De Landgenoten recently had the pleasure of receiving the monthly Open Space Cup for its report on the obstacles in the Flemish farmland market. This monthly reward is given by the VRP, which is the Flemish Association for Space & Planning. De Landgenoten thanks Erasmus+ for financing this work.
De Landgenoten was part of a 3-year learning program (2018-2021), financed by Erasmus+, supporting access to land organisations in acquiring new knowledge and expertise.
During this learning program, De Landgenoten wrote three reports on the Flemish situation: the first on the specific needs and wishes of agroecological farmers concerning farmland. A second on the obstacles that those farmers encounter while trying to achieve access to farmland. And a third one with policy recommendations in the hope that the Flemish government is willing and able to eliminate several of the observed obstacles.
It is the second report, ’Barriers in current policies for access to land for agroecological and young farmers in Flanders’, that attracted the attention of the VRP, the Flemish Association for Space & Planning. The VRP wants to disseminate the importance of sustainable spatial planning and urban development as widely as possible. In doing so, they address themselves primarily to spatial planners, urban planners and local authorities in Flanders and Brussels. Because spatial planning has so many interfaces with various other domains (economy, architecture, energy, infrastructure, mobility, etc.) they also explicitly address other sectors - in search of ’win-wins’.
The VRP congratulates De Landgenoten on the report because of the pressing questions it raises: who will provide our food in 10 years’ time? And more: on what land? Farmland in Flanders is indeed under pressure, as approximately 25% of the farmland is being used for other purposes than agriculture. This might be one of the main drivers of the price increase that is noticed during the last decades, bringing the average price of farmland as high as 63.000 euro for 1 hectare (2021). Moreover, two thirds of landowners are not willing to lease land to farmers anymore because of an outdated lease law. This means that both ways of having access to farmland, either through buying or leasing, have become extremely difficult.
The VRP appreciates that De Landgenoten shows another way, making farmland a common good for all: by “investing in healthy agricultural soils, (De Landgenoten) invests in healthy food, in local economy, in sustainable production and consumption, in dignified local work, in biodiversity and carbon storage, in clean water and in strong local dynamics.”
De Landgenoten will, in the coming months, spread the policy recommendations and call on the Flemish Government to adjust its laws and policies concerning farmland.