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The agricultural area available in the province of Barcelona can feed only 10% of its population


Agrarian parks are spaces for agricultural production, within an agri-food system. Its preservation, despite being part of a key sector, has traditionally been low and, therefore, sufficient land reserves have not been generated to ensure that the agri-food system can function properly, as stated by Josep A. Báguena, president of the Catalan Society for Spatial Planning. For this reason, Báguena claimed urban plans that include agricultural parks as a substantive element in the configuration of space in our urban and peri-urban environments. Metropolitan agrarian spaces are spaces to be preserved through urban planning instruments and through spatial planning policies.

The importance of preserving agricultural parks was the message that prevailed in these debate sessions organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation with the support of the Club of Rome and Fundación la Caixa, which had the participation of Josep A. Báguena and a panel of debate with Olivier Chantry, responsible for biodiversity and climate of the Unió de Pagesos del Baix Llobregat; Sònia Callau, head of the Agrarian Territorial Directorate, O.T. Municipal Prevention of Forest Fires and Agrarian Development, Area of ??Infrastructures and Natural Spaces of the Diputació de Barcelona and Antoni Enjuanes, Deputy Director General of Rural Infrastructures, Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Generalitat de Catalunya. The session was moderated by journalist Anna Grimau.

Currently, the Metropolitan Area of ??Barcelona consists of 5 agricultural parks, the Baix Llobregat Agrarian Park, the Baix Tordera Agrarian Space, the Gallecs Rural Space, the Sabadell Agrarian Park and the Agrarian Space in the surroundings of Mataró. There are also other agricultural parks close to the metropolitan area that have a certain autonomy in their operation, such as the Montserrat Rural Park, the Conca d'Òdena Agrarian Park or the Acequia de Manresa Agrarian Park. Of these, only 16% have achieved a high degree of protection from urban planning. Furthermore, in the Demarcation of Barcelona, ??77% of the existing agricultural area is not included in any of these agricultural areas. All of this adds up to a loss of 42% of farmland in the last 70 years due to urbanization processes and the abandonment of some of the land.

Some data

The demarcation of Barcelona requires 3,5000 m2 of cultivation per person to be able to feed it over the course of a year. Currently, this province has 203,000 hectares of agricultural land that can feed about 600,000 people each year, or about 10% of the population. In order to supply the public with fresh and local food, the demarcation of Barcelona should multiply by 7 the area devoted to fruits and vegetables and by 10 that of cereals and other crops.

Protect, regulate and guarantee the generational succession of agricultural parks

Sònia Callau, head of the Territorial Agrarian Directorate of the Barcelona Provincial Council, has been optimistic about the evolution of agricultural parks. “The problems are real, but seen in perspective, there have been many improvements, 21 years after the creation of the Baix Llobregat agricultural park. For Callau, agricultural parks have a triple function. On the one hand, to protect the agricultural ground. A function that is still poorly established, as it recognizes that, of the 8 existing agricultural parks, many do not have specific ground protection. And even more, in the period of creation of the agricultural park of the Baix Llobregat, which lasted 6 years, between 400 and 500 hectares of agricultural land were lost. Secondly, the parks must be a space for governance, where all the agents involved can find a space for debate. And, thirdly, it must be used to seek the complicity of the citizens. 

According to Olivier Chantry, head of biodiversity and climate at the Unió de Pagesos del Baix Llobregat, agricultural parks are important, but so is the fight against the precariousness of agriculture through resilient farming projects. In this sense, generational change is paramount, which should be articulated through re-enterprise plans. Chantry argues that in a climate emergency scenario, ensuring food self-sufficiency will be key. Therefore, Chantry proposes the creation of a public land bank that will be managed through the administrations. In this sense, Callau assures that from the Barcelona Provincial Council up to 3 land banks are being promoted throughout the demarcation in order to facilitate the introduction of new farming. "These banks are a single-window intermediation tool between an owner who owns land and does not cultivate it, or wants to retire, and a young person who wants to work in the agricultural sector," explains Sònia Callau. Antoni Enjuanes, Deputy Director General of Rural Infrastructures, also explains that a regulation is being developed that provides for the recovery of disused land and making it available to those who want to start an agricultural activity. But for Enjuanes, "it is necessary to put more emphasis on re-enterprise than on the recovery of disused land, because it is easier to incorporate a young person into a company that is already operating than to create a new company."