Promoting land stewardship in Catalonia and in Europe
The Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori –XCT- (i.e. Land Stewardship Network) works to foster land stewardship as a conservation strategy for the natural, cultural and landscape resources and values of Catalonia and its environment.
While, traditionally, the responsibility for conserving heritage has rested within the Administration (protected natural areas, town planning, cultural assets, etc), government agencies have limited resources and are not always necessary to manage conservation work. Land stewardship is a strategy that focuses on enabling the participation of multiple stakeholders: land owners and users, organised civil society, citizens or private companies. It is based on the identification of human communities with their reference territory, assuming that this action is part of their responsibility towards the biosphere as a whole.
In Catalonia, 80% of land is privately owned, with mostly very small estates (between 0 and 5 hectares). It is therefore very important to involve all the agents, in particular landowners, to achieve nature conservation objectives.
The main goals of Xarxa de Custòdia del Territori are:
1. To spread the land stewardship approach among citizens and public and private stakeholders to foster its knowledge, appreciation, use and development.
2. To provide support services to land stewardship organisations and other agents involved in land stewardship (the public, landowners and users, companies and universities and research centres).
3. To promote networking of XCT member organisations and other land stewardship stakeholders.
Non-profit organisation established in 2003, XCT is an umbrella organisation composed of private non-profit organisations (land stewardship organisations, land trusts), public organisations (municipalities, Catalan government), businesses, consultants, and so on.
XCT was established as an umbrella organisation, so as to bring together a large number and diversity of organisations and people, and thereby facilitate the appropriation and dissemination of land stewardship approaches and tools.
XCT activities are focused on:
– Communication to generate social impact and raise awareness to involve society in the conservation of nature,
– Development of technical and legal instruments for land stewardship,
– Support and training, in particular for land stewardship organisations
– Networking for the development of land stewardship.
Land stewardship materialises in voluntary agreements between the owners and managers of land, and land stewardship entities in order to maintain and recover the natural environment and landscape.
Agricultural stewardship, in particular, takes place on estates and farms where agricultural/ cattle activities are developed: meadows and pastures, fields, orchards and grazed forests. Its objective is to promote environmental responsibility of farmers, landowners and government so as to harmonise agricultural productive activities with environmental conservation.
Since 2011, XCT has a workgroup on agricultural stewardship, made up with member organisations that are working on land access and agricultural best practices. While land stewardship measures can be implemented in any type of agricultural model, not all agricultural models are equally beneficial for the preservation of natural and cultural values. XCT Agricultural Stewardship Group promotes agroecology, encouraging extensive models of agriculture, civic and social farming, the use of traditional plant varieties and breeds, the conservation of biodiversity and organic production.
Agricultural stewardship can facilitate access to land for agroecological farmers. Indeed, landowners may favour contractualising with agroecological farmers, who will ensure good stewarship of their land, particularly if a land stewardship agreement, involving support and monitoring by a land stewardship organisation is concluded. In certain cases (e.g. Natura 2000 area, water catchment area), establishing an agroecological farmer may be decisive for fulfilling environment protection.
Developing land stewardship in Catalonia
In the latest inventory of land stewardship development in Catalonia (2012), there were 634 agreements covering over 62,000 ha (2% of Catalan territory) plus 230,000 ha of maritime area. A total of 80 land stewardship organisations were counted. 15% of the agreements had agriculture and/or cattle as their main conservation value (making it the second most important conservation value).
Raising awareness in Catalonia and in Europe
XCT has contributed to popularising land stewardship approach and tools. It has developed Viu la terra, a portal to inform and mobilise the Catalonian public about nature conservation. It has also coordinated the LANDLIFE project, to foster land stewardship approaches and networking in Europe, and has organised the Land stewardship week since 2013.
Working towards new regulations
All this has been achieved despite the great lack of public awareness of land stewardship, despite the weak legal recognition today, and without tax-relief formulas for landowners who participate in land stewardship agreements. The long tradition of a strong non-profit sector in Catalonia has provided XCT’s main support. Every day civil society is increasingly identifying with its territory and landscape.
On February 21st 2012, XCT signed an agreement with the Catalan Government, which included a Workplan for the 2011-2014 term with a total funding of 1,485 milion Euros, in order to promote land stewardship in the Catalonia. A major and recent achievement under this long-standing partnership has been the Catalan Civil Code regulation of the land stewardship agreements. This is a pioneering initiative, both in Spain and on a European level.
Currently, a new working plan for 2015-2020 is being prepared. Main operational tasks of it will be: a) the creation of a development program of fiscal and economic measures of land stewardship in Catalonia, fostering the involvement of land owners and users of estates and b) the development of an official register of land stewardship agreements and organisations linked to a Standards and Practices program.
• For general and technical information of land stewardship: xct
• For information on land stewardship development in Europe: LIFE project LANDLIFE and the European Land stewardship week
• Study of the development of Land stewardship in Europe, realised as part of the LANDLIFE project
• European Land Stewardship Manual
• Land Stewardship Toolkit. Basic Tools for Land Stewardship Organisations in Europe
• Collaborative working plan between the XCT and the Government of Catalonia to boost land stewardship (2011-2014), Summary, 2010
• Inventory of Land stewardship development in Catalonia, realised by xct, 2012
• Conclusions from the process of establishing the land stewardship commission, Catalonian Government, 2010
• Land stewardship and water management in the Water Framework Directive, analysis by xct, 2008
• Video on land stewardship main actors, realised by Quepo for Viulaterra, 5’, 2012
• Video on land stewardship and ecotourism, produced by xct, 1,5’, 2014
Carrer Sagrada Família, 7
(Universitat de Vic)