Agri co-ops join initiative to address land abandonment in Valencia

A number of co-op federations are members of a group set up by the Ministry of Agriculture to tackle the problem

A co-operative solution is being considered for the problem of abandoned farm land in Valencia, Spain.

Land left derelict, along with a lack competitiveness in region’s the agricultural sector, particularly in citrus, fruit, dry fruit and vineyards, is a growing concern and now the Ministry of Agriculture is looking at ways to address the situation.

One of the solutions envisioned in the scheme, which has European funding, is setting up agri co-operatives to manage land collaboratively.

The project has led to the formation of the Group for Social Innovation and Management of Lands (INNOLAND, which includes a number of co-operative federations and other organisations.

On 3 October INNOLAND hosted a workshop at the Palacio de los Mercader, the headquarters of the Federation of agri food co-operatives in Valencia. Over 40 people took part in the session, sharing their experiences and views on the issue of social innovation in land management.

When plots of land are abandoned, it hurts the production capacity of co-ops, their offer capacity and their competitiveness within their own markets. Tourism is also indirectly affected by the phenomenon.

If abandoned plots are identified and managed, co-operatives can increase production and better plan it to meet their clients’ needs.The project falls in line with a legislative initiative of the Valencian autonomous government designed to prevent land abandonment.

The workshop featured three case studies from co-ops across the region – Rural co-operative San Vicente Ferrer de Benaguasil, the Agri Co-operative of Pego (Coopego) and the Oleícola Serrana del Palancia Co-operative (Viver).

Participants looked at some of the challenges faced and the potential solutions.

One of the conclusions reached was that co-operatives should not wait for landowners to offer their land. Instead they agreed to work with town and provincial councils to detect plots of land that might respond to the needs of the co-ops, in accordance with a planning strategy set out in advance. The strategy could include common protocols for cultivation and contracts for the assignment of plots.

They also discussed the need to have advanced settlements included in the contracts. The co-ops agreed to meet with groups of landowners and discuss their plans presenting potential results.

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