Welcome spring! Welcome forests!

The 21st of March is the official first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. The day of the equinox, in which plants start to blossom and sprout as warm air begins to invade our latitudes. Not only this, this day is also celebrated throughout the world as the International Day of Forests, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012, to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees for biodiversity and the livelihood of human communities around the globe.

Trees and forested areas cover one third of the Earth’s land, playing a key role in enhancing plant and animal diversity and in regulating carbon fluxes, mitigating the impact of anthropogenic climate changes. Additionally, forests are crucial resources for sustaining communities around the world. Water, flood prevention, fruits, leaves, branches, and wood are only a few of the key ecosystem services that they entail. Lastly, forests are of increasing importance for urban areas, providing a cooling green infrastructure in which citizens benefit from recreational activities and healthy lifestyles.

In rural areas, forests are a prominent feature of the landscape, especially when demographic changes increase spontaneous afforestation in former farmlands. For these reasons, forests are often the source of innovative projects aiming to alleviate social, environmental, and economic burdens of rural communities.

SIMRA database collected several examples of forest-based social innovations, spanning agroforestry schemes in Guadalupe, community woodlands in the UK or central Europe, to fire prevention groups in Spain and Portugal. Here is a selection of these forest initiatives:

Promoting fire prevention in Mediterranean landscapes


Wildfire risk has grown in the Mediterranean basin, both in terms of burnt area and fire occurrence. One of the major causes of wildfire virulence is land abandonment, which leads to increasing fuel accumulation. Fire prevention is then a key activity to reduce wildfire risk. This can include awareness activities with local communities, as well as ad-hoc forest management (e.g. thinning to reduce fuel accumulation, prescribed fires). Several social innovation initiatives have also been developed to tackle the issue of wildfires. Since 1986 in Catalonia region (Spain), forest owners, in collaboration with municipalities, have been organising themselves voluntarily to protect their land against wildfires. Since then, 300 Forest Defence Groups (FDGs) have been established in the region. Today these groups perform several activities, including support for fire prevention, preparedness, fire suppression and post-fire reforestation within their municipal area, as well as lending a helping hand to their neighbours when needed. Analogous groups have also been created in the Valecian community (ACIF). Another interesting example from the SIMRA database is EconoMountain, a Portuguese initiative that attempts to lower wildfire risks by developing participatory partnerships with shepherds to implement controlled grazing by goats, so reducing forest fuel accumulation. Similarly, the Mosaico project in Extremadura, Spain, intends to stimulate and consolidate multi-actors participatory initiatives to restore and improve the landscape resilience to wildfire risk.

Community woodlands and carbon forestry

©Vicky Stonebridge
©Vicky Stonebridge

Community woodlands are woodlands supported and controlled by community groups. These groups often use their wood resources to revitalise the community (often a small and isolated settlement), ensuring its long term economic, social, and cultural sustainability. An example from SIMRA database is the Lochcarron Community Development Company, set in a small village of Scotland, UK. This company aims to establish a multipurpose forest management scheme for the community woodland, improving the sustainable production of fuel wood whilst also setting up recreational and educational services.

Another example of community forests are Central European forest commons (in SIMRA we have examples from Slovenia, and Slovakia), historical regimes for managing woodland resources in mountainous rural areas.  These commons are now re-established to respond to new community needs such as carbon-smart forestry for mitigating climate change effects, increasing forests’ resilience to future natural disturbances and to establish a more cost-effective forest management.


fOREST_VAL_agro-2690048_960_720Agroforestry, as the combination of agricultural and forest production schemes, is recognised as a powerful way of producing diverse, profitable and sustainable land-use systems. This makes it a possible source of social innovations as it is happening in Guadeloupe (France) where the SYAPROVAG (Union of Guadeloupian agricultural vanilla producers) is promoting a project aiming to improve forest owners’ livelihoods via the multifuctionality enhancement of the forests, combined with vanilla production.

