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[ Summary ]
|Possible breakdown of measures for each of the processes to be implemented for improving environmental competitiveness|
|Four interactive processes||Knowledge and awareness||Negotiations and collective approaches||Market penetration and search for external commitments||Physical transformation of the environment|
Collective work on people’s perceptions
Establishing an initial overall project
Raising the awareness and gaining the support of owners
Reintroduction of past forms of organisation
Integration into the local market
Exploitation of renewable energies
Making use of environmental measures associated with the CAP
|Pilot and demonstration projects|
|Medium term||Research into knowledge about the environment||
Conclusion of agreements with owners and public administrations
Creation of new forms of organisation
Integration into existing quality markets
Creation of a pilot label for the area
Commitments as part of international agreements (Agenda 21, etc.)
|Long term||Raising children’s awareness||Global agreements such as “territorial charters”||Consolidation of the area’s label||Global transformation is completed|
3.2.3 Choosing a starting point.
Launching initiatives with a visible short-term impact whilst at the same time preparing longer-term initiatives
Obviously the scale and time required for each of the above- mentioned four processes depends on the context, i.e. on the area’s resources at the outset. In an area where absentee owners are disinterested, the process of negotiation will certainly take longer. Likewise, in an area where farming land provides high yields using intensive methods, it will be harder to convince farmers of the need to change over to more environmentally-friendly production systems.
Below are a few possible starting points for each of the four processes.
a) Knowledge and awareness
Exploring with the community its perceptions of the environment and what it conjures up in their imagination can lead to it re- appropriating the heritage and becoming aware of the area’s diverse functions, which are sometimes conflicting. On occasion it may be useful to invite visitors, school groups, etc. to explain their points of view.
The population of 16 local councils in the Toulois area (Lorraine, France) was invited by the Lorraine regional nature reserve to take part in collectively evaluating the landscape, with the aid of a map of the landscape indicating the ecological assets. Three percent of the population replied to the invitation and a series of proposals was made concerning roads through villages, the restoration and upkeep of public buildings and the development of meeting places for young people. Schools also contributed by organising “landscape classes” and exhibitions of pupils’ work on the subject.
It is sometimes useful to base an initiative on a strong element of the local identity in order to more easily gain the support of owners and other players concerned and to identify those project promoters likely to facilitate negotiations and to scale up the process.
In the Vale do Minho area (Portugal), the LEADER group supported the initiative of the mayor of a small district wishing to renovate the houses traditionally used for summer transhumance in the past and convert them for use by tourists. Thanks to his tenacity and to the fact that this was a strong element of the local identity, associated with traditions still very much alive in the memories of their owners, negotiations advanced rapidly and the project took only two years. The houses, whose original architecture was respected, now have all the modern conveniences. One also serves as a centre for gastronomy and the sale of local products. In parallel, a local visitors’ programme was organised around the activities traditionally associated with transhumance and a tourism company was set up comprised of the owners. For the LEADER group this initiative currently serves as a lever for other initiatives to valorise the environment, especially mountain areas abandoned by younger generations.
c) Market penetration and the search for external commitments
It is often easier to start with local markets, which are easier to manage and have the advantage of allowing direct links between producers and consumers. Initiatives for producing renewable energy are a good illustration of this.
In Deutsch-Tschantschendorf (Burgenland, Austria), a village cooperative, created in the spring of 1993, built a 1100 kw central heating station in October 1994. The station is fuelled with twigs and bark gathered almost exclusively from clearing up surrounding forests. Moreover, 325 square metres of solar panels supply hot water to the 29 users, especially in summer when the boiler is switched off, and an energy top-up during the remainder of the year. The project forms an integral part of a programme called “renewable energy region”, which covers the Güssing administrative district. The station was built largely thanks to the system of mutual aid still very much alive in this region of peasant farmers, who often work half time in the building trade.
