Access to land for small-scale farmers and new entrants is a new topic in the Czech Republic as in recent decades the focus has been on supporting intensive conventional agriculture. This was mainly due to the fact that the Czech Republic has the largest agricultural production blocks (average about 150 ha) with the highest proportion of rented land in Europe. On the other hand, there is a very high ownership fragmentation of agricultural land. Access to land is generally hard for new entrants in the agricultural sector, due to the extreme ownership fragmentation, land prices and insecure tenancy system. Access to land is currently becoming an important issue in the context of sustainable food production and protection of landscape stability in the Czech Republic. Non-governmental initiatives (such as Nadace pro půdu) have started raising awareness about the importance of a more responsible way of farming, its positive impacts on the environment, the accessibility of farmland for agroecological farmers and the affordability of fresh and organic food through their campaigns and programs.
Nadace pro půdu (NPP, Foundation for Soil ) is a national organisation that was founded in January 2016. The main aim is to reconstruct the relationship between people and soil (the Earth) – the relationship that is expressed by shared forms of ownership, stewardship and finances. Soil, as well as water or air, is understood as a gift, therefore it should not be taken as a commodity or a subject of speculation and private ownership.
The purpose of the foundation is to protect soil as a heritage given to us and to the next generations, and to support responsible, mindful and sustainable farming as well as those who farm or are willing to farm the land in this way. The foundation wants to achieve its purpose by buying land or receiving it as a gift, leasing the land to appropriate organic farmers, promoting responsible ways of farming and CSA, linking land owners with responsible organic farmers without available farmland, and cooperating with organisations with similar or complementary focus.
The CSA movement has played an important role in the starting of this organisation because they perceive the clear need for such a structure. There are about 47 CSAs in the Czech Republic at the moment. Access to land and insecurity of tenure was a topic frequently voiced during the CSA core group meetings and was discussed at CSA meetings and with activists from different circles (e.g. university) looking to set up such an organization.
The Foundation was established with the gift of a part of the biodynamic Bemagro farm. Landowners, Miloslav Knížek and his wife Zuzana Knížková, wanted to "relieve their soil from the burden of private ownership". Originally he planned to establish the foundation just for his own land (i.e. to create something similar to Buschberghof in Germany) but then he got in touch with the CSA network and thus the Foundation took on a broader scope. They withdrew 200 ha from their 2000 ha farm and donated the land together with €20,000 into the NPP.
Members of the CSA sit on the NPP’s Board, and this is important for relationship building. It is however still too early to evaluate the role NPP plays in enabling access to land for CSAs. There is no CSA yet on the land of the foundation – it all just started with the vision and establishing the organisation. It is now in the process of becoming operational.