Social Forester entrepreneurs

Finally, it is worth mentioning forestry as a source of inspiration for developing social enterprises. In this respect we can look at SocialForest, a Spanish company dedicated to forest management, focusing on training and social integration of vulnerable groups (immigrants, unemployed youth) in the forest labour force. Another example is  Boschivivi, a non-profit Italian initiative aiming to support the use of burial woods for reducing the ecological footprint of cemetery practices, and investing in forest conservation activities.


Valentino Govigli (EFIMED)
Valentino Govigli (EFIMED)
Sarah Adams (EFIMED)
Sarah Adams (EFIMED)
Elena Górriz (EFIMED)
Elena Górriz (EFIMED)

Baba Residence, an initiative to attract young people in depopulated villages in Bulgaria

Baba Residence (baba – grandmother in Bulgarian) is an initiative bringing together urban youth and elderly people in low-density and remote villages in Bulgaria. Participants spend one month living and learning in a mountain village, with the purpose to create a meeting point between the entrepreneurial spirit of young people and traditional culture of elderly people from the Rhodopes mountains in Bulgaria.

What is Baba Residence and how does it work?

Every year, since 2015, a group of 20 young people (up to 35-years-old) has the opportunity to participate in the Baba Residence project. The group is composed of students or recently graduated (within the past two years) and still unemployed young people, that have previously applied to participate into the Baba Residence initiative.

Selected candidates go through two specific training programmes: Design Thinking and on-site ethnological research. Firstly, they undergo a training with Ideas Factory (a Bulgarian networking platform for entrepreneurs) during several months. Secondly, they spend 4 to 6 weeks in the households of elderly in remote and sparsely populated Bulgarian villages. Participants receive some private financial support, from Ideas Factory, for travel and living expenses.

During their participation, the residents live the daily life of their hosting community. Their goal is to develop an innovative idea for a product, service or event that will attract greater interest in the village. Together with developing their concept and skills in local crafts, the young people are supported by the household in which they live.

Why joining Baba Residence?

Baba_mujeresThe objective of Baba Residence is to connect the potential of unemployed young people with the knowledge of the elderly from almost deserted villages, in an innovative social business model.
People involved in this initiative have to be motivated to work for a positive social and economic change in society.

The mission of the initiative is to preserve invaluable traditions, crafts and stories from the villages and to use them as vibrant source for innovative solutions that can meet the need of the Bulgarian villages. Those solutions could be in the form of products, services, events or initiatives that draw cultural and economic potential to these beautiful rural nooks of Bulgaria.
The project aims at proving that it is possible for people to perceive the Bulgarian village as a hub for social innovations.

How does this initiative succeed in revitalising depopulated areas?

Ba-baThe interaction of the participants allows an improved quality of human relations between generations, documentation and creative utilisation of local folklore, and social entrepreneurial projects that help the villages to flourish.

Each participant in Baba Residence has an opportunity to realise their specific objective, together with the people from the village where they live. This concept is thought to have long-term benefits for rural areas and the potential to attract interest in the respective village and/or to contribute to their economic and social development.
Residences enable participants to start learning some of the crafts practiced in the village. Interaction with old people gives invaluable knowledge of Bulgarian history and traditions, which may soon be lost irrevocably. Participants also receive a different experience, as a “slower” village lifestyle that is impossible in large cities. Contact with traditions and nature enriches young people and encourages them to think about new ways to gain social empathy. At the same time, elderly or lonely people receive attention and feel useful and needed. They also receive real help with their everyday work in the house from their young friends.

Since the first edition of baba residence in 2015, the residents undertook tens initiatives in and for the villages together with the local people. Some of them include:
– A professional studio recording of a CD with folklore songs from the Rhodope mountains that are about to be extinct;
– The creation of a social enterprise for export of woven products created by the grandmothers of the villages;
– Many cleaned and newly marked mountain eco-trails;
– The renovation of an old village bakery, where the residents baked around 600 little breads for the local people to celebrate this renovation together.

