A new piece of research, conducted by an intern from Oxford University, which analysed the benefits of community-led land management has found that 38 plots of land across Oxfordshire are being activity managed and maintained by members of the Community Action Group (CAG) Network. This land amounts to approximately 122,000m2 or 30 acres.
Twenty-five of these plots are productive land being used to grow food including community gardens, edible beds, orchards, allotments and farms. The total productivity of the plots in terms of food production could be valued at around £170,000 over two years*.
Communities managing land in this way means reduced food costs for communities, lower food miles, and use of smaller-scale sustainable practices which encourage biodiversity and reduce soil degradation.
Twelve plots are used as green spaces such as wildflower meadows, community woodlands, footpaths, conservation areas and church yards, which are managed by CAGs to increase biodiversity of species and habitats.
Of these plots 16 are in or nearby to a Conservation Target Area as identified in the Oxfordshire County Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan, where it has been highlighted that targeted conservation will have the most benefit on species and habitats.
Four CAGs manage land which falls into areas with high environmental quality deprivation scores (greater than 7 where 10 is the 10% most deprived area) which may indicate high levels of pollution and poor air quality as well as access to green space. Three of these are in Oxford City and one is in Banbury. The value of community land management in these areas is particularly significant as it increases access to green space for local residents and improves air quality.
In the financial year 2016-17, there were over 1,600 volunteer hours put into managing these green spaces which is equal to a value of over £20,000.
Volunteers at these projects believe that community management of land strengthened and enhanced the life of Oxfordshire’s communities through:
- Economic benefits in terms of the value of produce, as well as the development of knowledge and skills.
- Social benefit from aiding community cohesion, increasing pride in the local area and giving people the opportunity to make a positive contribution.
- Benefits to health & wellbeing from giving people the opportunity to socialise and keep active. Many studies have shown the benefits to both physical and mental health of physical exercise in the outdoors.
- Educational benefit as many groups collaborate with schools or children’s groups to aid learning about the environment.
The full report can be read here.
The infographic can be downloaded here.
*This calculation is based on a Sustain report (Reaping Rewards 2014) which estimated that the productivity of an urban food-growing project in London was on average £3.50 per square meter over two years.