Agricultural Programme of the City of Hannover - agricultural policy at municipality level

Author: Hans Albrecht Wiehler, Kulturland

1) Objectives and highlights

The agricultural programme in essence is a political action plan of the city of Hannover to achieve the following objectives: coordinating spatial planning and development with farming, maintaining economically viable farms, supporting the conversion to organic agriculture, establishing regional marketing of food and fostering nature and landscape conservation.

The programme was drafted in 1994 for the first time and revised in 2001 and 2017. The latest version represents a significant expansion of the scope of the previous agricultural programme: it is no longer just about agriculture and commercial horticulture and their development in Hannover, but currently it is about all forms of food production and land use in the city. It therefore also includes all gardens and non-professional garden uses, from traditional allotment gardens to new initiatives and areas of "urban gardening" or "urban farming". In 2020 it was still the first of its kind in Germany.

2) Stakeholders involved

a. Local authorities involved

The agricultural programme was designed, formulated and is mainly implemented by the Department of Environment of the City of Hannover. It was passed by the Council of the City of Hanover. The initiative for drafting the programme goes back to the strong personal interest and engagement of an individual staff member of the above-mentioned department.

b. Other stakeholders involved and their specific role in the action

The programme was drafted through the involvement of relevant stakeholder groups that are also still part of the implementation. Examples are civil society organisations like Slow Food Movement Hannover, Food Council Hannover, Transition Town Hannover, but also individual farmers (especially successors), public bodies like the Chamber of Agriculture Hannover, universities, retailers and consumers.

3) Context and levers

Being a dynamically growing city, Hannover has and keeps losing farmland and suffers from land fragmentation and ecosystem degradation. The programme therefore is aiming at preserving open spaces for local recreation, promoting environmentally friendly land use for nature conservation and climate protection, and contributing to the food supply for Hanover´s population.

A dedicated staff has ensured that the programme was implemented and developed further ever since its initiation. Especially since 2000 the World's Fair was hosted in Hanover, which gave the development of the programme a renewed push that led to the first review in 2001. Also the fact that the city still owns a considerable amount of arable land gave the Department of Environment the possibility to play an active role.

4) Actions led

The programme combines efforts for nature protection, healthy nutrition, localising economy and supporting farmers. It does so by aiming at:

  • Reducing the use of agricultural land for construction and preserving it altogether where there are particularly fertile soils.

  • Coordinating all planning instruments, from urban land use planning to landscape and nature conservation planning, in such a way that farms are involved and their interests are taken into account.

  • Implementing the principle of "protection through use" in cooperation with farmers.

  • Supporting farms in converting to extensive/ecological forms of farming by applying conversion to organic farming as compensation for infrastructure measures and by providing leased land.

  • Acting as a role model for the purchase of regional, organic products by municipal institutions.

  • Contributing to the development of environmentally friendly distribution and marketing structures for agricultural products in the city and the surrounding area.

  • Securing land for gardens.

  • Developing perspectives for a stronger use of allotment gardens with regard to self-sufficiency together with their interest groups.

  • Promoting initiatives for community gardens, tenants' gardens and self-harvesting gardens.

  • Supporting communication between all garden users.

A mix of measures are derived from these objectives. The ones that are listed under priority 1 (out of three priorities in total) are the following:

  1. No use of strategic agricultural land for construction or infrastructure projects.

  2. Promotion of “Land care through extensive agricultural use”.

  3. Publicly owned land is preferentially leased to organic farms.

  4. Procurement of regional and organic products for city-run institutions (day-care centres, canteens, recreation centres, etc.) and events.

  5. Educational programmes at farms and especially “Open farms” that include DIY elements and direct marketing.

  6. Self-harvesting gardens offered by farms as a service.

5) Limits and perspectives

The programme is quite comprehensive in such a way that it touches upon all three types of actions (public ownership, regulation, facilitation) with an emphasis on land stewardship. However, concerning regulation of land use and land stewardship it is still lacking 100% political backing within the municipality. For example, property development is regularly given priority over farming in decision-making regarding land use because of the stronger political agenda and more influential political players. Furthermore, there is insufficient resources and especially staff to implement the programme to full extent.

There is a strong emphasis on the “nutrition” side of the programme: building civil society networks, fostering education and promoting producer-to-consumer direct marketing are central activities. This strategy follows the idea that once nutrition and food supply gain momentum, more critical issues like access to land, land preservation and agroecologial farming will reach the local policy agenda.

It would be very helpful if policies would hold municipalities generally more responsible for agriculture and nutrition and support them in developing such context-based strategies. If “agriculture” and “nutrition” would be part of the mandatory responsibilities of municipalities it would be much easier to get political backing and mobilise resources. This would also help to increase attention for land issues in case of conflict e.g. with building development.

Last updated