For more information, please visit Idea’s Factory website  and SIMRA’s database


Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
rural women_tunisia

Social innovations focusing on women in marginalised rural areas across Europe and the Mediterranean

Being the 8th March the International Women’s Day, the SIMRA team would like to contribute to the global discussion on the significance of rural women and the challenges that they face.

According to the UN, “rural women play a key role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods and overall well-being. They contribute to agriculture and rural enterprises and fuel local and global economies. As such, they are active players in achieving the Millennium Development Goals”. Rural women represent over a third of the total world population, but, in FAO’s words “they generally work as subsistence farmers, paid or unpaid workers on family farms or as entrepreneurs running on- or off-farm enterprises. In addition, women provide the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work in rural areas, thereby supporting current and future generations of rural workers within their households and communities”.

Women, as innovators, participants or beneficiaries, are playing a very relevant role in most of the social innovations collected by SIMRA. From the development of productive cooperatives in Egypt or Turkey to pooling and sharing their knowledge and expertise in the UK or Bulgaria, or setting up schemes to tackle societal issues like waste management in Lebanon or unemployment in Spain and Estonia, women are developing projects that enhance the well-being in their local communities.

Here there is a small selection of examples from our database in which women are protagonists of the social innovations developed in marginalised rural areas across Europe and the Mediterranean:

Women’s Branch of the Vakıflı Village Cooperative (Turkey)

In this example, the women joined their forces and knowledge in order to prevent Turkey’s only Armenian village from becoming extinct due to migration and ageing. Vakıflı Village in Hatay is the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey. With its 135 inhabitants who are all Armenian, the village loses its population day by day. Having realized that the future of the village was in danger, the women of the village came together in 2002 to establish the women’s branch of the church in the village. Their purpose was to sell their home-made organic products (jam, liquors, pomegranate syrup, olive oil etc.) to the tourists visiting the church and making a living out of this. Over time, their products are starting to be sold in a small shop in İstanbul.

Konnu Smart Work Centre (Estonia)
Motivated local people available in the community initiated a smart working centre to solve an unemployment problem in the area. Women share their knowledge, jobs and childcare duties with each other, develop their competences as a team and compete as a unit for work in the labour market. Women with more extensive educational background, work experience and social networks act as mentors bringing work to the centre and organising training courses and launching projects.

Baba Residence (Bulgaria)

baba-REC“Baba”, which means grandmother,  is an initiative bringing together urban youth and elderly women in depopulating villages in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria. It lays the ground for a truthful exchange of knowledge and care between youth and elderly through design thinking and ethnological approaches. The result is a new quality of human relations between generations, documentation and creative utilisation of local folklore and social entrepreneurial projects that help the villages flourish again. Twenty unemployed young people go to live for 4 -6 weeks at a remote village living in elderly locals’ households. There they will learn crafts and work together with locals for the creation of a new innovative idea for a product, service or event that will attract stronger interest to the village.

Badaweya Women’s Handicraft Initiative (Egypt)

EGYPT_RURAL_WOMEN_POSTWe heard about this type of initiative in the SITT workshop held in Bratislava in 2016. In concrete, this project seeks to revive and empower Bedouin handicraft producers to start their own businesses, develop their products to meet modern economic needs and link them to markets within and beyond the Sinai region. It provides women with training in technical skills, design development and entrepreneurship in addition to providing information sessions on health topics, peer-to-peer literacy education and child care support. Women are trained in setting up and managing small cooperatives which helps to ensure fair trade, and are also linked to suppliers, fair retailers and a variety of different markets and networks in bigger Egyptian cities, abroad and via the Internet.

