Yet, we’re losing fertile farmland at a fast pace. In Europe alone, 11 hectares of soil are sealed under the concrete of expanding cities every hour. Since 1990, the EU (in its current borders) has lost 15% of its agricultural area, that is approximately the size of all Spanish farmland.
The main reason for this is the pressure exerted on land for the development of towns, infrastructure (such as roads and railways), tourist facilities, etc. This trend particularly affects the very fertile land around old urban centres, which were chosen as human settlement for this same fertility. It is all the more damaging as it is largely irreversible, and has many negative environmental impacts. In other parts of Europe, in mountain areas or where land is poor, the main problem is land abandonment, which results in farmland reverting to woodland or turning farmland in woods or natural landscape.
Farmland also needs to be preserved from degradation due to overuse, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, salinisation, desertification, erosion, or pollution, all of which constitute real, everyday threats to our land.
We need farmland to grow our food. We also need it for the production of timber and fibres. And we need to preserve farmland for the many wider functions and public goods it delivers: it can sustain a rich biodiversity, it helps mitigate climate change and stores and purifies water.
As a network of civil society organisations we strive to preserve farmland through a variety of tools: