Impulse website, where you can also find the answers to previously answered questions.

Knowledge Impulse partners

The following partners are working on the Knowledge Impulse – Pollinators, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality:

Honey bees

In addition to the Knowledge Impulse – Pollinators, research is also being conducted that specifically focuses on the health of honey bees. The research into bees, which is being conducted by Bijen@WUR, examines a wide range of bee-related topics via various studies, information provision, service provision and consultancy. The overarching focus of this research is bee health and pollination.

The way forward

This year (2021), we will further develop ongoing activities and launch new initiatives using the ToC as our guide. Monitoring a number of these activities will be a vital factor. We are also attempting to forge as many new partnerships as possible both with external parties and with other government bodies. We want to get all of the affiliated partners as closely involved as possible as well as approach new parties to join us, as this will further expand our network and optimise our capacity to achieve the goals. In order to gain insight in the results of our activities, it is vital that we measure pollinator trends.

Measurement of the NL Pollinator Strategy objectives in 2023 and 2030

The NL Pollinator Strategy specifies a number of measurable targets relating to bees and pollination in the Netherlands. These targets will be measured by comparing the trends in 2023 and 2030 with the baseline measurement of 2018. In 2030, the Ministry will examine whether the main objective of the NL Pollinators Strategy (‘pollinators and pollination will be sustainably maintained and promoted’) has been achieved by examining the proportion of bee species displaying positive trends and comparing it to this figure in 2018. For the purposes of monitoring, the EIS Centre for Insect Knowledge and Wageningen Environmental Research established a baseline measurement in 2018 to enable comparison of the trends relating to the objectives of the Bee Strategy.

This baseline measurement was established based on the available databases and expert knowledge. No national monitoring programme of bees is conducted by volunteers, as is the case for butterflies and dragonflies, as monitoring bees requires too much specialist knowledge. However, work is currently in progress to develop a measurement network for bumblebees in collaboration with the Dutch Butterfly Conservation Foundation (De Vlinderstichting), as these bee species are relatively easy to recognise.

In recent years, more and more data on bees is being obtained via non-specialists (citizen science), e.g. via Waarneming.nl. The aim is to make more frequent use of this data to enable a more comprehensive picture of the trends and to optimally monitor the progress of the NL Pollinators Strategy in the years of 2023 and 2030.


Would you like to know more about the Netherlands’ strategy? Please contact Esther Rotteveel and Nicky Kruizinga via nationalebijenstrategie@minlnv.nl.