The Growing Club (United Kingdom)

THE GROWING CLUBThe Growing Club is an alternative model business growth club for women sole traders, female owners of microbusiness and female founders of not-for-profit organisations. There is clear evidence that businesses that use a business coach and have support structures in place have significantly higher growth success, but not everyone can afford a coach and not all coaches understand the various roles that women juggle. The entrepreneur behind this social enterprise, is a single mum and business owner who could not find a coach that really grasped what she wanted to achieve. She self-funded and run this initiative in Galgate (Village south Lancaster) aiming to help women struggling in rural areas, who are often overlooked by business support services, or dismissed as a lifestyle business as they run their business from home, working around their family. The women enrolled on the programme are targeted, recruited and selected from platforms such as domestic abuse organisations, sufferers from mental health and persons recently released from prison looking for a second chance to integrate back into society.

Integra Todos – Costurízate (Spain)

INTEGRA TODOSAnother strong entrepreneur woman is behind this initiative. Aiming for creating integration opportunities in the mountainous area of Sierra del Segura (Albacete), a local young woman founded a local association to promote local development and then a social enterprise dedicated to productive activities while training people at risk of social exclusion to develop general social and labour skills.  More than 50 women have participated to date in their first productive project – ‘Costurízate’- focused on textile sector skills training.

Economic Empowerment of Women in Rural Areas (Lebanon)

Women in the Bekaa region came together to establish a cooperative for the transformation of excess agriculture produce harvested in the region in products with increased shelf life and benefit. They were trained to make products for the market that meet the international standards of market. This has created the possibility of transforming old production recipes into standardized recipes using scientific production indicators. They have also honed their own skills to manage, produce and plan their production. The cooperative has reached a level of production to export to international markets and compete with other products.

Learning-growing-living with women farmers (Italy)

KINDERBETREUUNG2In South Tyrol, a group of women farmers provides childcare on farms, what diversifies the farm income while encouraging the children’ interaction with nature. Thus, the farm has been expanded to a place of learning, offering a complementary and alternative setting for environmental education. Moving away from the classical education about the environment and nature towards a direct integration of agricultural resources and the environment as teaching elements, the farm aims at stimulating the curiosity of children in learning, as well as developing their awareness for environmental, sustainable and rural resources. The childcare service includes individually adapted care accommodating up to six children, flexible care hours, integration into the family structure, and transmission of traditional and cultural values, environmental education, and summer care as well as care for children at different events.

Call of the Earth (community recycling scheme) (Lebanon)

LEBANON_WOMENWhen waste collection was neglected by authorities in the mid-1990s in Arabsalim, a woman -Zeinab Mokalled- set up a rubbish collection team by calling on the women of the village to help going door-to-door. The women set up a whole recycling scheme with their own resources (using for instance their own back gardens as the storage area for recyclable waste). In 1998, the women formalised their efforts by establishing an NGO: Nidaa Al Ard. The organisation is thriving, and schoolchildren, students and activists who come to learn from it frequently visit the project. Nearby villages, as Kaffaremen or Jaarjoua, are adopting now similar schemes.

These are only a few examples that highlight the role of women empowerment in the development of social innovations in marginalised rural areas, but if you scroll in the database you will find women involved in most of the examples. If you are aware of any interesting initiative led by rural women or dedicated to the empowerment of women anywhere in Europe or around the Mediterranean, that should be in the SIMRA database, tell us about it and our team will spread the voice!


Diana Valero (UHI-Perth)
Diana Valero (University of the Highlands and Islands)
Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Lucía López Marco (Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza – CIHEAM)
Simra brochure cover_feb

How social innovation can deliver rural services: new brochure of examples now available

SIMRA has just released its second brochure collecting examples of social innovation in marginalised rural areas in Europe and the Mediterranean regions.

This brochure focuses on rural services, more precisely on how social innovation can help rural services such as health, education, energy, mobility and other social services of key importance in marginalised rural areas where these services are often in decline. A sneak peek of what you will find in this brochure includes mountain therapy for people with disabilities in Italy, a residence with grandmothers to attract young people in Bulgarian depopulated villages, an eco-social farm in Slovenia and an initiative to integrate unemployed women in Spain.

