Access To Land

How to upscale innovative land practices in Europe?

Over the past two years, several members of the Access to land network have explored innovative solutions to facilitate access to land for farmers as a way to contribute to generational renewal and sustainable rural development in Europe. In May 2022, we published the last of a series of three research reports on the issue. It focuses on ways to upscale innovative land practices in Europe. It directly follows on our January 2021 report which explores 10 land innovations in the making. These reports are all part of a Horizon 2020 project called Ruralization, wherein our organisations collaborate with some 10 universities and research institutions.

This new report synthesises insights from 10 focus groups held across Europe in 2022, which discussed in detail innovative approaches to accessing land, and considered how these approaches might be applied in various local contexts. It also provides an overview of a large number of "solutions for access to land for new farmers": it describes the reasons and contexts for their implementation, their objectives and potential levers as well as provides illustrative practices for each of them.

Highlights on solutions for access to land for new generations.

Due to the insufficiency of national or EU-wide policies supporting access to land for new farmers, a wide range of grassroots solutions have emerged to support new generations onto the land. In most cases, these solutions have been designed and implemented by farmers, civil society organisations or local authorities.

The report outlines four main categories of these grassroots solutions:

  • "Acting on the land": where new practices focus on specific types of land that are easier to access than land on the open market – e.g. public land, commons, community-owned land or under-used land.
  • "Supporting specific profiles": where practices support specific groups of people – i.e. new farmers coming from a non-farming family as well as groups underrepresented in mainstream farming (e.g. women, minorities, migrants).
  • "Prioritizing specific uses": where practices support farmers contributing to social benefits or public goods of some kind – e.g. food production for local markets or land stewardship.
  • "Addressing the knots": where practices recognise that new generations of farmers are increasingly different from previous generations and offer solutions to specific problems such as lowering the costs of entry or supporting non-family farm succession.

Transferring and upscaling social innovation on land.

The report highlights the fact that stakeholders need to use all three levels of scaling to effect change: new territories and new target groups (scaling up), an impact on structural laws and aspects of the context (scaling out), an impact on ways of thinking and cultural habits and norms (scaling deep). When thinking about applying innovations in adverse contexts, the focus groups identified the importance of rooting and anchoring projects locally, while connecting and diversifying across sectors and contexts.

Recommendations on land innovations

The report highlights the need to reverse the logics of “who” transfers innovation, and to reverse the linear conception of the transfer of innovation. Innovations are not directly transferred from the innovating organisation into new contexts, rather local actors take inspiration and innovation from elsewhere and “cobble it together” within their local contexts, at a time that suits their contexts. This holds implications for public policy, in that it is important to fund long term communities of actors (like the A2L network) and multi-stakeholder systems to foster this communication and transfer of innovations, rather than funding one-off knowledge transfer projects. This funding should cross regional and national boundaries.

The last section of the report also outlines other general recommendations and more thematic recommendations linked to public land, community-owned land, land stewardship and farm succession (the themes discussed in the focus groups).

This new publication is still awaiting approval by the European Commission and is for now available for download as a draft report.


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