Summary – Agriculture: Land Sharing and Plant Breeding
Workshop: Civic initiatives securing land for agro-ecological farmers in Europe, the example of Terre de Liens, France
Number of participants: 16
The title 'securing land' was chosen, because due to land grabbing also in Europe there is less and less land available for agriculture. Veronique Rioufol not only represented Terre de Liens, but also the network Access To Land, a European network of grassroots organisations securing land to agro-ecological farming.
The moderator Alexander Schwedeler gained experience securing land for food production with Kulturland eG, a civil society land fund initiative in Germany, of which he was a co-founder in 2013.
Today’s situation of agricultural land in Europe
Veronique Rioufol explained the challenges regarding land for agriculture in Europe. Those are
- a decline of agricultural area
- a loss of soil fertility and biodiversity
- land concentration
- farm consolidation – resulting in “mega-farms
- financing – resulting in a lack of transparency and financial speculation
- difficult access for young farmers/ newcomers to become farmers themselves
- the difficulty for conventional farmers to become organic farmers.
Taking France as an example Veronique explained how the price for land has doubled during he last 10 years, which contributes to the difficulty for farmers to buy land.
Terre de Liens’ Activities
She then explained what Terre de Liens does: it informs and mobilises citizens about the question of land; it supports future farmers in converting their farms from conventional to peasant and organic; it acquires & manages farmland which is being rented long-term to farmers, and it advises and mobilises local authorities in support of securing the land for regional and organic farmers. Terre de Liens wants to preserve farmland for agricultural use, it wants to take out farmland from the commodity like trading cycle, to facilitate transition for peasant and organic farmers, to ensure sustainable use of the land and natural resources, and to make the land question “everybody’s business”.
Terre de Liens has started in 2003 and is now a very successful operation: it has mobilised over 15.000 citizens to engage in land purchase and local farming; it has raised 52 million Euro in investment and donations; over 200 farmers are actively using land purchased and leased by Terre de Liens; in addition 150 farms were acquired; 3000ha land has been purchased; over 1000 future farmers are supported each year, also in partnerships with local authorities. Indeed a very impressive organisation and track record, organised and managed by civil society.
Lessons learned by Terre de Liens
Veronique then elaborated on some of the lessons learned. Access to land has become such a hurdle that similar land fund initiatives emerge throughout Europe and worldwide. Some of them are: Biodynamic Land Trust, UK; Nadace Pro Pudu, CZ; Terre-en-vue (BE); Soil Association Land Trust (UK); Kulturland eG (DE); XCT (Cat); Agrarian Trust (USA); Cultivate Farms (Australia).
Access to land initiatives focus on land use and management. Acquisition is only a means. Access to land initiatives are part of a broader movement of civic agriculture and for food sovereignty.
There is an important connection with Community Supported Agriculture CSA farms and other social innovations. There is a vast amount of legal, financial and social innovations included in such new land fund initiatives. Heavy financial and policy regulation make it difficult to start such land fund initiatives.
The discussion represented a broad range of questions from details like legal structure, price of land to interest for investors. Veronique explained that Terre de Liens, and some of the other land fund initiatives (including Kulturland eG) offer no interest to its investors - a conscious decision, because the people involved feel that land is not there to make money, but to provide the soil for food production.
It became also clear that in order to start such a land fund initiative a broad range of capabilities is necessary, like farming, law, tax-law, finance, financial structures and instruments, communication with very different stakeholders like citizens, farmers, lawyers, bankers, investors, supporters, local authorities, and more. It needs patience and persistence to set up such a land fund initiative. It became clear that it would be good to have many of such initiatives in Europe and worldwide. Existing land funds are offering their advice and expertise.
Power Point Presentations