This collection of examples is in phase with the new concept of “Smart Villages”, promoted by the European Commission, that aims at revitalising rural services through both digital and social innovation.

You can still  access the first brochure by clicking here and get inspiration for your own territory.

The examples presented in these brochures are extracted from the SIMRA database, available on our project’s website. If you have an example of social innovation in marginalised rural areas to share, don’t hesitate to click here to submit it.

policy brief

How Can Social Innovation Support “The Future of Food and Farming”? Read SIMRA first Policy Brief

The H2020 project, SIMRA – Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas – has just published its first policy brief.

Based upon evidence emerging collected in the SIMRA project, this research project believes that smarter and more effective policies to support social innovation in rural areas have a vital contribution to make to have more resilient, innovative and attractive rural areas.

However, social innovation is insufficiently articulated in the European Commission’s Communication “The Future of Food and Farming” (published in November 2017), on the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020.

SIMRA Policy Brief presents what social innovation means, some examples and the lessons learnt from social innovation, the role of policy and how social innovation policy can be better developed to enhance positive outcomes.

This Policy Brief concludes that social innovation can provide a highly valuable means for delivering the objectives for the future CAP, but stresses that its role needs stronger recognition, mandatory inclusion and targeted policy support. It reiterates that there is a place for social innovation in rural community services and for engendering social learning and supporting collaborative environmental management in topics such as catchment management and biodiversity partnerships, and in better meeting the development needs of marginal areas.

Accordingly, the new legislative framework should include mandatory cross-cutting principle for social innovation to be used in relation to any nationally designed measure of the RDP (Rural Development Programme), alongside the wider application of CLLD (Community-led local development).  Social innovation thereby provides a policy accelerator for any specified measure of the RDP to be used at the discretion of Member States, complementing other initiatives such as Smart Villages, results-based measures at ecosystem and catchment scale, and of especial relevance in marginalised rural areas.


The day I adopted an olive tree

This article is also available in Spanish here// Este artículo está disponible en castellano aquí.

Carmen, the olive tree I have adopted. (Photo: Apadrina un olivo)
Carmen, the olive tree I have adopted. (Photo: Apadrina un olivo)

A year ago this week, I adopted an olive tree. I called it Carmen, after my grandmother. Whenever I want to know about my tree I just need to open an app that I have installed on my mobile phone. I can see pictures of it and whether it has been pruned, or what the local weather’s like, etc.… Once a year I receive two bottles of delicious olive oil. But what I love most, is that for only 50€ per year I am helping to employ people at risk of exclusion, I am helping young people to have a future in their village so they don’t have to migrate to the city, and I am preventing the closure of a local school in a village that, like so many others in inner Spain, have had to face the monsters of depopulation, ageing and loneliness. All at the same time as I am helping to recover hundred-year old olive trees and local traditions and conserve landscapes, care for the land, and support environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Apadrina un olivo (Adopt an olive tree) was, until a year ago, a project I had heard about but didn’t know more than the odd detail. I fell in love with the project when I talked to one of the people involved. When I learnt more about the association I invited them to be part of SIMRA’s database of social innovation initiatives. I would love to share this beautiful project with you.

Oliete is a village located in the Spanish province of Teruel, one of the most depopulated provinces in the European Union. In the last 100 years, the population of Oliete has decreased from 2,000 to 420 inhabitants registered in today’s census (there are even fewer people actually living there). The 100,000 olive trees in Oliete have been abandoned as the inhabitants have gradually left the village and no longer have any use for them.

A group of young people from Oliete realised that they had to find a way to save those trees, which represent not only part of the traditional diet, but also the culture of the area, its landscape, and, of course, its traditional know-how and the heritage passed down by Oliete’s ancestors. This same group realised that they could reach two important objectives: recover the olive trees and combat depopulation. This gave rise to the creation of their association.

