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[ Contents ]

Global tendencies, local responses

 

"Developing local resources in
an integrated and sustainable fashion"

Fons Jacques [Redange-Wiltz LEADER, Luxembourg]

 

The north of Luxembourg is essentially rural
and mountainous. A large part of the
Redange-Wiltz LEADER area (335 km2;
13 406 inhabitants) is covered by the
Haute-Sre Nature Reserve (199 km2),
which extends around the Esch-sur-Sre
dam built at the end of the 1950s.

 

In this area, where 11% of the working population are dependent on farming, the main challenge facing development is therefore to reconcile the exploitation of local agricultural resources, tourism and the preservation of the quality of the natural environment and countryside.

The LEADER I programme had already favoured upgrading farming through the introduction of new products and local activities. The craft processing of medicinal and aromatic plants through the creation of the "Ti vum Si" herbal tea association and factory set off a new dynamic among farmers. Through the impetus of the Syndicat Intercommunal du Parc Naturel (Association of Regional Communes of the Nature Reserve), other actions have followed: the cultivation of brewing barley (a raw material intended for a local brewery) and the creation of a quality label "Vi vum Si" for meat are two examples.

These initiatives have been an inspiration for local development, especially since the first projects implemented in the context of LEADER II have taken up where LEADER I actions left off: on the one hand, Winseler's "Garden of Medicinal Plants" project thus continues the activities of the "Téi vum Séi" herbal tea factory, at the same time providing an additional attraction for this small village (1970 visitors during the first season of opening). On the other hand, the reintroduction of Ardennes mutton, started by the "Véi vum Séi" group of meat producers, has simultaneously enabled a threatened rustic race to be preserved and the natural heritage protected by keeping meadows of less profitable valleys in pasture.

Also from the viewpoint of regenerating the primary sector, the launch of a "Spelt" project is aiming to form a complete economic sector for this rustic and precious cereal from a dietary angle. It is currently grown extensively (moderate fertilisation, without chemical treatment) and its numerous by-products (flour, bread, spelt rice, pasta, flakes, biscuits, beer, brandy, coffee, etc.) are marketed under a brand label, generating a substantial local profit. The project has also led to the creation of a new regional association of producers.

The "Produkt vum Séi - Produit du Lac" label, launched under LEADER I, led to a number of actions to develop regional products of the Haute-Sre Nature Reserve through well-suited types of marketing. Farmers have therefore been cooperating closely with restaurant owners through the setting up of the "Gourmet du Parc" gastronomic circuit. Genuine ambassadors of the area, restaurant owners contribute to the multiplier effect by promoting local products.

The creation and strengthening of links between farming and tourism is very important for the survival of an area such as ours: the quality of the landscape depends heavily on the proper functioning of farming activity; reciprocally, thanks to quality regional products, the hotel and catering industries benefit from a choice positioning on the tourist market.

More recently, another link in the sustainable regeneration process undertaken in Redange-Wiltz was to open a grocery store, the "Buttik vum Séi", in the village of Eschdorf, at the initiative of the municipal authorities. The latter not only knew therefore how to keep this local grocery open, but also helped professionalise the sale of local products. Including a butcher's dealing exclusively with meat of the brand name "Véi vum Séi", this rural multi-service outlet is for us the first step towards a distribution platform of land produce both for the local community and for tourists. The pleasant setting of the "Buttik" also makes it a meeting place for people from the village and the surrounding areas.

The dynamic brought about by these various projects has meant that hope can again be given to an entire region suffering from the rural exodus and from the considerable reduction in the number of farms. In this respect, the stabilisation of the income of around thirty producers and the creation of four new jobs constitutes a particularly favourable balance sheet, especially since the new activities are in keeping with respecting the natural environment and developing "gentle" tourism.

source: LEADER Magazine n18 - Fall, 1998


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Agriculture
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