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Unifying theme(s),
integrated territorial development

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Wool, tourism and Romanesque heritage,
three favoured themes of LEADER Anglona-Monte Acuto
(Sardinia, Italy):

From community revitalisation to transnational cooperation

 

Nature, agriculture, crafts and heritage
are key resources of Sardinia. In the
northern section of the island, the
LEADER group of Anglona-Monte Acuto has
focused on three fields of action and
cooperation: finding new ways to use wool,
organising a rural tourism network and
promoting its Romanesque heritage. The
“hunt” for potential projects, the
creation of an innovative financial
instrument and the optimal use of the
transnational cooperation possibilities
offered by LEADER II seem to have
established a sustainable dynamic for
the development of this area.

 

"I’ve been hunting colours from the north to the south pole.” That is the epigraph that Gianni Carpo chose for “Colores”, his wonderful book of photographs of landscapes taken in the four corners of the world. A former supplier to the fashion design industry, Gianni Carpo sold his textile firm some fifteen years ago to devote all his time to his real passion: looking for new colours for fabric. From Benetton to Fiat, not to mention Dior, Valentino and many others, he has worked with the top designers and “dressers” of objects, developing new shades of colour, “always directly inspired by the natural environment.” In this week of May when the Sardinian landscapes form precisely an immense palette of watercolours delicately combining green and yellow, Gianni Carpo is fulfilling a contract for the local action group (LAG) of Anglona- Monte Acuto. He is working on the group’s transnational cooperation project to develop native wool. Our “colourist” is therefore touring the five LEADER areas of Italy and Spain concerned with the cooperation action. In the morning, he teaches a textile course to craftsmen and sheep farmers involved in the project. In the afternoon, he pays visits to the sheep farmers to examine their herds and give advice. Until the project started, the farmers considered the wool bothersome waste.

 

“Hidden” know-how


“Our motto is ‘putting people to work using local know-how’,” says in a nutshell Pietro Brundu, the president and “driving force” of the Anglona-Monte Acuto LAG. “You see this wool cooperative that was set up in 1999. There were five women whose hobby was to make wool articles at home. They are now involved in a rather sophisticated venture:'L.A.N.E.S.' (Lavorazione Artisanali Naturali Ecosostenibili de la Sardegna / Natural, non-industrial and environmentally sustainable clothing manufacture of Sardinia) which is the name of the cooperative. It collects wool from the local sheep farmers, sends it to Biella in Northern Italy where the wool is made into yarn. It is then sent back and woven by LANES to make textile products such as sweaters, caps and socks. The cooperative makes upmarket products but also traditional Sardinian costumes.” A first example of this production, an experiment, was a “Jubilee tartan rug” whose colours and patterns were designed by Gianni. Two thousand were made and sold in the five partner areas.

"As far as the craft sector is concerned, LEADER is exclusively used for technical assistance and the search for new products. Aid ranges from 50 000 to 150 000 euros," explains Irene Melis, coordinator of the LAG. “To avoid any overlapping of programmes, the Region of Sardinia has forbidden LEADER funding of equipment intended for the local non-food sectors. These are primarily granite, cutlery, espadrilles, rugs and cork. We also have a golden rule for the selection of projects. When of equal value, we prefer to subsidise a new venture rather than one that already exists. With LEADER, we are therefore concentrating our efforts on the professionalisation of what until now have been informal non- industrial activities such as the manufacture of woollen articles, but also pottery and basketwork."

As for the food sector, this professionalisation of the “hidden” know-how of the area is also being covered by important LEADER actions. These include developing ways to use wild berries like arbutus berries and myrtle berries and producing on a large scale “panadas” (from the Spanish “empanadas”), a kind of deliciously spiced fritter or large ravioli filled with pork, lamb or even fish. Until now, only a few pastry makers in the small town of Oschiri made this speciality for a very local market. “Yet, visitors who come here and taste it love it. With panadas, we could achieve the same international success as pizza", says an enthusiastic Mario Pinna, a pastry maker who with his ten employees and a LEADER grant of EUR 150 000 is launching out into the industrial production of panadas. He has even signed a contract with a large French supermarket chain to supply this product for a trial period. “That means an additional 20 jobs if it works,” says the entrepreneur.