So, they went for a crowdfunding system that consisted of asking people to sponsor an olive tree. The sponsor would christen the olive tree and in exchange receive periodical photos of it (through an app), and information about the local weather conditions, the work being done on it, etc…as well as two litres of extra virgin olive oil from the olive trees made from the local manzanota and empeltre varieties. The association also organises field trips, so sponsors can visit “their olive tree”, thus enhancing rural tourism in the area.

The true owners of the olive trees are in many cases the grandchildren of the last people to look after the tree, and usually work in the city, far away from Oliete. Through this initiative their olive trees are recovered and after the olive tree has been in the project for 6 years (when it starts to produce a regular quantity of olives) they receive 10% of the harvest.

So far, this initiative has created 6 jobs in Oliete, enabling 6 people under 35 years of age to stay in the village instead of migrating, thus fighting depopulation. The project also employs people from ATADI, an association for people with learning disabilities, providing a job for people in risk of exclusion. This school year the initiative found a family to live in Oliete and work for the project, thus avoiding the closure of the local school that didn’t have enough children (in Aragón, village primary schools need to have a minimum of 5 children to stay open. When children are 12 they attend secondary school in a nearby town).

In addition, Apadrina un olivo has promoted the opening of an oil mill in Oliete. People outside the project can bring their own olives and produce oil, ensuring the recovery of their trees. The oil mill provides a local service and acts as a social centre.

I have just renewed my “adoption” sponsorship, and I am looking forward to having my olive oil delivered to my home. Hopefully, this year I will find the time to meet Carmen. I am really looking forward to embracing a tree called like my grandma.


Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)

SIMRA Training workshop for Case studies team

12 case study teams covering European and Mediterranean regions participated in a training workshop, which kicked off the data collection phase of the H2020 project SIMRA. The workshop, organised by WP5, took place on 10– 11 January at the EURAC Research premises located in stunning Bolzano, Italy.

An important internal milestone for SIMRA, the workshop provided sound and uniform knowledge concerning the Social Innovation conceptual framework, related terms and the quantitative-qualitative framework for data collection developed by WP4 and WP6.

Alternating between theoretical and dynamic sessions, case study teams were immersed in all aspects of the data collection strategy. By the end of the training, participants had explored the procedures behind the identification of social innovation triggers, agents, activities to reconfigure social networks, and the outputs and outcomes of these activities. In-depth sessions were dedicated to the different SIMRA data collection tools, namely: focus groups; policy documents; semi-structured and structured interviews.

BOLZANO_PIRAMIDECase studies in SIMRA are purposively diverse, spanning the agriculture, forestry and rural development sectors. The rural social innovations that SIMRA partners will analyse include  examples of forest fire volunteer groups in Catalonia (Spain), an innovative online platform for connecting young farmers (the Vazapp project in Apulia, Italy), grassroots cooperations for human and environmental wellbeing (the Noidanlukko case in Finland), social farming and community supported agriculture. The case studies constitute fundamental pieces of the wide puzzle that SIMRA is researching to understand the roots and developments of social innovation in rural Europe and beyond. “As the traditional human towers in Catalonia rely on the team work of each member, explained Elena Gorriz to the workshop participants, similarly SIMRA’s knowledge pool is built upon the data collected by each case study working together”.

The tools developed establishes the basis for an in-depth analysis of the social innovations as both process and project, including the effects they might have on the society. Following the workshop, each case study team will proceed with collecting data that will later be analysed both at individual and cross-country scale. During the next General Assembly of the project, CS teams will have the chance to update the whole SIMRA consortium on the progress done.

Photo credits: EURAC Research and Elena Gorriz.


Elena Górriz (EFIMED)
Elena Górriz (EFIMED)
Sarah Adams (EFIMED)
Sarah Adams (EFIMED)
Valentino Govigli (EFIMED)
Valentino Govigli (EFIMED)

Social capital and local development: from theory to empirics

The book “Social capital and local development: from theory to empirics” has been published by Palgrave Macmillan (Springer Nature) and is available for purchase here.

