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The European rural model

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Supporting innovation, businesses and employment
in the Mountains of Navarra (Spain)

Service station

Created as a local action group
under LEADER I, the CEDERNA-GARALUR
association has been working
in the Mountains of Navarra to create
activities and jobs in the fields
of business services, tourism and the craft sector.

 

Javier Velázquez is a little disappointed. The LEADER group of Ouest-Aveyron has just informed him that because of the fuel crisis a delegation of producers from the French area will not be able to come to Navarra to participate in the "Saint James Market".

During this weekend of September, it is the turn of the small town of Elizondo, in the heart of the Navarra Mountains, to host this "medieval market". Here, some forty craftsmen come together to sell their work against a backdrop of jugglers and other street entertainers as well as musicians and dancers from Galicia. Other highlights include a classical musical concert in the town church and an exhibition of contemporary art on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

Both a multidimensional cultural event and a forum for trade, the market in Elizondo is the fourth and penultimate event of its kind organised on the theme of Saint James in the year 2000. In addition to "Montaña de Navarra", the operation concerns three other LEADER areas along the path of the Saint James Route: Aragon, Rioja and Midi-Pyrénées[1]. The same type of action was organised with success in the past for the theme of "Herding Trails".

Beyond the quality of the entertainment or the sumptuous medieval costumes worn by the craftsmen for the occasion, what makes the operation so original is that these markets are entirely organised for interested municipalities by a cooperative in Navarra run by 8 food producers: "Napar Bideak" (The Routes of Navarra). With the help of LEADER and of private sponsors to promote the action, the cooperative has been organising fifteen "Markets of Yesteryear" each year since 1994 in as many municipalities and fifteen "Navarra Weeks" in various supermarkets in Spain as well as in France (in Perpignan, Toulouse, etc.).

"Here too, everything is organised," says Jesús Orduna, president of Napar Bideak. "Unlike conventional operations such as 'Great Britain Week' or 'Italy Week', the supermarkets cannot choose the products offered when they work with us. We at Napar Bideak and the thirty odd participating craftsmen control the entire product range that we have decided to offer, and we don't slash prices. For the participating shop, it is the entertainment that we organise on the sidelines of the market that makes up the added value of the operation. We craftsmen sell with normal margins."

A sheep farmer and cheese maker, Jesús is also town councillor in a municipality of the Roncal valley in the Upper Pyrenees of Navarra, the remotest part of the LEADER area of Montaña de Navarra. "Our area of intervention can be divided into two subsections," notes Javier Velázquez, "head of products" at the CEDERNA-GARALUR[2] development association. "The western section of Navarra consists of medium-sized mountains opening out to the Basque coast and the French Atlantic Pyrenees. Relatively populated, the valleys of this area also have a certain number of industrial activities currently undergoing modernisation. The eastern section encompasses Upper Navarra where we find the Pyrenees. This part is sparsely populated and people there earn their living almost exclusively from cattle and sheep farming. Desertification is a real threat. However, the two sections share the same identity and face common challenges. It is a vast area - nearly 5000 km2 - but its size enables us precisely to find the critical masses needed for the success of all kinds of projects."

 

One-stop-shop


Created in 1991 as a LEADER I group to revitalise the mountain areas of Northern Navarra, the CEDERNA-GARALUR development agency is the product of a partnership of 150 municipalities and various public and private sector bodies (chambers of commerce and industry, business and cooperative associations, organisations involved in the social economy, etc.). A genuine "one-stop-shop" for the socio- economic agents of the mountains, CEDERNA-GARALUR manages various regional, national and European development programmes. LEADER represents its "hard core" for the development of projects and the organisation of actions. In addition to a team of practitioners based in Pampeluna, the association has set up a network of 8 development agents - one in each of the 8 "comarcas" (cantons) of the Navarra Mountains - who implement the agency's actions on the ground.

"Aside from all the different investments that we made, LEADER I was for us an opportunity to experiment a new way of working in a holisitic manner. It was also an opportunity to mobilise the local community, to foster awareness and to gain experience," comments the agency's director, Antonio Martínez de Bujanda.

"The result was an analysis of the area's situation and the elaboration of a coherent strategy, based on the wishes and ideas expressed by nearly 200 socio-economic actors of the mountains. LEADER II enabled us to implement this strategy."

Founded on three major objectives (economic diversification using local resources, the creation of employment and the development of services), the strategy of CEDERNA-GARALUR was developed around six "vertical" themes: rural innovation (with LEADER as the primary instrument), support for new businesses, the development of existing businesses, support for activities launched by certain segments of the population, the dissemination of advanced communication technologies and the creation of cooperation networks between producers. "The approach also had three 'horizontal' objectives," adds Antonio: the environment, culture and new technologies in the broad sense. But we have been fine-tuning our strategy constantly since 1995. For example, we switched from employment in general to employment for women and young people, from the creation of activities in the broad sense to the creation of activities in services (economic, cultural, tourist, environmental)... Also, LEADER II began by focusing more on individual projects whereas as the programme progressed more and more collective programmes were supported and networks were consolidated. We are now trying to adapt this more 'advanced' strategy to the particular situation of each comarca. On the Pyrenees side, for example, the elected officials are virtually the only actors we can count on...

