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Toolkit on land grabbing and access to land in Europe

27 April 2017

How did we get to the Own Initiative Report? The struggle against land grabbing and for access to land in Europe

Land concentration and land grabbing are dramatically increasing across Europe. Despite its clear competences on agricultural policy, land use and food security, the EU and many of its member States treat agricultural land as a commodity like any other. This has led to adverse situations around land concentration and land grabbing in Europe where 2.7% of farms (over 100ha) control 50% of arable land.                        

However, most work and production in Europe 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 5ha and the average size is 14.2ha. These small farms are an essential pillar for food production, rural employment and protection of the environment.

Ignoring peasants’ fundamental role, the EU has pushed for direct and indirect land policy at EU and national level that overlook the variety of functions that land play. Public money has supported land concentration through subsidies paid under the Common Agricultural Policy as direct payments, made per hectare, end up benefitting big landowners and exacerbating land inequality.

The absence of clear and fair land regulation at the European level has also facilitated land grabs across Europe for energy production, production of raw material for the food industry, extraction, infrastructure development and other commercial activities at the expense of our food security.

Social movements and peasant movements around Europe have strongly opposed land concentration and land grabbing at the local and national level. The European Coordination Via Campesina together with the Hands on the Land alliance [1] and other producers and Civil Society Organisations, have mobilized at different level to unite local land struggles and to bring the land issue to the door of the EU institutions.

Political mobilization at local, national and transnational level resulted in the approval of the Own Initiative Report: “State of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers?”. This report is the result of a long process which began in 2012 and it is both a victory and a point of departure for small-scale farmers organisations.

How did we get here?

  • 2012: the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) starts mobilising to develop a European strategy on the land issue and to connect the existing land struggles in Europe. ECVC together with the Hands on the Land network start gathering evidence of land concentration and land grabbing in Europe.
  • 2013: ECVC and Hands off the Land network publish a one-of-a-kind report: “Land Concentration, land grabbing and People’s Struggles in Europe” that shows, based on case studies from 12 countries, that land grabbing and access to land have become critical issues in Europe.
  • 2015: A petition is presented before the European Parliament (EP) calling for the management of farmland as our common wealth.
  • 2015: In the same year the EP commissions the Transnational Institute (TNI) to carry out a study to assess the extent of farmland grabbing in the EU, this report is then discussed in the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI).
  • 2015: The Economic and Social Committee of the EU also produces the opinion document “Land grabbing – a warning for Europe and a threat to family farming”.
  • 2016: The land issue is at the centre of discussion. As a result of public pressure, and thanks to the work of some MEPs committed to the cause, the European Parliament (EP) finally decides to take action and starts a process of own initiative report (INI) on land concentration and access to land in the EU.
  • 2016: ECVC members develop their own definition of land grabbing to shed light on the dimension of land grabbing in Europe. This definition is then shared among the members of Nyeleni Europe [2].
  • 2017: The European Parliament adopted an Own Initiative Report on the state of play of farmland concentration in the EU: how to facilitate the access to land for farmers

Other useful documents:
Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, Committee on World Food Security, FAO.
People’s Manual on the Guidelines on Governance of Land, Fisheries and Forests
Land Grabbing and Land Concentration in Europe, Research Brief, TNI and HOTL, 2016.
Land for the few: Infographic

[1] Hands on the Land for Food Sovereignty is a collective campaign by 16 partners. It includes peasants and social movements, development and environmental NGO, human rights organisations and research activists. We aim to raise awareness on the use and governance of land, water and other natural resources and its effects on the realisation of the right to food and food sovereignty. See more: https://handsontheland.net
[2] Nyéléni Europe is the widest international movement aiming to realize food sovereignty in Europe. It aims to build common strategies in order to re-organise the way we structure our society around food and agriculture today. See more: https://nyelenieurope.net/nyeleni-movement

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