Land redistributions in Denmark: can agricultural exceptionalism produce multifunctional landscapes? : An analysis of the Multifunctional Land Redistribution Fund and its likely implications for future land use in Denmark

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: This thesis examines the Multifunctional Land Redistribution Fund, launched in March 2020 by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food, and the outcomes this policy may propel. The Fund takes aim at multiple issues of sustainability related to land use: biodiversity loss, groundwater contamination, nutrient leaching, and rural development. The Fund is to serve as a pilot project for large-scale land redistributions during the next decade and will therefore likely have implications for how land use change is approached in Denmark in the years to come. Semi-structured interviews were combined with document analysis in order to uncover the perceived benefits and disadvantages of the policy and to explore who stands to benefit from the Fund. The concept of multifunctionality is used in different paradigms and consequently can take on a variety of meanings. This thesis places these paradigms along two axes: the continuum of land sharing and land sparing, and the dichotomy of agricultural exceptionalism and agricultural normalism. The analysis finds that the Fund employs an understanding of multifunctionality as a partially advanced form of agricultural exceptionalism that seeks to address both negative and positive externalities of agriculture but remains fundamentally exceptionalist in its view of the sector. While the Fund is inspired by bottom- up and community led processes, it does not offer any funding for facilitation of community deliberations or for implementation of project elements other than the redistribution of land ownership. Neither is the Fund concerned with land use intensity or management after redistribution, and the substantial overlap between the criteria used for weighing project proposals, further increases the risk that the redistributions will mainly serve narrow interests such as consolidation of agricultural properties with a minimal increase in landscape multifunctionality. It is concluded that the Fund primarily serves as an indirect form of compensation for landowners who stand to incur costs associated with general regulation. The design of the Fund heavily favours the landowners’ role in reaching consensus, which will likely constrain other stakeholders’ influence. The concrete outcomes of the policy may have negative implications for environmental and social sustainability, and should therefore be reviewed as soon as the first project proposals have been accepted.

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