 

Networking in circles


Tourism is the field where networking began first. "The sector is developing but it is still penalised by a concentration of tourists in the too short summer period - barely 6 weeks - and on weekends," explains Iñaki Olaiz, director of the "Hoteles Rurales de Navarra" association comprising 20 hotel and restaurant owners. "We estimate that another 50 days are needed if we are to be truly profitable. To find them, we are counting on the foreign market, because the Spanish find us a little expensive: in this country rural tourism is automatically expected to be cheap. Quality is not yet rewarded at its fair price and we are in competition with bottom of the range or highly subsidised products. Professionals like us find it hard to keep pace..." Set up under LEADER in 1993, the association has indeed put a lot of effort into quality (training courses in the provision of tourist services, elaboration of a charter, etc.) and is currently working towards putting together a range of products suitable for tour operators. It is also building up business on its Internet site (www.hotelesruralesnavarra.es), which, according to Iñaki, now accounts for half the reservations.

Like the group of owners of rural cottages, the association of hotel owners wasted no time in joining the "second circle" of the system set up in the Navarra Mountains to organise tourism: the "consortium". This is a structure comprising private operators and public partners (essentially municipalities). The first of the six tourist consortiums operational in Navarra today was set up near Bértiz, the site of the first Regional Nature Park of Navarra, northwest of the Mountains, in 1992. With LEADER supporting promotional and training actions, this consortium managed to bring together 19 municipalities and 8 professional tourist associations (owners of rural cottages and camping sites, hotel keepers, restaurant owners, owners of cafes, merchants, cultural agents, etc.).

Two years later, the "Plazaola" consortium was set up in the central part of the Mountains, then a third one, "Pirineo Navarro", followed in the Pyrenees part, representing 37 municipalities, 3 Valley Councils and 150 tourist businesses.

"Each consortium has the same objectives but also its specialty," remarks Maitena Ezkutari, director of the Plazaola consortium of 35 municipalities and some one hundred private service providers. "Our most 'unifying' action has been the restoration of the old railway line between Pampeluna and San Sebastian for tourists. A number of key people had to be convinced and mobilised before any expropriation was possible, and a whole series of other steps have had to be taken to create this 'Green Road'." The first 7-km section was inaugurated this spring at the old train station of Lekunberri (pop. 800), restored and turned into a mountain interpretation centre in 1998. This point of departure for the Green Road also houses the headquarters of the Plazaola consortium, a Navarra tourism board and the local office of CEDERNA-GARALUR where a development agent works alongside a vocational guidance counsellor.

The various activities of the Consorcio Turistico Plazaola can serve to illustrate the scope of action of the Navarra tourist consortiums, which includes the development of exceptional environmental sites (such as the sissile oak grove of Orgi where Richard Lester shot his film "Robin and Marian" in 1976), old industrial sites (the ironworks and mills of Ferreria de Betelu, for example), the creation of recreational areas, the signposting of paths, the creation of a slide show exhibit and the publication of topographical guidebooks, etc.

With a EUR 2.7 million budget for the year 2000, nearly half funded by the Navarra government, the Plazaola consortium is represented alongside the other two consortiums of the LEADER area, the association of rural hotel keepers and CEDERNA-GARALUR in the "Mesa de Turismo de Navarra" (Navarra Tourism Forum). The aim of this "third circle" or network is to promote the Mountains of Navarra as a tourist destination.

The operation has already been rewarded: the Spanish government recently awarded its label to the Mountains of Navarra among only six tourist destinations in Spain. "We are the only rural destination boasting a label," points out Iñaki Olaiz. "It's recognition of our work. In terms of our work on quality, Madrid considered that we were ahead of the other areas."

As Javier Velázquez underlines, CEDERNA-GARALUR "provides momentum, coordinates and gives coherence to" this collective work in circles and networks while lending technical assistance and help for the projects, even creating permanent "services" in some cases. The agency is currently busy launching three business service centres, one in each of the three major valleys of the Navarra Mountains.

The "Business Service Centre of Sakana" has just opened in Arbizu (pop. 2 000) on the main road leading to Vitoria in the Basque Country. Here, it is the RESIDER programme for the restructuring of steel zones that served as a lever in 1995. With the technical assistance of CEDERNA-GARALUR, the municipality of Arbizu, affected by the closure of a steel mill, began working in 1997 on the creation of a structure to provide services for businesses. It finally became operational in September 2000. Established in the municipality's business district, the Centre houses under one roof several relay workshops for newly created businesses, shared administrative facilities, training and conference rooms, etc. Much of the equipment was financed by LEADER and CEDERNA-GARALUR, which was appointed by the municipality to manage the structure.

