Authors: Alice Martin-Prével (Terre de Liens), Nora Maristany Bosch (Xarxa Per a la Conservació de la Natura), Kate Swade (Shared Assets).

With contributions from: Véronique Rioufol and William Loveluck (Terre de Liens); Anastasia Orpea and Attila Szocs (Eco Ruralis); Françoise Ansay (Terre-en-Vue); Petra Tas and Annelies Beyens (De Landgenoten); Kim Graham and Graciela Romero-Vasquez (Shared Assets); Titus Bahner and Hans-Albrecht Wiehler (Kulturland); Willem Korthals Altes (TU Delft), Silvia Sivini and Mauro Conti (UNICAL); Colline Perrin (INRAE).

Contact: Access to Land network info@accesstoland.eu

Graphic design and illustrations: Emma Lidbury

This publication was created through the RURALIZATION project. This is a temporary version pending approval by peer reviewers. The opinions expressed in this document reflect only the authors' views and in no way reflect the European Commission's opinion. The European Commission is not responsible for the use that may be made of the information it contains.

Last updated 03/2023. This is an evolutive online tool book, updates of the content can happen on a regular basis.

The Access to Land Network

The Access to Land Network functions as an open network to advance grassroots solutions and social innovations to secure land for agroecological farmers. The Network organises collaborations between members and like-minded civil society organisations; sharing resources, experience and practical tools; and developing evidence-based analyses of land issues. Our mission is:

  • To build a European movement of civil society organisations which directly and indirectly preserve agricultural land, secure land for agroecological farmers and ensure good land stewardship.

  • To advocate the significance of access to land for a double transition: the agroecological transition of our food and farming systems and the transition to the next generation of farmers

Our vision: land as commons

  • Agricultural land is preserved and valued throughout Europe for its many benefits: providing fresh food, preserving water resources and balanced ecosystems, contributing to job creation and lively rural communities, maintaining open, diverse landscapes, and nurturing our sense of identity.

  • Agricultural land is used for healthy, sustainable agroecological farming, which provides these benefits, while ensuring soil life, providing a dignified life and income for farmers, contributing to fair international relations and food sovereignty in third countries and addressing the pressing challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises.

  • Agricultural land is accessible to farmers, including to the new generation, under fair and lasting conditions, to enable them to develop their economic, social and cultural activity, and participate in a thriving farming sector with a dense and diversified network of farms and farmers.

  • Agricultural land is our shared responsibility: it receives the attention and care of farmers, as well as of local communities and all levels of public governments. New solidarities develop between farmers and committed citizens to preserve and secure farmland.

Key concepts

How the Access to Land network defines some of the key concepts used throughout this handbook.

  • Access to land is the process through which farmers gain and maintain access to specific plots of land, under secure, fair and affordable conditions. This process is affected by local and international land policies and markets, as well as social dynamics around land transfers. Access to land is now recognised as the number one obstacle to entering farming. Diverse stakeholders, such as a land trust, local authorities, or a civil society organisation, can support or mediate land access, particularly for new farmers.

  • Agroecology embraces a science, a set of practices and a social movement which aims at applying ecological principles to agriculture and ensuring a regenerative use of natural resources and ecosystem services. Agroecology also addresses the need for socially equitable food systems, within which people can exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced. In a nutshell, the main tenets of agroecology can be summed up as follows:

  1. as a farmer, working with and respecting nature: making use of ecosystems, recycling nutrients, investing in building soil fertility naturally, stimulating biodiversity, building a resilient agroecosystem

  2. organising food production and food consumption locally and regionally

  3. as a society, paying fair prices to farmers ensuring their autonomy and independence

  4. as a consumer, choosing a sustainable diet with local, seasonal produce produced in a sustainable way

  • New entrants describes people seeking to enter farming without a family farm and sometimes without prior experience in farming. Many new entrants turn towards agroecological forms of farming. Our work advocates for access to land for these as well as other agroecological farmers, who face specific challenges related to access to land — e.g. high land prices, lack of information on land transfers, and lower access to financing and subsidies. We recognise also that other starting farmers (e.g. family farm successors) may seek to transform the farms they take over towards locally-oriented and sustainable agricultural models and should be supported in doing so.

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