Rural Manifesto for Equality Launched in UK

One of the highlights of this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference (#ORFC2016) was the launch of a rural manifesto by the Landworkers Alliance and Land Magazine. Called Equality in the Countryside: a rural manifesto for the parliamentary opposition, the manifesto was launched  on Wednesday 6th January in the Old Library of Oxford Town Hall.

Rural Manifesto cover by Clifford Harper (c)
Rural Manifesto cover by Clifford Harper (c)

It includes 46 action points, on matters such a housing, land ownership, agriculture and rural employment. These all have the common aim of making Britain’s rural land and resources more accessible to a wider constituency of people. “

Land access, human-scale farming, housing, energy, environmental protection, employment, education and transport are the cornerstones of the document.

The manifesto makes clear the chasm between the wealthy and the poor, especially in the rural setting.

The  British  countryside,  and  more  particularly  lowland England,   is   enjoying   unparalled   prosperity.   Newly-thatched  cottages,  gleaming    Range  Rovers,   300  horse power  tractors,  and  rolling  seas  of  subsidised  wheat  and barley testify that the countryside harbours a great deal of wealth. However this opulence is not shared by everyone who lives there; it masks an obstinate persistence  of age-old  inequalities,  and  a  significant  level  of  what  is  now termed “hidden poverty”.

Impressive in scope, the manifesto considering historical causes, including the Corn Law repeals of 1840, the unfairness of CAP subsidy payments, while also offering lots of very practical solutions to current realities.

The  root  cause  of  the  gap  between  urban  and  rural wages  lies  in  the  fact  that  the  rural  economy,  reliant  on the  dispersed  production  of  primary  commodities,    is vulnerable  to  competition  from  global  markets  and  to aggressive price bargaining from cartels of processors and distributors  (supermarkets)  —  whereas  large  sections  of the urban service economy are immune from these forces. This explains why less than ten per cent of earnings from the UK food industry go to UK farmers and fishermen.

Controversial Guardian columnist George Monbiot emphasised the land and equity point, reminding attendees that the UK was one of the only parts of Europe not to have significant land reform.

A key class distinction the Manifesto spotlighted is the residents vs workers wealth gap. Whereas rural residents earn ÂŁ90 more on average than urban residents, rural workers earn ÂŁ90 less. This was in fact one of the most tweeted tidbits from the conference.

orfc rural wages

Indeed the conference hashtag #ORFC2016 rather incredibly, for what is ostensibly an alternative take on agri-food and the rural issues, trended on twitter.

orfc trending


This former alternative now, it seems, is gaining a higher profile than the other longer running, mainstream Oxford Farming conference. Perhaps the same will soon be said for WirHabenEsSatt (We Are Fed Up) in Berlin January 16th, coming as it does just before Greenweek.

The alternative is becoming mainstream, as farm incomes plummet and public goods fail to get delivered by the CAP.


Rural Parliament Manifesto (2015)

Organic and small-scale: An alternative vision for the future of farming (2016 review of #ORFC2016)

Oliver Moore
About Oliver Moore 188 Articles
DR. Oliver Moore is the communications director and editor-in-chief with ARC2020. He has a PhD in the sociology of farming and food, where he specialised in organics and direct sales. He is published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. A weekly columnist and contributor with Irish Examiner, he is a regular on Countrywide (Irish farm radio show on the national broadcaster RTE 1) and engages in other communications work around agri-food and rural issues, such as with the soil, permaculture, climate change adaptation and citizen science initiative Grow Observatory . He lectures part time in the Centre for Co-operative Studies UCC                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Oliver voyage beaucoup moins qu’auparavant, pour ce qui concerne son activitĂ© professionnelle. Il peut nĂ©anmoins admirer par la fenĂŞtre de son bureau les mĂ©sanges charbonnières et les corbeaux perchĂ©s au sommet du saule dans le jardin de sa maison au cĹ“ur de l’écovillage de Cloughjordan, en Irlande. L’écovillage est un site de 67 acres dans le nord du Tipperary. Il comprend d’espaces boisĂ©s, des paysages comestibles, des lieux de vie, d’habitation et de travail, ainsi qu’une ferme appartenant Ă  la communautĂ©. Les jours oĂą il travaille dans le bureau du centre d’entreprise communautaire, il profite d’une vue sur les chevaux, les panneaux solaires, les toilettes sèches et les jardins familiaux.  Ce bureau au sein de l’écovillage constitue en effet un tiers-lieu de travail accueillant Ă©galement des collaborateurs des associations Cultivate et Ecolise, ainsi qu’un laboratoire de fabrication (« fab lab »).  Oliver est membre du conseil d’administration de la ferme communautaire (pour la seconde fois !) et donne Ă©galement des cours sur le Master en coopĂ©ratives, agroalimentaire et dĂ©veloppement durable Ă  l’University College Cork. Il a une formation en sociologie rurale : son doctorat et les articles qu’il publie dans des journaux scientifiques portent sur ce domaine au sens large. Il consacre la majoritĂ© de son temps de travail Ă  l’ARC 2020. Il collabore avec ARC depuis 2013, date Ă  laquelle l’Irlande a assurĂ© la prĂ©sidence de l’UE pendant six mois. C’est lĂ  qu’il a pu constater l’importance de la politique agroalimentaire et rurale grâce Ă  sa chronique hebdomadaire sur le site d’ARC. Après six mois, il est nommĂ© rĂ©dacteur en chef et responsable de la communication, poste qu’il occupe toujours aujourd’hui. Oliver supervise le contenu du site web et des mĂ©dias sociaux, aide Ă  dĂ©finir l’orientation de l’organisation et parfois mĂŞme rĂ©dige un article pour le site web.  Ă€ l’époque oĂą on voyageait davantage, il a eu la chance de passer du temps sous les tropiques, oĂą il a aidĂ© des ONG irlandaises de commerce Ă©quitable – au Ghana, au Kenya, au Mali, en Inde et au Salvador – Ă  raconter leur histoire.  Il se peut que ces jours-lĂ  reviennent. Pour son compte Oliver continuera de prĂ©fĂ©rer naviguer en Europe par bateau, puis en train. Après tout, la France n’est qu’à une nuit de navigation. En attendant, il y a toujours de nombreuses possibilitĂ©s de bĂ©nĂ©volat dans la communautĂ© dans les campagnes du centre de l’Irlande.