Event 23 November at 18:00 - 19:30 CET
The purpose of this event is to learn about initiatives (new and ongoing) which are contributing to rural re-development by actions taken by people, communities, cities and other stakeholders.
To join, please Register by leaving a comment below. Tell us why you are interested in this topic: are you or your friends moving to a rural area or starting a project there? who should be supporting revitalisation of the countryside? should we rely on our politicians or can we, as a community, help ourselves out of this crisis situation where local food is not enough available or too expensive to produce sustainably?
We will send the link to the Zoom meeting one day before the event.
The event follows our session from a few weeks ago on Food localisation. Participants made important points: we need to better support and acknowledge the Farmer; it is difficult to produce local food and set the prices right so that local or organic products are also affordable for the masses; and above all, the question arised: how can we make local food more widespread? and more generally, how can more capacity be built in rural areas?
Here is what others are saying about the urban - rural gap and how we could support closing the gap.
Rural areas are not attractive, not vibrant. How could we have more farmers or do more farming?
The first ideas were shared by Irene who talked about ‘neo-rurals’ here, and this was mentioned again during the session on Food localisation. @lylycarrillo asked this too. @Vladb: You need to have more than farms in the rural areas. Services, but also entertainment. I don’t want to drive one hour to have that. In order for young farmers to come to rural areas, you need to offer them more than just a plot of land. You need education tailored to students in each category.
The need to build new business models in rural farming
@FrankDieters, civil servant: In Holland, you have a big gap between large scale farmers (who have invested a lot in scale up) and the smaller community, they can’t compete with the prices. We don’t want to lose those farmers, they are more than food producers: they take care of the landscape, they produce also social value. You can’t put that in money. Big companies come in, and they don’t look at the value of the community. When the land is depleted, they go off to the next one.
I’m thinking about the system change from within. What we do is we say: we’re going to help those farmers. How is your farm doing? How is your business model built? What challenges are around you and how can we make that into a money maker for you? For example, if you have landscape elements we give you subsidies to keep them there. We are going to help you put innovative solutions in your companies, through subsidies, and also together with the banks.
How do members of the minority relate to farming? Is rural a point of divide if we think about nationalism?
@Dragan_Jonic: a few days ago we visited a community of young farmers [in Serbia]. Much of their land is earmarked for being repurposed into construction land, on which Rio Tinto will build tailings deposits. And the „lucky ones” wil get a hefty reward which they don’t want, while the others around will get only poison and pollution. I feel like not living in a European country.
@Dubravka: I’m half Serbian and half Croatian. Concerning my country, there is a problem of nationalism. But in the area of farming, I don’t think you would have a problem.
The problem in Serbia is that young people are not interested in farming. The University and Dpt. of Agriculture has less and less students every year.
@Paco21 : It starts getting very complicated when you have other economical issues. In Southern Europe, you have people coming from Morocco etc. during the harvesting. They are using the labor that is cheaper. The level is: how to produce at a very low cost. But you don’t have that everywhere, and in Belgium you have to pay people higher salaries, so people are moving from Spain to Northern Europe for better income, and Moroccans move to Spain for the same reason. The backlash is then not a question of racism, but a more complex situation.
For someone considering a career in farming who is a minority, how are they welcomed in such rural communities ex: in Poland or Serbia? Is it different from in the cities?
@Dragan_Jonic: A few years ago, we tried to engage some young refugees from Pakistan and Afghanistan passing through Serbia in urban farming (garden community „Baštalište” near Belgrade). With not much success, unfortunately. They came twice and left, their mentor should’ve worked harder on their motivation. I mean, it’s not that I don’t understand them. They didn’t come from farming communities, couldn’t recognise plants. It needed a lot of work. Not to mention mosquitoes and hauling canisters of water.
We speak digital and most farmers in Serbia think analogue. Footwork, footwork, footwork and empathy. At least in my country, that’s the only way. We’re establishing informal networks, too - between the end users and farmers
@JohnCoate: how much migrant labor is used in Europe? For example, California depends on it. @jasen_lakic: A lot of Eastern Europeans work in France, Germany etc…they come as seasonal workers. @Wolha: For example Ukrainian workers are picking up strawberries in Poland
’Human potential is a huge problem’. What can citizens do themselves?
Jasen: Human potential is a huge problem, right now migration reached such a bad point in many Croatian regions that it is hard to start a rural business…no workers are even available.
@MariaEuler: My great uncle is a farmer in Germany, so were my grandparents. My great uncle had to transfer the farm to his 20 year old son because they needed the support that was given in subsidies to young farmers. Family structures can get important and complicated via this. Does not necessarily fit with modern family structures and live plans, people have to make decisions early to keep their family farms alive. On a neighbouring farm the daughter who works on the farm has split from her husband, but he is part of the farm and can not be paid out, so they need to keep working together. Anachronistic structures develop this way (this is in rural Germany).
Jasen: We fought 2 years to have roads built, electricity and water connected to 3 remote villages near mine in Croatia…
the problem is “there are no people, so how to justify the investment”. How do we bring people without the infrastructure?
Dragan: In Serbia, not much of public incentives for young people to come back. On the other hand, some are returning, but because of something else. Because of environmental protests in the area. Maria: Maybe a problem for the coming back and using support for young people is also that investments do not necessarily grow and be paid out again afterwards, so decisions need to be final. While a flat or business in a urban area can easier be sold of and refinanced again. Their idea of committing early to a long-term life plan is hard for young people today.
There is a relationship between citizen engagement, citizen empowerment on different levels which expands the space for what can be done to make rural living more viable and attractive
Nadia: Informal decentralised approaches towards these communities is crucial. Frank: the empowerment, engagement and reconstruction of a relations. Jasen: Yes, the human potential is everything and can take care of most issues locally. I believe a big part of return to rural areas would be change in understanding that not everyone in rural areas needs to be a farmer…we can transform the countryside really. Dragan: Decentralisation as a strategy for tackling dysfunctional political systems/ corruption. In Serbia it worked. Mobilise people within 30 minutes. Nadia: This could be interesting thing to look at also, communication infrastructure that is resilient and autonomous.
Ongoing conversations you can join before the session on 23 November:
How is the event financed?
This event is part of the POPREBEL initiative, funded by the European Commission under grant agreement number 822682 from 2019-2021. This conversation is hosted by Edgeryders, in partnership with University College London (United Kingdom), University Karlova (the Czech Republic), University Jagiellonski (Poland), University of Belgrade (Serbia). Learn more about the project here.