Article originally published in Spanish on Revista Agricultura Ecológica number 35.
Available in Spanish here.// Disponible en castellano aquí.
Traditionally, extensive farming[i] has been one of the activities that has fixed more population in disadvantaged rural areas in Europe and the Mediterranean. Moreover, it creates jobs and shapes most of our ecosystems. However, isolation and depopulation in these areas translate into the loss of their activities and the landscapes associated to it. That is why it is necessary to seek new practices that assure its social and economic sustainability.
In that sense, the European project SIMRA (Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas)[ii] shows us some examples. This project aims to make progress in the understanding of social innovation and innovative governance in agriculture, silviculture and rural development and enhance implementation in disadvantaged rural areas in Europe and the Mediterranean. It also understands social innovation as “reconfiguration of social practices, answering social challenges, looking to improve well-being and involve civil society’s actors.”[iii]
Article originally published in Spanish in Revista Soberanía Alimentaria, Biodiversidad y Culturas.
Biela y Tierra (in English crank and land) is an initiative started by Edurne Caballero and Ana Santidrián who aim to travel almost 3000 km of rural area by bike, and visit more than 80 other initiatives developed in rural areas, related to sustainable eating.
There are projects that are pure poetry: emanating passion all around, making you fall in love at first sight. Exactly what happened to me with Biela y Tierra. In these hectic times of cars invading our space and the media trying to convince us that there is no life beyond cities, Ana and Edurne have purposefully decided to hop on their bikes and show the world that our villages are full of life.Continue reading
Spring is in the air, and a seed is germinating and fighting to grow. On its own, it begins to make its way, breaking earth, little by little, following the rhythms of the sun, it will go on growing. But it needs water to sprout and grow. And if the water doesn’t reach it, it will fight to find it.
like seeds, we too are making our own way. They seem invisible at first, but they grow with the strength of our voices in a place full of life where we never stop forging community through our hands and our words.
We are also part of the life of our villages: the lullaby, the root, the heartbeat. And like seeds which hook onto the wool of transhumant animals and germinate thousands and thousands of miles from their place of origin, we resist and we fight. And we look at those who went before us and we realise why we cannot afford to remain silent.Continue reading
Molina de Aragón is located at the heart of the biggest European demographic desert. Re-named as ‘Serranía Celtibérica’, this desert unites rural territories from different Spanish provinces, such as Saragossa, Teruel, Cuenca, Soria or Guadalajara. Having an area double that of Belgium, this desert hosts only 487,417 inhabitants at a density of 7.72 hab/km2. Moreover, this area has the largest ageing index and the lowest birth rate of the European Union, with a population density lower than Lapland.
This article is available in Spanish here.//Este artículo está disponible en castellano aquí.
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:
Wherever you go, whatever you produce, whatever you believe in, Women of the mountains are determined to lead their societies for survival.
It’s 5 o’clock and the alarm goes off. She has breakfast and, with the radio in the background, she gets dressed for work. Milking starts at 6, but before that she needs to take the cows to the milking parlour. They aren’t many, but with the old facilities they find it hard to get in. Once she’s done, she goes back home, wakes up the children, gives them breakfast, gets them dressed, and takes them to school. Then she goes back to the farm… and resumes her work day. She does so until noon, when she cooks lunch, picks up her children, then takes them back to school, does the afternoon milking, and afterwards she brings the children back home and stays with them until they are tired and drop off to sleep. Sometimes she wishes she had a different life, a different job that didn’t enslave her and allowed her to be more in control.
Social farming, or care farming as it is also called, defines short or long-term activities that use agricultural resources such as animals and plants to promote and generate social services in rural areas. Examples of these services include rehabilitation, therapy, sheltered employment, life-long education and other activities that contribute to social inclusion (Di Iacovo and O’Connor, 2009).
Social farming activities emerged in the northern European countries (e.g. Belgium and the Netherlands) in the mid-20th century; and they soon spread throughout Europe as a result of a growing perception of the positive impacts on both the social and the economic welfare, particularly in peripheral rural areas (Gallis, 2013). While social farming has developed differently in the European countries, it can be seen as a way of addressing specific social needs and promoting innovative patterns of rural development that are rooted in local resources. On the one hand, social farming activities, by combining the agricultural environment with rehabilitation and care services, benefit peoples’ quality of life and their social inclusion. On the other hand, social farming activities represent an opportunity for farmers to broaden and diversify their multifunctional agriculture, to open up new markets and offer alternative services that go beyond food production.Continue reading