Our seminar and conference brought together roughly 150 participants, from 15 European countries and the USA. We were lucky to enjoy a diversity of profiles and experience, which greatly contributed to the quality of the debate: members of access to land initiatives; farmers and farmers’ unions; NGOs promoting food sovereignty, land rights and the right to food; experts; representatives of local authorities; and representatives of EU institutions.
Read the portraits below to get to know some of them, their motivation to come to the seminar and what they learnt from it.
Roz is a voluntary member of the Scottish Farm Land Trust (SFLT), which is in its initial development stage. The Scottish Farm Land Trust aims to increase access to land for small-scale, ecological agriculture by purchasing land to be held in trust and rented fairly to new entrants and young people.
The SFLT is currently finalising a study to find out how many people in Scotland have difficulty accessing land and how many of them would like to get support in their search for land. The objective is also to identify and quantify land areas that would be available for this purpose.
Roz thus came to learn from already established organisations and to get ideas for how best to structure the SFLT. She is looking at what type of lease or contract to put in place, how to establish their business model, and so on. To find answers to these questions, she wishes to draw inspiration from the already well-established structures, such as Terre de Liens and Terre-en-vue, which she discovered during this seminar.
The seminar gave her the feeling that many things are possible, which is very inspiring. She already identified two main learnings:
(a) the importance of knowing how to communicate one’s own values to people outside the organisation; and
(b) the importance of transparency in land management and the very interesting SAFER model in France, which has no equivalent in Scotland. This winter, she wishes to call on the Scottish Parliament to debate this topic.
Lars Veraart is a Dutch veterinarian and farmer established in the Romanian Carpathians. He is one of the funder and volunteers of the newly established Romanian Access to Land initiative: Access la Pamant Pentru Agroecologie (ALPA).
« We strive to liberate land and farms from the Romanian commodity market, steward land as commons and make them available to small agroecological farmers, as well as new and traditionnal peasants for community connected farming, nature conservation and recreation. We also strive to provide guidance and support for new smaller-scale agroecological farmers, by means of training. » explains Lars. An other part of ALPA’s work is focused on fighting land-grabbing and prevening large corporate land acquisitions.
With five other people (from the CSA movement or from Eco Ruralis), they started in 2016 this initiative, which Lars views as « a direct result of the Access to Land network : learn, get ideas and network ». The main issues for the future ? To find seed funding so as to hire one person and create a database for new farmers.
Alec de Selliers is a manager of his own land (and other) property. He comes to the conference with the desire to know how to manage this heritage, in the context of the needed ecological and social transition. He also wishes to get to know the initiatives and structures already established throughout Europe. For the time being, the land he owns is not farmed by farmers. He would like to put in place a concrete agroecological project and thus open up this farm to farmers and others so that it benefits more people. His deep desire is to re-green the planet, to break our dependence on fossil fuels and to make the most of sustainable resources.
From this Access to Land Seminar, Alec has learned that agronomic knowledge and project management skills are essential to successfully completing a project such as his. And so, access to land is not everything.
Tsvetelina is Bulgarian and has just arrived in Belgium to work as a volunteer in the EVS (European Voluntary Service) program at IFOAM EU (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements Europe). During this one-year mission, she will be responsible for organising events and conferences similar to Access to Land seminar. She is here on the one hand to learn more about the issues of access to land - which is an integral part of her new job - and, on the other hand, also to observe the organisation of our seminar.
The seminar made it clear for her that there is a large number of social innovations in agriculture and land management, which is a source of great inspiration. She also notices that one often meets the same faces, in all four corners of Europe, when it comes to talking about access to land. Is this evidence of partners’ involvement or rather of a need to expand the network? The question is raised!
In any case, thanks to this motivating seminar, her first week in Belgium is very encouraging for the rest of his internship. A great impulse for her work ahead!
Tom is a member of the Real Farming Trust, a charity for social investment that has set up several projects with the common goal of promoting good agricultural practices (agroecology), respectful of humans, animals and the environment.
Two reasons led Tom to take part in the Access to Land seminar. The first is personal: three years ago, he created a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. He and his partners on this project were lucky: a farmer was sensitive to their project and very generous, providing them with 1 hectare for a very low rent. Tom wanted to share this happy and positive story with the European network, and thus give hope and courage to those for whom access to the land is much more complicated.
The second reason that motivated him to attend the seminar is naturally related to his work within Real Farming Trust. Access to land is also one of the major problems they face in the field. Here in Brussels, it is an opportunity for Tom to discover the different initiatives and structures aimed at improving access to land and to consult with European partners.
Upon his return to the UK, he decided to talk to various investors and institutions, to encourage them to invest in agroecology projects. One of the lessons he learned from this seminar is that access to land is not a matter solely for individuals, but that local authorities, public or private institutions, citizens, etc. can (and must) also act on access to land.
Juanjo is a member of the Farm Workers Union – Andalusian Workers Union (SOC-SAT), a member of La Via Campesina, which defends the rights of workers in rural areas and, in particular, of landless workers and farmers. He is the European delegate against multinational corporations and for access to land.
Juanjo came to the Access to Land seminar with the aim of finding other organisations and associations from all over Europe that are concerned by the same problems. He expected the seminar to be a good place to build a working net with other similar organisations.
His expectations were achieved and he left the seminar with the feeling that there was a strong connection and a great synergy between the participants, as well as a big desire and intention of working together and helping each other from different parts of Europe.