Little should our most recent ancestors, those of the last hundred years, think that in the middle of the 21st century the main obstacle for those who want to dedicate themselves to farming is access to land. Whether through property, or through lease, usufruct assignment or even with certain land management tools still dating back to medieval or Carthusian times, almost everyone had some form of power. access to land for agricultural activity. Obviously, and as older readers must remember, this did not automatically mean that you could make a living from it, especially if we compare it to the current standard of living. But did they need what we would now like or have we created superfluous needs?
Collaborating in a working day of a European project (Access To Land ) which precisely aims to put on the table mechanisms and tools to facilitate access to land in countries such as France, Romania, the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium and Catalonia, we discussed this issue which is unfortunately shared everywhere. Each country with its particularity, economic system and political history, shared the fact that young people find it increasingly difficult to access land, prosper their agricultural activity and earn a decent living.
Surely it shouldn’t be so complicated that, at least locally, addressing that need. More and more municipalities are opting for regulation and facilitation of access to land and contact between stakeholders through land banks. An example in the Camp de Tarragona, still very embryonic, is found in the Selva del Camp. In addition, municipalities have the ability to apply bonuses on certain taxes in order to reactivate land or apply penalties in case of abandoned land. It is simply a political will, a challenge.
If we continue to stretch the possibilities at the municipal level, we see how occupational training plans can also be offered in agricultural matters, directly related to access to an available agricultural land or in the relief phase. What better if we offer specialized training to a new farmer with a desire to enter the sector. But we must also make life easier for him, there are already some cases where public services are created adapted to the new agricultural activity: housing stock in rural areas, farming, recovery of rural schools so that people do not have to leave, commonwealth of agricultural services, cooperatives of producers, etc. And if we add to all this a powerful local distribution network of agricultural products produced, we already have the closed circle.
Spatial planning and town planning could also help, much more than it does now. We must change the model that occasionally timidly protects agricultural land, but in which a figure of higher-ranking urban planning can violate it for what is wrongly called the general interest. It would be useful to analyze all the ecosystem services provided by agricultural land, not only in contribution to GDP, but in contribution to human well-being and the immediate food of the surrounding population. Perhaps then we will not discuss the suitability of making a Eurovegas or a macro Outlet in the Llobregat Delta.
And I could not finish this article without making a clear commitment to the challenge of access to land accompanied by the need for agroecology and the proximity between production and consumption. Beyond the marketing campaigns on the concept of “km 0”, we need to consider the need to establish closer circuits in the food sector. I am no longer talking about products imported from the other end of the world, which, no matter how organic, leave an ecological footprint that we do not pay, but about products from the land that we produce next to home but the current economic system and the free market. competitive, they place us in a price range that is difficult to afford and outside the conventional distribution channels. We can continue to fight for consumer groups and stay with a clear conscience, but perhaps it is time to take on the challenge of making a comprehensive change in the consumption and distribution model. It will then be that we can talk about agroecology, in a broad and complete sense.
The land is for those who work it (and for those who want to work it).
Joan Pons Solé
Head of the Environmental and Territorial Action Area of INSTA