The need for proper land reform

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

agrarian1For food security and biodiversity the large industrial farms need to be broken up – and the same goes for the many large unproductive feudal estates in Britain – and the land given over to smallholders and those who wish to be such who will be able to produce much larger quantities of diverse foods on such places. The dachas in Russia are but one but a prime example for this.

As shown the Russian smallholdings in the form of dachas with land of one hectare (approx. 2.5 acres) are feeding the nation and provide some 80% of all fruit and vegetables sold and consumed in that country. It is not the large industrial farms, at least not as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, that feed the country but the dachas. When it comes to corn that may be a different story though many of those smallholdings also grow a variety of corn, but mostly for their own use.

The large industrial farms have far too large an environmental footprint, for one, and are thus more or less unsustainable and in addition to that also – often because of too much monoculture – they do not seem to be up to the job of feeding the nation. The latter is probably also due to the fact that much of what they produce is geared at export and foreign markets.

In addition, as already indicated, there are the large feudal estates – at least in Britain – whether “royal” ones or those of lords, dukes and barons, often primarily aimed at shooting sports that produce little or nothing in way of food and also do but little for the local rural economy. Those need to be broken up also, as indicated, and the land given over to people willing to farm those lands for the good of the nation, and the same goes for the woods to be worked for the good of the nation and the (local) economy.

Time and again, however, the British government, and that of the USA, insist that small farms and especially organic farming could never feed the growing population of the world despite the fact that the United Nations have said that only small farms, and in most cases this will mean growing food organically, can ever feed the world. They have also come out strongly against genetically modified organism, and so have plant scientists, stating that they can never feed the world, as it is being claimed and that they are dangerous, in fact.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proverb goes, and the proof of the pudding is the dacha system in Russia which proves that small farms, and even very small farms, can do just that, namely put the food on the table, and in the case of Russia against all odds, in the form of sanctions the USA has imposed, and forced the EU to also impose, on Russia.

Many of us need to get back to the land and into the woods and many would like to do just that, and be able to make a living that way, but lack the means to do so. Proper land reform could enable thousands upon thousands to do just that and that many additional farmers would bring enough food on the home markets for all.

Especially with regards to the feudal estates, and they are feudal estates, make no mistake about it, which are, in the main, the most unproductive pieces of land in Britain. The majority of the land of those estates are used only for sporting – sorry, I am almost laughing here – purposes, which means for the hunting (another joke) of game birds or other, such as deer, and are managed almost exclusively for that purpose and that purpose only.

Where the land really is not great – or even marginal, as it is often called – for farming, especially as regards to growing food in the form of fruit and vegetables, then this land, which actually may be wooded, should me managed as woodlands, by individuals and cooperatives, which means being distributed to the people, for the people, in the same way as parcels of land for small farms.

At the same time the law must be changed so as to make it possible for the people working such parcels of land or woods to erect a dwelling and other necessary building there so that they may live there also. But that would simply have to go hand in hand with the land reform itself.

Such redistribution of land and woods to those who are going to work it would also repopulate the countryside, including the villages themselves, and reinvigorate the local economy.

The countryside in Britain, and elsewhere, no doubt, is not just being depopulated; some seem to believe that it needs to become a preserve and reserve rather than a working landscape and thus therefore no houses should be possible on small plots of agricultural and forestry land. It must be a green area free of anyone living there, on the lands and in the woods. But there was a time when there were more people living in the countryside than there were actually living in the towns and cities and the countryside was thriving and it must become that way again. That, however, can only come to pass when we return to small farming and woodland operations and local businesses making use of the produce from such plots of land.

The way things are going at this very moment, however, in Britain and elsewhere in western Europe, leads to a flight of people, especially the young ones, from the countryside to the towns and cities as there are – one – no jobs in the countryside and – two – if there are then there no homes for those that would and could be working in those occupations. Villages are dying – or have become simply more or less dormitories for those working in the cities – and local schools, pubs, shops and post offices are closed down for lack of support. This needs to change in the same way that farming and forestry needs to change (again).

© 2016