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Challenges for rural areas

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key word: methodology and development
source: LEADER Magazine n°12
date of publication: 10/96

LEADER and the challenges facing rural areas (part 1)

Various participants of local action groups each present a special challenge that their area has had to face or is currently facing. Below are the first four accounts which relate how LEADER participates in the search for solutions "on the ground".

Regardless of their diversity, the European Union's rural areas are all affected by major changes. But these changes also imply seeking new solutions adapted to each area. This is the main challenge confronting LEADER.

LEADER's purpose is the sustainable development of rural areas, with emphasis on innovative actions that may serve as a model and be transferred. This particularly implies taking into account the internal opportunities and constraints linked to factors caused by the history of each area and the external opportunities and constraints deriving from the opening of local economies.

These opportunities and constraints can be analysed in 8 key points which, in some aspects, may support one another:

  • mobilisation of the local population and social cohesion;
  • the area's culture and identity;
  • activities and jobs;
  • the area's image;
  • migrations and social and vocational integration;
  • the environment, management of spaces and natural resources;
  • technological developments;
  • competitiveness and access to markets.

Around these eight key points, local development actors can identify and analyse the specific challenges confronting their area (greater participation of citizens, promotion of the area's identity, diversification and adaptation of activities and services, enhancement of natural heritage, etc.) and the innovation needs which stem from this.

Five years after LEADER I was launched and just when LEADER II was beginning to produce its first results, it was interesting to ask eight LEADER participants, mostly heads of local action groups, to each present a specific challenge that their area had to confront. They described how they went about meeting this challenge, what the remaining difficulties were and what the future innovation needs were.

The first four accounts presented here concern the area's image, environmental management, technological developments, competitiveness and access to markets.

  • "Building the image of Serra do Caldeirão" (Portugal)
  • "A key word: quality" (Sierra Sur de Sevilla, Spain)
  • "Reconciling tourism and environmental responsibility" (Austria)
  • "Taking full advantage of new technologies" (Argyll and the islands, United Kingdom)
  • "Reconciling tourism and environmental responsibility" Millevaches (France)

    Four other accounts, concerning four other development challenges, will be presented in the next issue of LEADER Magazine.


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