With the help of a specialist consultant, the Stirling LEADER group (Scotland, United Kingdom) provides technical support to local businesses wishing to carry out an energy assessment. This consists of studying what improvements could be made to reduce energy consumption. When invited to undertake a collective approach, firms secured better prices for their electricity supplies from private enterprises which - as a result of deregulation - now distribute electricity throughout the country.
In order to facilitate the short-term viability of new, more environmentally-friendly forms of exploitation, it is also possible to harness external aid, such as, in the case of agriculture, CAP agro-environmental measures (former regulation 2078/92, regulations on organic farming, etc.).
d) Physical transformation of the environment
If commenced at the outset, this process, which normally begins after the other three, can be of demonstration value. In some cases, transforming the environment arouses interest and can even serve as an example to raise awareness and encourage negotiation.
In the Trièves area (Rhône-Alpes, France), the Terre Vivante centre, created by the LEADER group in partnership with an environmental association and a district council, provides examples of small scale sustainable exploitation systems (in the sphere of organic farming, gardening, waste treatment, etc.). The centre currently serves as the basis for initiatives to raise the awareness of farmers, residents, decision-makers, etc. and for demonstration projects.
This form of intervention is particularly useful in a deteriorated situation where urgent action is required.
In Vindlefjallen (Sweden), the LEADER group, faced with forest degradation stemming from intensive commercial exploitation of a single species used to make pulp for papermaking, set up a centre to demonstrate exploitation methods that respect biodiversity and local ecosystems, especially the wetlands.
3.2.4 Implementing a territorial project based on medium-term initiatives
At the implementation stage, the project’s credibility and feasibility come into play. It is then necessary to undertake more in-depth projects that can be completed in the medium term.
a) Knowledge and awareness
Research work backed up by researchers or academics may make it possible to further knowledge about the local environment and to highlight other opportunities.
With the aid of historians, anthropologists and the LEADER group, the inhabitants of South Pembrokeshire, Wales (United Kingdom), learned more about their area’s natural and architectural heritage prior to organising tourist activities. Raising the community’s awareness of the value of its heritage was one of the keys to success, leading to environmentally-friendly tourism based on the inhabitants’ new-found pride in their own development. Gradually, further elements of identity were integrated into the approach, such as the inhabitants’ traditional sense of hospitality and the region’s gastronomy.
Mobilising various players during the start-up phase makes it possible during the implementation phase to find ways of combining interests that make it easier to accommodate them. Indeed, a key role can be played by initiatives to settle conflicts between economic and ecological or individual and collective interests to ensure short-term performance without compromising long-term interests.
In eastern Styria (Austria), the movement for self-build solar energy collectors shows that, within a global project, economic interests (in this case, lower energy prices for users) can perfectly well exist alongside technical curiosity and idealism. After a slow start with part-time farmers from rural and peri-urban communities, the experiment was quickly extended to other regions and professional groups. An association was set up to support mutual aid groups in assembling solar panels. Contacts between groups, the association and suppliers made it possible to choose the most appropriate techniques. After 15 years of existence, the association has now become an international group of consultants and today the region is the largest consumer of solar energy in Europe - the factor on which it has based its distinctiveness.
c) Market penetration and search for external commitments
In the medium term, it is possible to penetrate markets for quality products situated outside the area, by cashing in on new consumer demands.
Nineteen farmers from the Coteaux du Lyonnais region (Rhône-Alpes, France) organised themselves into an economic interest group (EIG) in order to sell their products from a collective point of sale. A fruit processing building made available by a member of the EIG is used as the sales premises (25 km from Lyon). A varied range of products is on offer: fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, jams, fruit juices, wines, sheep’s cheese, sausages, poultry, rabbits, pâtés, terrines and fruit sorbets. This approach is a novel one in that urban consumers come to spend a weekend in the country, where they produce their own tarts, pâtés and apple turnovers. This has the advantage of reassuring Lyon city-dwellers about the quality of the products they consume.
