Challenges for rural areas
key word: methodology and development
source: LEADER Magazine n°12
date of publication: 10/96
"A key word: quality"
Juan Garcia Baena (LEADER Sierra Sur de Sevilla, Spain)
When we began in 1990, we were faced with two handicaps: an unskilled
labour force and a certain self-satisfaction on the part of entrepreneurs
who had little awareness of their limits and their lack of qualification.
We were, however, able to count on a diversity of markets: a well-established
sector specialised in the production of the traditional cake,
"mantecado", sold throughout Spain, but whose market
was saturated because of stiff competition between local businesses
(the same product on the same market); an emerging sector, polyester
for car bodies, with a good potential for development but still
relatively marginal in the phase preceding LEADER I; finally,
an agri-food sector (tinneries, oil and organic farming) having
different interests and markets. Intervention therefore had to
be on several fronts at the same time.
In the case of mantecado, new markets had to be found, production
had to be diversified, and quality, the best guarantee in face
of competition, had to be developed. Distribution channels also
had to be rebuilt, given the weak negotiating power of producers
with the major purchasing groups. In the polyester sector, intervention
consisted in consolidating and expanding the market. The emphasis
was on three aspects: improvement of processes, approval of products
and the introduction of a quality charter. As for agri-food, the
bottled quantities and market share of olive oil had to be increased.
Tinneries (asparagus) improved the quality of their products to
shore up their position with outside competition. As for organic
producers, they experimented with new distribution channels.
It can now be said that:
- the local action group has succeeded in establishing and maintaining
direct and permanent contact with companies. The composition of
its board of directors reveals a strong representation of business
- through its activities, the LAG has gradually been able to
analyze in detail the strengths and weaknesses of the different
economic sectors of the area;
- by encouraging collaboration between producers, LEADER has
helped modernise and diversify enterprises, a decisive first step
in tackling an increasingly competitive market;
- in face of traditional channels, organic producers have opted
for direct selling, abandoning laborious negotiations with supermarkets.
In short, the work accomplished has borne its fruit: businesses
have now especially become aware that access to new markets means
first defending existing markets and abiding by a key word: quality.
The greatest challenge nonetheless remains to be met: turning
unemployed people (whose number is too high) into entrepreneurs...