This rural to urban migration is unsustainable, we all know it. It raises a huge number of socio economic issues, which impact our quality of life in so many ways. Two biggest I see are health and finances. Those two are some of the pillars of our wellbeing but they are all connected.
For me, if a person is healthy and has financial stability, it starts growing and thinking of others. Society as the last pillar would be us, being useful and contributing to the community much more, forging stronger relationships.
A lot of people voiced their concerns about life in rural areas. Lack of infrastructure, not enough entertainment or cultural activities, much less intense social life, for many it is lack of job opportunities etc…this really shows the difficulty in bringing younger people in.
When I see abandoned lands and ruins, I see an opportunity to create something different. It’s like a second chance, as every village could become a town, and later some kind of a city…OR NOT. Why not create new models for future?
When I see small villages, with mainly older population and limited young population, I see potential for learning and growth.
There is abundance in our deserted or low populated countryside but it all revolves around human potential. In current state, it is also our biggest obstacle.
The issue I see nowadays is that the villages we imagine today are the villages we see when we go on vacation and the villages we see in the movies (rednecks in the only village cafe, drinking themselves to death, looking to beat somebody up, few teenagers dreaming of promises in big cities…you literally hear the loneliness in the winds outside and smell the cow manure).
@irene_1 touched that point here
Those a great points and I will expand on them further.
Here is the standard village model today (the prevalent one):
The issue here is, it’s hard to attract young people as they have legitimate concerns, which I put as basic prerequisite of infrastructure, health and activities. Human potential is everything.
No human potential, no use of available resources, no core village economy and no potential of growing and diversifying it.
In this very moment there are tens of thousands of rural entrepreneurs all over Europe, trying to start or expand their activities, and they cannot even find somebody to work with. On the other hand, we have so many unemployed people in big cities.
I tried to build a solution for that, didn’t work out but not because it wasn’t needed . It deserves a separate post, which I will create as promised @MariaEuler
There is absolutely no reason why the above model should be the one to follow or limit ourselves to. There are infinite possibilities available now, here are just some of them
That is why I will go back to Irene’s way of thinking, as I have been in that same boat for years… switching between Brussels and Croatian rural areas. That kind of lifestyle is quite compatible too, if you are not planning serious projects in the countryside which require a lot of attention.
I have a company in Brussels. My illustrators are from Poland and Russia, graphic designers are from Poland and Serbia, narrator from UK, animator UK + me, manufacturing Germany for most of it, some parts Poland and Lithuania, prototypes or demanding custom parts production is in China. Some prototypes and custom pieces are made in Brussels too. Product reviewers/content creators are all over the world. Shirts illustrator is in Serbia, manufacturer is in UK, flyers are made in Holland, banners in Belgium, stall walls for fairs made in Italy. My testers are in Belgium, Serbia and Croatia.
I have never met most of them, some I met once or twice (only testers I meet regularly).
This is just one small company. Do you see now why today we can do so much more from the rural areas as well? My company could just as well be anywhere.
There will always be people enjoying work in nature and with nature, me being one of them. They can produce higher quality food which we would pay much less if we lived in the neighborhood.
What rural areas need are people who see there is no limit to what they can do. People who can bring different perspectives, experiences, knowledge and skills the rural regions so badly need.
Imagine the innovation if you would have all these people living in villages or small towns, talking and working with the farmers and local craftsmen and mixing their experiences to find new solutions for old problems…or relearn old solutions for new problems?
What I encounter today are just few people like that in villages, or none at all. People with great insight and vision, but they literally have nobody to talk to. I share some of my ideas with them, to help them or often just hear their ideas on the subject, and end up staying so much more. They don’t want to let me leave and always thank me so much for such a great conversation, which they cannot usually have. That shows us the states of villages and why they greatly need migration of young professionals from the cities.
Even if we started with a small coworking/coliving settlement and none of us specifically wanted to be a farmer, there are so many solutions:
- Well we would have to be really isolated not to have access to food we could simply buy
- We could easily have shared gardens, there are so many examples of that. Even better, create shared permaculture gardens, which are mostly self sustainable ecosystems requiring much less effort. We could have everything we need with each of us having to contribute few hours of work in it per week.
- We could make an open call for people to join us, specifically people who would enjoy doing something like that. They would have a guaranteed market next door . It’s a fact people come and stay when they feel the right environment for prospering, just like any other organism on this planet.
Considering the current evolution of remote working, much worse living conditions in urban areas and fragility of the system which will be exposed as of next year if this continues, I expect a lot of people will move or want to move to rural areas.
I would look to be in a 30 min range by car to a nearby city, just as the village of my grandparents is from my home town, Zadar.
