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puce Editorial 18 September 2012
Special Issue : Rural Land Issues in France
Lisa Gauvrit

The association AGTER runs an international network of people, exchanging and thinking together how to improve the governance of land, water and natural resources. The network selects and makes information available but it also formulates suggestions and alternatives to face the current great challenges. A quaterly newsletter presents the latest information available on our website : www.agter.asso.fr. Each newsletter is introduced with an editorial written by a member of AGTER’s network.

Land control has become a crucial governance issue at all geographical scales. Everywhere in the world, land use has been intensifying and the competition around access to land has increased. Altogether this raises the question of the quality of some public land policies which appear to be overcome by the rapidity of the phenomena they are supposed to regulate.

Even if nowadays land issues appear to be more intensive and severe, they are indeed not new. On the contrary they are continuously renewed according to changing contexts. That is why it remains relevant to look back at some land policies that have been designed and implemented in the past in specific historical contexts. This does not imply that these policies were perfect nor that they are models that can be applied to the current context. Indeed, in order to understand why they emerged and the scope of their implementation, they have to be assessed taking into account the context in which they were embedded. Such an assessment can be very insightful to understand the current debate. Even more, because of their originality and innovation, these past policies can become a source of inspiration for the policy makers of today.

AGTER has been investigating for several months the rural land policies which emerged in France after World War II and which have accompanied the modernization of agriculture in the French countryside. These policies have reached their objective of transforming rural territories as well as the French society as a whole and they are specifically insightful with respect to two aspects. On the one hand, they have contributed to shaping a family agricultural sector with relatively small family farms in comparison with what happened in other countries around the world. On the other hand, both the design and implementation of these policies were characterized by an intensive involvement of the peasantry. However, in the current context of economic liberalization, these policies have been increasingly challenged leading to a concentration in the control of land, a disappearance of the smallest farms and a decrease in cultivated areas.

This special issue contains the first short papers written by AGTER with respect to these issues. These papers are the foundations of a broader pedagogical file about rural land policies in France after World War II. This file is the result of a collective effort which started with an internship realized by Gwenaëlle Mertz in 2010 and continued with the involvement of a work group composed by experts and members of AGTER. More precisely, the papers describe the context where the policies were embedded when they were designed, they show some original proposals and they shed a light on particularly emblematic measures. Our objective is to enrich the debate about the design and implementation of contemporary rural land policies in France and abroad. Therefore, comments, critiques and observations are welcome. They will be the basis to initiate a discussion that will be broadened towards different social sectors in order to formulate a set of new policy proposals.

Lisa Gauvrit is a member of AGTER

This special issue contains new articles published since May 2012 and the whole file about rural land policies in France (only available in French at the moment)

The French, Spanish, and English articles and videos that we present here differ.

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