It is also possible to use international agreements (Agenda 21, and others) to foster consultation between local public authorities and ensure that they are integrated into wider networks.
In the high Möll valley (Carinthia, Austria), which forms part of the Hohe Tauern national park, an environment and energy working party organised by the LEADER group convinced the valley’s six local councils to join the International Climate Alliance. Following a feasibility study, the six local councils signed a contract to implement a whole series of environmental management innovations.
d) Physical transformation of the environment
Following the demonstrative start-up phase, it is then possible to introduce processes of transformation that can be completed in the medium term.
The Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta LEADER group (Ireland) supported the development of former pilgrimage routes in the Dingle peninsula (Kerry). Following the creation of a local development association, the initiative involved developing, jointly with the principal local players, an inventory of the area’s natural and cultural resources. The project, deeply rooted in the history of this isolated area and containing a significant environmental element (redevelopment of sites, paths, etc.), had numerous positive repercussions on tourism and farming activities, as well as on the local dynamic of these two remote villages. The work involved in maintaining the project sites raised real environmental awareness: the population discovered a source of new economic activities that help to protect and valorise the natural and cultural heritage, whilst a number of farmers have turned to organic products and quality farm produce.
3.2.5 Consolidation Encompassing the territorial project within a long-term perspective
At this stage, the aim is to create new production and environmental management systems, to forge a new identity, to enhance the links between players and to ensure strong market integration (consolidation of the four processes).
In the Ticinese region (Lombardy, Italy) which, though close to Milan, is still well preserved, the inhabitants, concerned at growing urban pressure, called for the creation of a nature reserve. Thanks to cooperation between the public authorities and local players, the activities of an information centre (Carrefour européen) and the judicious use of CAP environmental measures (regulation 2078/92), the creation of the 90,000-hectare Ticino park went on to become the starting point for new environmentally- friendly practices, particularly in farming (introduction of biodiversity into crops and hedgerows, creation of biological corridors between forested areas and restricted use of chemical fertilisers). Little by little, common ecological farming standards were established, giving rise to a quality label which, as a result of its popularity with consumers, is securing the economic viability of farms and the competitiveness of the area as a whole.
The Pays Cathare region (Midi-Pyrénées, France) provides another example of consolidation, this time in the sphere of heritage resources. It has been possible to recover and redevelop the hitherto totally abandoned historical architectural heritage (castles and their surroundings), by constructing an identity based on the area’s Cathar past and a process of negotiation, which has been on-going for the past 20 years, between the public authorities and local players. The launch of the “Pays cathare” label, attributed to local products and services that meet quality standards for sale to tourists, has made it possible to consolidate market integration. Thanks to the integrated promotion of its historical heritage, this formerly neglected area has succeeded in achieving territorial competitiveness.
Monitoring/evaluation plays an essential role in the development of the four processes, because it is through regular follow-up and an in-depth knowledge of such development that the synergies and solutions for overcoming deadlock situations can be brought into play.
In the Pays de Lanvollon region (Brittany, France), by monitoring the landscape, and in particular by showing photos taken ten years earlier at meetings with the authorities, the local group succeeded in raising the awareness of elected representatives and local players and persuading them to participate in the joint initiative to restore the landscape.
Monitoring/evaluation frequently calls for special skills:
In the Maestrazgo region (Aragon, Spain), the LEADER group has launched a wide-ranging project to clean up a number of polluted and degraded rivers through the creation of a “river reserve”. The objectives of this project are ecological (treating water, redeveloping river banks, multiplying the fauna, as well as upstream analysis of soil erosion, improvement, conservation and valorisation of the forest heritage), as well as social (educating the local population, improving municipal management and exploiting the river as an element of cultural identity) and economic (creation of water treatment companies and developing tourism). This project requires permanent monitoring/evaluation of the state of the rivers, for which the LEADER group uses the services of biologists and chemists from Saragossa University.
 See Part 1
 Journal du Parc Issue 21, June 1999.