Ile d’Yeu is a small island off the Atlantic coast of France. Its population of 5000 year-round residents swells to 30,000 people in the summer. Pressure from tourism combined with a gradual decline in farming (in favour of fishing) has led to an unprecedented situation in which one fourth of the island now lies fallow. This vacant land leads to soil degradation, landscape homogenisation and loss of biodiversity. It also leaves an important resource untapped: as an island that can be reached only by boat or helicopter from the mainland, Yeu is an ideal setting for developing high-quality, safe, healthy and ecological local food production.
A coalition made up of the island’s farmers, elected officials and representatives of local civil society organisations (CSOs) has undertaken the task of reviving farming on Yeu. In the space of just a few years, with
the Terres Fert’Ile project, Ile d’Yeu has become a laboratory for participatory democracy and innovation in the governance of farming and rural areas.
The Terres Fert’Ile project is focused on optimising the island’s agricultural potential by gradually reclaiming vacant farmland. The project’s scope of 165 ha (407 acres) includes 70 ha (172 acres) of fallow land. Its aim is twofold: to support the continuation of existing family farms and to help new farmers bring their projects to fruition, with the support of landowners. It is broken down into the following complementary actions:
— Taking stock of fallow land and identifying priority areas;
— Creating a shared culture among residents that recognises the importance of farming for the island.
This project illustrates collaboration between a dynamic civil society and a determined local authority. Their combined efforts, facilitated by local dialogue tools, have resulted in a hybrid form of governance based on encouraging and recognising positive voluntary actions in order to raise public awareness and participation.
Read the full case study in our report Supporting access to land for farmers in Europe: Experiences and potential of local authorities, 2017