Weaving Territory in Gelderland (NL)

In the Dutch province of Gelderland, members of Cultivate! support a network of agroecological food producers. The network has established novel governance arrangements and practical collaborations that weave it together and link it with other societal actors (such as local governments and academics). Access to land is a central focus.

The producers work together on the creation of new markets and pick-up points, the exchange of tools, advocacy on access to land, knowledge and machinery, education, outreach and visibility and agroecological production methods. The network is connected to a growing base of active, engaged citizens organized around access to healthy, sustainable and affordable local food.

Collaboration allows small scale, agroecological food producers to strengthen both their production systems and their political and economic position through direct connections with citizens, in a societal environment that is strongly focused on anonymous, industrial food production and neoliberal markets in which farmers nor citizens have a voice.

Producers, citizens and researchers discuss the direction of the network, September 2020

Access to land

One of the central focuses of many farmers involved in the network is access to land. With the liberalisation of Dutch tenure legislation 90 % of the farmers now have short-term lease contracts. The situation worsened with the coupling of agricultural land to neo-liberal markets, which has led the Netherlands to have one of the highest land prices in Europe. As a result, many farmers are facing land insecurity and their incentive to make long term, sustainable investments, such as soil improvement or the planting of trees, is diminished. a

The network is developing ‘living labs’ for innovative land governance arrangements that decouple land from neo-liberal markets, value sustainable food and agricultural practices and that ensure farmers of a decent livelihood. These living labs are related to 1) better tenure legislation at the provincial, national and EU-levels, 2) new tenure agreements between farmers and landowners (such as the province, nature organisations and estates), and 3) ‘commons’ arrangements, where land is governed by farmers together with the local community. This has been documented as a European example of a grassroots initiative securing land for agroecology, and is further described in the Nyeleni handbook “Your Land, My Land, Our Land”.

The farmers market in Wageningen, with Cultivate’s Chris Chancellor

This work is supported by the provincial government of Gelderland. In addition, national- level connections are very strong. Both StreekWaar and the Gelderse Land Network are focal points of the Dutch food sovereignty platform entitled ‘Voedsel Anders’ (which comprises of active citizens and producers across the country), and the national peasant organisation ‘Toekomstboeren’ (La Via Campesina Netherlands). This allows for continuous interaction with citizen and farmer groups, learning exchanges with initiatives in other regions and political advocacy work on land and food at the national and European levels.

To support this network, Cultivate! employs action-research and supports processes of facilitation, exchange and political advocacy, at regional, national and European levels. Our support aims to gain insight into and boost the further development of these novel territorial land and food governance arrangements.

Contact: Leonardo van den Berg, leonardo[at]cultivatecollective.org