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Agriculture and rural development

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"Managing space to help young farmers get started"

Jacques Fournier (LEADER Livradois-Forez, France)

In the Valley of Ance, situated in the regional Nature Reserve of Livradois-Forez (Auvergne), farming employs 30% of the working population, but a lot of farmers are old and have no successor. The extreme parcelling out of land and the advancement of the forests to the valley bottoms is gradually closing up and casting a gloom over the landscape around the villages and hamlets. This deterioration of space has among other consequences that of discouraging young farmers from going into the business (difficulty in mobilising a viable area for profitable farming or logging; shortage of available buildings because of the transformation of farms into second homes).

Beginning in 1992, and at the initiative of the Reserve, an experimental action to manage space was launched in several geographical sectors of Livradois-Forez, including the Valley of Ance. This action, which today involves 55 communes (about 1 000 km2), is aiming, through the coordination of local working groups, to arrive at objectives for the management of land use in the medium and long term, objectives shared by the local authorities and all the socio-professional categories present in the area.

The operation, partly financed in the framework of LEADER I, was carried out in four phases:

  • 1) the action was presented to the town councils which then undertook to define spatial management objectives for 15 years, to work in close consultation with the neighbouring communes and to set up a working group representative of the town population;
  • 2) working groups identified and mapped land use, the users of agricultural spaces, the challenges of spatial management related to the quality of the living environment and landscape, to the agricultural, forestry, tourist economy, to hunting, fishing, etc. This analysis phase ended with the drawing up of a summary report which, once approved by the local population, constituted the reference document for the area;
  • 3) the first programme of actions was then elaborated. In the Valley of Ance in April 1996, this programme was the subject of an "area contract" signed by the local authorities and all the partners involved;
  • 4) one year after the signature of the "Valley of Ance" programme of actions, which was composed of 13 measures, a review meeting highlighted the progress of developments. Among the examples are:
    • the setting up of a relay farm (the commune bought a house for sale in a village where the last farmer living there was preparing to retire early. Several applications to take it over were received in 1996);
    • the restoration of 60 ha;
    • the felling of trees and the recultivation of a forest enclave in the agricultural space, near a market town and a secondary road;
    • the creation of a land reserve and the hiring, through LEADER II, of a coordinator whose mission is to find owners willing to sell their land and farmers interested in taking it over in order to gradually recreate a market and mobility for land.
The action as a whole is based on coordination sustained and followed up in time. The operation's primary goal is to ensure that the local authorities, farmers, hunters, foresters, fishermen, tourism professionals, shopkeepers, etc. meet and work together to prepare the conditions of a possible future for their area. It is a long-term job whose initial results are gradually translating into concrete developments on the ground.

source: LEADER Magazine nr.15 - Summer 1997

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