Since about 9 months, 25 workers have occupied public land in Andalusia, Southern Spain, in a place called Somonte. The farm is 400 ha large, with about 4o ha being cultivated by the occupants at the time. The occupation is a reaction on the dire economic situation of the people living in the region, with about 30% unemployed. The regional government plans to sell 20.000 ha of public land to commercial investors or, even more probable, to speculators. Much of the land in the region lies fallow, land owners profit from EU subsidies, often for doing nothing.
Occupants aim at the development of organic, locally adapted agriculture, with considerable support from groups based in Cordoba. In the meatime, 650 trees and shrubs have been planted with the help of voluntary workers, and a fruit orchard of 2,5 ha is planned.
Political discussions are an integral part of the occupation. Thus in December 2012, there was a meeting in Somonte of occupied villages and other similar projects. There was an innovative element in it in so far as workers oriented activists rooted in a tradition of struggles found common ground with dropouts oriented toward alternative lifestyles.
Somonte is not a completely new kind of approach, because land struggles are part of Andalusias history. However, it has the potential to show a new direction for struggles in a time of deep crisis.
The regional government refrains from evicting occupants, fearing negative political repercussions. On the other hand, legalizing the squat seems to be risky, too, from the standpoint of the government. Ironically, Somonte is the result of a legal expropriation of former land owners in 1983 for social reasons. The aim was to create jobs in agriculture.
We are convinced that it is necessary to support the project with all our strength. Otherwise this hopeful experience, which has begun to shine beyond the local context, may be destroyed. In this grave crisis, which is getting hold of ever more European countries, we must not accept that
says Nicholas Bell, reporting from a visit in Somonte in the recent edition of “Archipel”, the journal of Forumcivique