The agency set up a advisory office and a guidance and job centre similar to the one in Lekunberri. An identical centre was established in Lesaka, another place eligible under RESIDER, while a third centre will be opening shortly in Salazar in the Pyrenean section. The three centres are part of the "Network of Services of the Navarra Mountains". One of the flagship members is certainly the "Telecentro Biaizpe", a telematic services centre as its Basque name indicates, at the entrance to the Biaizpe ("Two Sisters") gorge in Irurtzun (pop. 2 500) on the road to Irun.

 

Teleservices


Aware that the economic fabric of the Navarra Mountains could not be modernised without new information and communication technologies, CEDERNA-GARALUR organised an awareness campaign with LEADER I between 1992 and 1994. The aim was to convince elected officials of the need to include these technologies as a "cross-disciplinary" component of all their development actions. Between 1994 and 1997, the local action group managed a certain number of isolated IT projects: the development of its own web site, the management of the Spanish version of LEADERNET[3], the creation of the tourist web site of the Navarra Mountains, the computerisation of the Carrefour of Navarra[4], the training of women in teleworking (9 are now working in this field professionally) and the establishment of a "telelibrary" service (consultation and reservation of books by computer) in 30 remote villages.

"These actions taught us that if we wanted to sustainably develop information technologies, we needed a point of reference, a permanent training centre," says Marta Mañas, coordinator of the Telecentro Biaizpe, who explains the decision behind the centre's creation. Launched by CEDERNA-GARALUR with the help of various partners ranging from the Government of Navarra to a regional savings bank, the telecentre is pursuing two priority objectives: "To create jobs in services for skilled women and young people who have few employment opportunities in the countryside; and, to develop services for individuals and businesses in the mountain areas through information technology."

Intended for all the people and businesses in the mountains, the Telecentro Biaizpe (www.biaizpe.net) fulfils six purposes: it is a shared computer resource centre (computers, printers, Internet, etc. accessible to all), a centre for the dissemination of new information and communication technologies to businesses (analysis of computer equipment, assistance tailored to the needs of the company, etc.), a "virtual" incubator (on-line assistance) for 9 service companies, a teleservice centre (creation and maintenance of web sites), a training centre (15 computers "on wheels" for the organisation of itinerant training courses in villages) and an IT advisory centre.

"The demand comes to us via the development agents based in the eight comarcas," explains José Javier Carte, projects' coordinator. "Since 1997, 440 individuals and 260 employees of some forty companies have taken advantage of one service or another. 20 companies have benefited this year from an equipment analysis. As for the teleservices that we provide directly, we have managed 52 multimedia projects, including the creation of thirty web sites for local governments and ten for private businesses, notably the regional newspaper 'Diario de Navarra'."

Dependent on CEDERNA-GARALUR, the telecentre is managed by José Javier and Marta for a private firm that has a permanent staff of 8 people (programmers, editors, graphic artists) and a pool of freelancers. With LEADER, which part-funded the equipment, the telecentre has recently become involved in a pilot project: the development of teaching modules on natural and cultural heritage for pupils aged 8 to 12 years. The action is continuing under Measure C of LEADER[5] through cooperation between the groups of Noroeste de Murcia and Prepirineo, in Spain, and Puysaye and Avranchin in France.

"This is a clear example of the good relations CEDERNA-GARALUR currently has with the regional institutions of Navarra, after the difficulties of the first years," notes Javier Velázquez. "The Telecentro gives material form so to speak to everything that we try to introduce - dense local networks, backed up by service points - and what is amazing is that in its development policy, the Region of Navarra has adopted these same principles, initiated and developed thanks to LEADER."

 

LEADER MONTAÑA DE NAVARRA

Area: 4 863 km2
Population: 75 291 inhabitants
LEADER II funding: EUR 9 490 000
EU: EUR 2 540 000
Other public funds: EUR 2 390 000
Private: EUR 4 560 000

CEDERNA-GARALUR Elkartea

Asociación Centro de Desarrollo
Rural de Navarra
A/a. Antonio Martínez de Bujanda, Gerente
C / Sandoval, 4 Bajo,
E-31002 Pamplona (Navarra)
Tél: +34 948 20 66 97
Fax: +34 948 21 10 51
E-mail: cederna-garalur@cin.es
Web: http://www.cederna.es

 


[1] The LEADER areas of La Rioja,
Prepirineo (Aragon) and Ouest-Aveyron
(Midi-Pyrénées).

[2] CEDERNA: "CEntro de DEsarrollo Rural
de NAvarra"; GARALUR: literally "development of
the land" in Basque, a language widely spoken in
the Navarra Mountains.

[3] European information technology network
of the LEADER I programme, replaced by "Rural Europe"
(www.rural-europe.aeidl.be) in 1995.

[4] CEDERNA-GARALUR also manages "Carrefour Navarra",
one of the 114 members of the European network of
"Rural Information and Promotion Carrefours" run by
DG Communication of the European Commission.
http://ec.europa.eu/dg10/relays/fr/rural.htm.

[5] LEADER's Measure C on transnational
cooperation is financed by the national or
regional authorities (in this case, the
Community of Navarra).


 

source: LEADER Magazine nr.25 - Winter 2000/2001


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