Access To Land

On Common Ground

Reflections on recent work between Shared Assets and Eco Ruralis - By Kim Graham, Shared Assets

Shared Assets and Eco Ruralis handouts on Commons and Public farmland

Eco Ruralis and Shared Assets are amongst the 18 partners across Europe currently working on the RURALIZATION project (2019-2023), funded by Horizon 2020 to explore the opening of rural areas to renew rural generations, jobs and farms. In 2021, we worked together closely on two related ‘actions’ about council or common farmland in our respective contexts, and checked in regularly to share progress and see what we could learn from this joint experience. In this blog, we share a summary of the activities we’ve undertaken recently and our reflections on working together.

Actions on council and common farmland

In the RURALIZATION project, one stream of work, led by our friends at Terre de Liens, is specifically focused on access to land. The ‘actions’ Shared Assets and Eco Ruralis worked on in 2021 were a chance for organisations to partner up to explore in more depth particularly novel or innovative practice around access to land in their contexts, which might have wider lessons for other groups and regions across Europe. Shared Assets and Eco Ruralis decided to work together on what can broadly be considered types of public farmland - council farmland in England and the commons system of grazing in Romania, which despite their different histories, contexts, and management regimes, are facing many similar challenges, and hold shared potential to help new entrants into agroecological farming.

Some of the challenges in both contexts include:

  • A generally ageing farming population and broken pathways of traditional farm succession leading to a decline in small-scale farming - at the same time as there exists considerable interest from young people from diverse backgrounds in taking up agroecological farming
  • A risk of further land consolidation by large landowners and corporations when smaller farms are sold
  • Competing interests of different groups, for example, affordable housing, farming and conservation, leading to a lack of a holistic or strategic view about the best way manage land

For both Shared Assets and Eco Ruralis, access to land is a fundamental issue of justice, and we wanted to explore how council or common land could simultaneously help meet multiple environmental, social and economic objectives, such as tackling climate change/biodiversity loss, improving health and wellbeing, increasing food sovereignty, and supporting the next generation of farmers. Through the ‘action’ we each set about mapping the complex networks of stakeholders involved in some way in council or common farmland, then engaged with many of these groups and individuals to learn more about how they understand and interact with these lands currently and what some of the barriers to or opportunities are for using them in new ways. From these discussions, we are still continuing to put together visions for commons and council farmland in each of our contexts, to be shared publicly later in the year, to help galvanise the movement to safeguard these types of land and prioritise their use for agroecological farming.

This whole experience has brought home again the importance of coalitions like the Access to Land Network, as a space where like-minded organisations can come together to share our challenges, as well as what is working, in order to learn from and support each other in what can often feel like very long-term and difficult work. The UK work on council farmland was also recently presented at a Terre de Liens seminar dedicated to French local authorities, followed by an exchange on how to make "public land work for the common good" (see the video below). Another rich European exchange, which stimulated reflections from the French public on cutting edge issues related to land justice and participative land governance. It’s been great to still feel this solidarity even when we could only connect digitally - but we are really looking forward to being able to safely meet up in person again in the not-too-distant future!

If you are interested in learning more about our joint work on council and commons farmland, or the RURALIZATION project generally:

  • read the handouts on our work on commons and public land in the England and Romania
  • read about the report which compares and analyses all innovations carried out within RURALIZATION.

Also keep an eye out on our websites for further updates on the work ( and or feel free to get in touch via kim [AT] [DOT] uk or attila [AT] ecoruralis [DOT] ro !


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