The question of land is central to the concept of Food Sovereignty. According to the United Nations a main cause of hunger and malnutrition is the lack of access to land. The fact that an increasing number of peasant are being driven away from their lands and that they provide 70% of our food, not only represents a danger to local food systems, but to global ones as well.
In Europe, the lengthy siege against small and family farms by states and corporations has led to a situation where 2.7% of farms are over 100ha and control 50% of arable land. However, most of the work and production is carried out on small and very small farms. Europe has 12 million farms, with 25 million people involved in agricultural production. 69% of farms have less than 5 ha and the average size is 14.2ha. These small farms are an essential pillar of rural employment, production and equality.
One of the drivers of the increasing European land grab and land concentration is the subsidies paid under the Common Agricultural Policy, which explicitly favour large land holdings, marginalise small farms, and block entry by prospective farmers by driving up land prices. Other drivers for land grabs have come from the extractive industry, urban sprawl, real estate interests, tourism enclaves, and other commercial undertakings.
Land needs to be regulated again as a public good. We must reduce the commodification of land and instead promote its public management. Priority should be given to the use of land for smallholder and peasant agriculture and food production, rather than handing over land to those private property commercial interests who seek land for speculation and ever increasing concentration of wealth.
ECVC insists in the need for land reform in Europe, more precisely for a European Directive on Land Tenure based on the Voluntary Guidelines endorsed by the Committee of World Food Security; our current participation with 16 European organisations, including peasant movements, environmental, and human rights groups, in the Hands on the Land campaign targets just that.