If you move around Brussels, there are high chances you will be moving for 30 minutes , so again it is really just a matter of perspective.
I also can travel via Zadar airport to so many places, the world is small today
Also, as @nadia already said, cultural activities or sports etc depend only of us, the human potential. As the communities like this one would grow, so would opportunities for every kind of activity.
Right now there is a lot of money being funneled towards rural development and innovation. Internet has been recognised long time ago as basic human right and we see the evolution today. It is possible to have a high speed internet in so many more rural areas than 3-4 years ago. There is money, there are opportunities, the biggest obstacles are lack of knowledge, shift in paradigm needed, and sometimes it is the lack of local will.
From what I saw in Croatia, 90% of the local managing authorities will support you if you present the project in the right way and involve the locals from the start. They always look for an angle for them, of course, so compromises have to be made (if nothing else to let them take the credit haha). Mostly they really see the direct benefits for them too, so you will likely first encounter skepticism but then support.
Right now Croatia is going through centralisation, it is one of the main conditions for billions of euros in funding from EU. That means decision making will shift to bigger cities, which will make it a bit harder locally but at the same time offer better support for bigger projects, involving 5-6 municipalities for example.
I believe the keys here are:
- Creating core groups or catalysts
- Bottom up first, so starting innovative businesses and building up
- Planned development through the authorities
And in exactly that order.
It is hard to justify investing in a scarcely populated village with the authorities, but it can be done. Once you have the basic infrastructure, increase visibility through some public programs involving media, showcase all the positives (and there are so many) and the potential, I know many more people would come. More people = more money and ability to support community beneficial development. By community I mean, choosing an optimal place to build something which will benefit 20 communities in a 15 km radius.
It’s like Copenhagen mayor answered the question on why so many Danes use bicycles in the capital:
“If you build more roads, people will use more cars. If you build more bicycle paths, they will use more bicycles”.
There are communities being created or already functioning like that all over the world. There are many examples of good practices out there, which can be adapted to local needs. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in many cases.
Now, to a personal example:
I opened a family business in Croatia in January this year. I threw my net as well more than a year ago, the result being forming of a mastering group of 6 individuals. We all have companies, both in Croatia and abroad. We work in different fields but we have one thing in common: passion for countryside and sustainable development.
I already bought lands and old stone houses I need, but I am buying more by January next year. Meaning as of March next year I will be speeding up everything. At the same time, we plan development as a group, meaning we plan our main or side activities to be complementary. Basically we can cooperate on many levels and we will contribute to each other success.
The result of this year’s activities is connecting 3 villages to the water and electricity grid. There are few more in line. That is the result of persistence and patience with local authorities. If they decide to sabotage us, we will skip them and go few levels up. Then they will be pressured from above and things will start happening again…not extremely hard.
I plan on developing family wine making further and experimenting with regenerative farming solutions and implementation of circular economy locally, increasing efficiency.
There is an interesting article on smart farming here but, it focuses only on efficiency and productivity. It will also mostly benefit the biggest players. I don’t believe in that future. I believe in future where a lot of smaller farmers provide good quality produce for a decent price. They can benefit greatly from smart farming as well.
Further I am building a series of homes with few common spaces for fun activities, workshops etc. One maker space for craftsmen as well. I will offer it for rent to people from cities willing to experiment with life in a countryside. I guess they will know after 6 months or a year if they can be happy in such an environment. Ideally, they could spread their knowledge to locals during their stay, whatever that knowledge is. By locals I mean everyone in a 20 km radius as I will make sure the venue is well known very fast . After that, if they are happy there and want it, I will help them get everything they need to build their own home there.
That is my experiment, and I am sure it will work really well.
Parallel to my project, I will push a regional project (which is the scaled down version of what I already tried building but failed). Its core is promotion of the region (goods and services), network building and bridging the gap between rural and urban areas.
By bridging the gap I mean giving valuable information to urban dwellers, like job opportunities and why their quality of life can improve so much in rural areas.
The biggest obstacle we might need to solve is the disconnection:
- Disconnection between the current image of rural areas and reality in which so much more is possible
- Disconnection between rural and urban dwellers (both cultural and information wise)
- Disconnection between policy makers and reality of people on the field
Finally, I would like to repeat what Nadia said: most of these issues are solved with human potential so we really just need to network, organise and start doing it. You would be surprised how many people are looking into moving to the countryside and they would be surprised how happy they could be there
I wrote so much already, and I tried to cover the core issues I see, but I am sure I missed things too. I didn’t go into the “system” part of it as it is complex and part of the much longer term goals.
Things I spoke about here can be achieved in 2 years and I will contribute my maximum into making it a powerful example of success.
What are your thoughts on all this? Experiences you can share? Ways in which you are changing things for better locally?