Meet Elisa Esteban Trenado
Elisa Esteban Trenado © SOPRODEVAJE, 2020
She’s the manager of SOPRODEVAJE, an EU-funded LEADER local action group that works on the Jerte Valley’s socio-economic development. The EU encourages and supports such local groups all over Europe to help them strengthen relations with other rural areas and cooperate on solutions to common issues.
As the virus held Spain in its grip, Elisa and her team rushed to organise local actors to tackle the crisis head on.
"When the state of emergency was first declared, everyone was tremendously scared."
They rallied together 16 agricultural cooperatives, the region’s tourist board, the association of local businesses, the Association of Municipalities, and the Jerte Cherry Regulatory Board to help keep the local economy alive during the crisis.
Locals get back to business
Financial grants from EU-backed SOPRODEVAJE helped small businesses get back on their feet.
Jorge Rojo Ramos © SOPRODEVAJE, 2020
For Jorge Rojo Ramos, the owner of Gecko Active Tourism, the money helped his company mitigate the hard blow that the tourism sector has suffered.
With the grant, he purchased more equipment for tourist sporting activities, thus offering better quality, safety, and sanitation for guests.
Elsewhere in the Jerte Valley, thanks to SOPRODEVAJE, women's organisations began producing face masks; volunteers rallied to assist the most vulnerable in the community; and employment advice was offered to those who had lost their jobs and businesses.
The cherry on the cake
Over 3,500 families working in the Jerte Valley’s cherry industry found some solace when the European Union classified seasonal workers as critical to the agricultural sector.
This meant that farms could keep running throughout the height of the pandemic and provide a lifeline to locals who lost jobs in other sectors.
Cherry workers in the Jerte Valley © SOPRODEVAJE, 2020
It’s time to invest in the countryside
Coronavirus exposed many vulnerabilities in society, but one story was recurrent across Europe: the rural-urban gap. To bridge it, Elisa and her team are using EU funds to organise training sessions across 11 municipalities. They’ll be teaching about digital technologies, social networks, and electronic commerce.
The Jerte Valley community has also equipped local libraries with electronic tablets for use by the elderly.
A recovery plan for the Jerte Valley
The local action group has big plans for the future, but the pandemic is not over.
"We are again faced with an uncertain scenario, but this experience has helped us to be better prepared."
Throughout the recovery phase and when tourism resumes for good, Elisa and her team will be encouraging visitation to the Jerte Valley in low seasons, like autumn. They’ll also be promoting local consumption and responsible purchasing.
From top to bottom, "unity is strength," says Elisa. The mix of EU funding and grassroots initiatives from local action groups has been key to the region’s resilience. And in her view, this is what will be driving recovery and reconstruction in Spain’s Jerte Valley.
Cherry stall in the Jerte Valley © SOPRODEVAJE, 2020