Land use has always mattered in Wales, and we invited people to join a conversation on January 11th 2024 about managing land in Wales in ways that benefit our economy, communities and the environment. Four speakers presented developments from widely varying perspectives.
Carwyn Graves, author and speaker on Welsh food traditions, set the scene, showing how much of Wales is used now for farming and forestry (about 95%), how land described as “less favourable” can produce lots of food using regenerative methods, and how little of our fruit and veg is produced in Wales (in single percentage points). See more about Carwyn’s research on his blog https://carwyngraves.com
Sion Brackenbury of Soil Solutions https://terraffix.co.uk/ spoke about his company’s innovative products to repair damaged soil and help plants grow in difficult locations. Biomass in Wales includes primary biomass like forestry residues, and secondary like waste materials including wood, cardboard and organic waste. His company works to make these part of a lifecycle of carbonisation and sequestration opportunities, providing new products, energy generation, carbon sequestration, habitat restoration, circular use of materials.
Ken Moon is chair of the Pontypridd Land Society, and is on a mission to help communities come together to own and use land for everyone’s benefit. He spoke about several crises coming together – the climate crisis, the extinction crisis, the cost of living crisis and the crisis of governance – making it critical to secure land for community uses like growing, green spaces, energy, woodlands and housing. Legislation in Scotland shows that the balance of power can shift toward community use. He showed how some communities in Wales, like Cardigan, are making changes despite not having a community right to bid. Find out more on their website https://membermojo.co.uk/tirpontypridd .
And Helen Lucocq , a senior planner from Bannau Brycheiniog National Park showed us how the park is using doughnut economics to foster the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities within the park. She showed the big shifts needed, including shifting land management and the economy from extractive to regenerative and circular. They are trying to remove some of the planning ‘barriers’ in order to increase food production diversity.
Discussions included why land owned by NHS Wales was being allowed to lay waste; that future soil fertility is an issue that few politicians discuss; that a radical change is needed towards horticulture, permaculture and mixed farms requiring less input and away from large industrial farms; that multiple permaculturists around the world are making productive land considered ’not croppable’. One said they would stop talking about the cost-of-living crisis, and instead talk about the cost-of-profit crisis instead.
Several books were recommended by speakers and participants:
Jon Alexander Citizens https://www.jonalexander.net/ Terrific book. Time to shift from being treated as consumers, but become citizens. The work the New Citizenship project are doing on this is excellent.
Nick Hayes The Book of Trespass is a really good book about the story of land ownership and access. Sadly lacking on info from Cymru though.
Jason Hickel Less is More has a good analysis of the historical land grabs and their extension into empire and colonisation. Via his website you can subscribe to Jason’s updates.
Guy Standing Plunder of the Commons https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/308407/plunder-of-the-commons-by-standing-guy/9780141990620 rewriting the charter of the forests/ the commons