SIMRA project coordinator Prof. Maria Nijnik and project partner Bill Slee wrote the Foreword; and SIMRA results were directly used in the following chapters: Chapter 5 “Social capital, network governance and social innovation: towards a new paradigm” (83-105) and Chapter 19 “What future of LEADER as a catalyst of social innovation” (417-438), while also contributing to other chapters.

 A sneak peek…

There is a growing body of knowledge on social capital, which is recognised as a relevant variable in influencing development outcomes. Given that disadvantaged rural areas may be less well endowed with social capital (or at least the right sort of social capital) to engage in creative and productive forms of local development, such an analysis is arguably much needed to address the social, economic and environmental crises that individually or together afflict many rural areas. The book “Social capital and Local Development” contributes to an evidence base of knowledge on, and measurement of, social capital as a force in rural development. The authors argue rightly that Putnam’s view of social capital tends to overlook power relations, social inequalities, and governance structures which are considered more deeply in Bourdieu’s analysis. Their approach synthesises these two main traditions of thought regarding social capital arguing that ‘the network- based approach of the Bourdieusian tradition can (then) be combined with the civic participation approach of the Putnamian tradition to shed light on the multi-dimensional and contextual aspects of social capital’.

Please cite as: Pisani, E., Franceschetti, G., Secco, L., Christoforou, A. (2017) “Social Capital and Local Development. From Theory to Empirics”, Palgrave Macmillan Springer Nature (eBook ISBN 978-3-319-54277-5; DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-54277-5; Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-54276-8).


Elena Pisani (Uni Padova)
Elena Pisani (Uni Padova)

Adopt your cow and encourage mountain farming

“Adotta una mucca”, (“Adopt a cow” in English) is an Italian initiative from the Valsugana Valley in the Trentino province. Its objective is to introduce tourists, children and families to mountain life and culture. Adopters can visit various Alpine huts, learn how mountain products are made faithfully following old recipes and enjoy cows on mountain pastures.

The project
adotta1The project “Adotta una mucca” was created in 1994 to introduce and valorise Alpine hut activities, products and culture in the Valsugana and Lagorai Valleys in North-Eastern Italy. The main objective of the project was to bring tourists to the mountains to discover the hut’s life and how mountain products are made

How does it work?
adotta2Everyone can adopt a cow. The procedure is quite simple: online, on the Valsugana website, a brochure presents the alpine huts that participate in the project. Participants can choose their favourite hut and their favourite cow among a total of 150 cows coming from 15 different alpine huts in Trentino, Italy. A description accompanies every cow, displaying name and picture. Adopting a cow costs 60€:  10€ will be devoted to projects for children’s charities and 50€ will be given to the Alpine hut for the summer maintenance of the “adopted” cow. The 50€ can be used as a voucher by adopters, who, on their visit to their cow, can taste and buy various mountain products, from fresh and seasoned cheeses and ricotta to butter, toast and fresh milk, produced in the alpine hut. Adopters can visit the cow in its alpine hut during the pasture period from mid-June to mid-September. Moreover, the adoption can be offered as a gift to a friend or a relative. It has become very usual to offer “an adopted cow” for a wedding or a birthday present.

The positive impacts
Over the years, the number of adoptions has significantly increased: in 2014, 962 cows were adopted, whereas in 2017, more than 1310 cows were adopted. This innovative project is successful and has positive socio-economic impacts:
– The project “Adotta una mucca” is a real example of collaboration between tourism and agriculture which enables people to get closer to mountain farming activities.
– By adopting a cow, paying a fee and showing interest in the project, participants sustain mountain activities, promote mountain products, get to know the alpine tradition and heritage and contribute to mountain solidarity.

This project is an example of social innovation in marginalised rural areas. You can find it on the SIMRA’s database collecting social innovation examples.

adotta3For more information, please visit
– The project’s brochure
– The project’s website


Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)