The cooperative of "AgroLogudoro" is hoping to eventually create thirty jobs. It is another beneficiary of LEADER support, aimed at helping existing businesses diversify their activities. This cooperative is specialised in the ensilage of vacuum-packed maize and is the second largest company in Italy to use this procedure. It has begun growing medicinal plants, St.-John’s wort in particular, and producing essential oils. “To design the project, we had already benefited from the technical support of ERSAT but it was the opportunity offered by LEADER that was decisive,” underlines Gavino Sanna, head of the cooperative. “LEADER covered 58% of the EUR 135 000 needed to buy a drier and a distilling apparatus for the essential oils. We think we’ll be operational in December 2000.” A former journalist, Gavino Sanna knows his region well: “the big challenge is to keep our young people here by developing activities that I think have to combine agriculture and tourism. This part of Sardinia has a lot of things going for it and the spirit of enterprise is spreading. The problem is getting financial help. For this I’m delighted that the ‘LEADERFIDI’ guarantee fund is to a great extent benefiting young people...” (See article "LEADERFIDI" for “rural start-ups”).

 

Revitalisation


As its name indicates, the LEADER area of Anglona-Monte Acuto consists of two rather different areas which are separated by a chain of small mountains, the Sassu (640 m). Anglona, which borders the gulf of Asinara, mainly lives off of tourism (around Castelsardo), fruit and vegetables and cereals. Monte Acuto, which centres on Ozieri (pop. 12 000), is a zone typical of the Sardinian hinterland and is mostly engaged in sheep and cattle farming, winegrowing, distilling (myrtle spirits) and the quarrying of a very white granite in Budduso, one of the three or four industrial clusters that Sardinia has.

Each of the two zones corresponds to a "Comunità Montana" (Mountain Community), an interface between the Regions and the municipalities for regional planning and local development issues. The LEADER group of Anglona-Monte Acuto brings together the two Mountain Communities, 25 municipalities, the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, four cooperatives, several private enterprises and associations.

Before its official establishment in 1995, this partnership had implemented a large-scale process of animation organised by Pietro Brundu: “we went through the area with a fine-tooth comb, literally trying to hunt down potential projects. I don’t know how many appointments in offices and pubs we had. We sent out a questionnaire to each family in the local community, asking more or less ‘what would you like to do or can you do for your area? Do you have any ideas?’. It was on the basis of the 200 odd answers that came back that we drew up the first local action plan (LAP), not knowing whether our proposal would be accepted by the Region.”

The Region refused this first LAP, considering it too ambitious (EUR 12 million), but approved the second draft in December 1996 which was for nearly EUR 6 million. Three development agents were hired and no fewer than 50 information meetings (two per municipality) were organised. In parallel, some thirty technical studies were completed to determine the feasibility of the “ideas” that had emerged from the consultation process, including the idea of creating the “LEADERFIDI” financial instrument for the local small businesses. This was at the end of 1997. “We then fell victim to a side-effect of public aid,” deplores Irene Melis: the 'Patti territoriali' (Italian Territorial Pacts) arrived with a budget 9 times bigger than LEADER’s. I must say that in a manner of speaking it ruined our revitalisation activities. Those who were interested in a LEADER project lost enthusiasm, hoping to obtain a higher amount of aid through the Pacts. In this context, our first call for projects gave disappointing results both in terms of quality and quantity.”

A second call for projects, more specialised and targeted at microprojects or collective actions, was issued in 1998. It generated sixty applications, 50 of which would be selected. In addition to food processing and crafts (22 projects), 2 projects dealt with culture (utilisation of municipal records and production of three CDs/librettos of traditional songs), 3 had to do with voluntary work and social action (computerisation of the head offices of associations, creation of a games library and an ambulance service in remote villages) and the rest concerned rural tourism.

"LEADER is well suited to young entrepreneurs like us. The programme enables risk-taking and the procedures are rapid. Once we had our idea on paper, it was not even a year before we received the LEADER financial aid.” Gavino Soggia is head of a “youth cooperative”, a system found all over Italy which encourages, mainly through tax incentives, the setting up by young people of companies providing socio-cultural services. The "Sardegna Holidays" cooperative manages in Lubagnu, right next to Castelsardo, one of the three youth hostels in Sardinia. In order to promote their activity and drum up more business in the off season, the five members of the cooperative decided to offer fishing trips at sea and obtained roughly EUR 100 000 from LEADER for the purchase of a boat. “It’s a little different from the other projects and the only one we selected for the coast,” confides Irene Melis. “We did it because it’s viable, has good potential and comes from motivated young people. Our action to promote tourism, the main focus of our intervention, concerns the interior. It consists of three integrated parts: the creation of marked itineraries, the development of the local cuisine - 13 restaurants have received technical and financial assistance, hotel training courses are organised, particularly for wine serving - and the establishment of a supply of rural accommodation through the ‘Anglona Country’ network.”

 

"Anglona Country" and "Romanesque Antennae"


"It’s the heart of our LEADER programme both in terms of strategy and funding: nearly 1.5 million euros have been devoted to it,” says Leonardo Vargiu, former young mayor of Oschiri and director of the LAG. Pietro Brundu confirms this and makes a point of adding: “The idea of Anglona Country goes back to 1993. The Comunità Montana had concluded that a tourist accommodation network was feasible, but it was only with LEADER that the action was able to materialise.”

The action consists in taking 15 traditional buildings or groups of buildings scattered across the area and turning them into tourist accommodation. Ten of these buildings are situated on farms. LEADER is paying for 75% of the investments and providing the necessary technical assistance. The same network is taking care of promotion, marketing, the management of a central reservation system and other services, and the area’s tourist professionals are participating in this. This local network - “Anglona Country” - is heavily involved in a transnational cooperation action headed by the Anglona-Monte Acuto LAG. The other partners are the LEADER groups of West Cork (Ireland), Sonderjylland and Ringkjøbing (Denmark). “The aim is to jointly market the tourist products of the four areas, notably via a Web site in four languages,” says Anton Mario Bagedda, the happy owner of a hunting estate which once belonged to the kings of Savoy. Two of the buildings there are going to be converted, one into four rural cottages and the other into a restaurant.

Anglona-Monte Acuto’s tourist strategy is complemented by another area of intervention which is also part of a transnational cooperation action. It is the development of the area’s Romanesque heritage. Anglona-Monte Acuto has in fact 18 Romanesque churches from the 11th and 12th centuries, most of them well preserved. “These are all cultural and tourist attractions that we can use to create discovery itineraries that should attract a flow of specific visitors to our area,” explains Leonardo Vargiu, looking out from the top of the hill of Nostra Signora di Castro, the site of a group of religious buildings that the municipality of Oschiri has magnificently restored.

It is in one of these buildings that the Sardinian offices of “Romanesque Antennae” will be housed. In addition to Anglona-Monte Acuto, this transnational action, coordinated by the LEADER group of Valle Imagna (Lombardy, Italy), involves the Spanish LAGs of Canal de Castilla (Castile-Leon) and Cabo Peñas-Gozón y Carreño (Asturias) and the French groups of Lot-et-Garonne (Aquitaine) and Terres Romanes (Languedoc-Roussillon). “Antenne européenne du Roman” / “European Romanesque Antennae” is the beginnings of a network aimed at promoting the Romanesque heritage of the six areas concerned. For this, each of the local groups involved has been given specific tasks like doing historic research, taking stock of the heritage, restoring it, creating itineraries and an interpretation centre, setting up a travelling exhibition and building an Internet site. Once all the methodology has been transferred, the entire network will benefit from the work accomplished.

 

Mainstreaming


The “combing” for potential projects, the creation of the innovative financial instrument of LEADERFIDI and the optimal use of the transnational cooperation possibilities offered by LEADER II seem to have instilled a sustainable dynamic for the development of this area. Quite by chance this report by LEADER Magazine coincided with the visit to Anglona-Monte Acuto of Roberto Frongia, the new head of tourism for the Sardinia Region. In his address to the local elected representatives and officials of the Mountain Community, he came out in favour of a certain number of principles, speaking of “alliances between sectors of activity”, “community trademarks”, the “necessary collaboration of the banks for risk- taking and the speeding-up of financing procedures,” all elements that the LAG has done a lot to promote in its area. This is perhaps a good sign for what in European political jargon is called the “mainstreaming of LEADER”, the incorporation of the achievements of the Community Initiative in the general policies of the States or Regions.

 

LEADER ANGLONA-MONTE ACUTO

Surface area: 1 903 km²
Population: 64 580 inhabitants
LEADER II funding: EUR 5 760 000
EU: EUR 2 563 000
Other public funds: EUR 1 160 000
Private: EUR 2 037 000

G.A.L. ANGLONA-MONTE ACUTO Società Consortile a r.l.

c/o VI Comunità Montana, Piazza Garibaldi,
I-07014 Ozieri (SS)
Phone: +39 079 783 023
Fax: +39 079 786 581
E-mail: anglmont@tin.it

 

source: LEADER Magazine nr.24 - Autumn 2000


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