Community-based rural development The potential of a shrinking village with agriculture vocation
Author: Ilaria Fabbri
Affiliation: Ferrara University
Aging population and migration trends raise diverse issues for most of rural villages, from social exclusion to dismissed buildings and decline of public facilities. In particular, those areas that are more dependent on agriculture are facing stronger challenges, as rural exodus has gradually left behind elder residents who rarely have the necessary mobility and motivation for intensive land work are at particular risk for isolation. The lack of job opportunities and the shortage of agriculture workforce are therefore closely connected: the first one is generally the main push factor of migration; the second one represents the effective consequence of youth massive migration from rural context. The paper investigates the possibility for rural community to be an active player in inverting the trend of shrinking villages. It tries to identify a set of possible actions at neighbourhood scale that, starting with the initiative of local people, can lead to effective rural revitalisation and new social and economic value. This work takes the form of an exploratory study: the Albanian village of Jorgucat is presented as an emblematic case study that epitomizes the issues of most low dense, depopulated settlements with a land-related nature and agriculture vocation. The proposed strategies have a special focus on community engagement, the introduction of innovative public facilities, the promotion of unconventional uses of the land and new working methods. Diverse tangible actions are presented: for each of them, the applicability to Jorgucat context is explained and the reference to a similar up-and-running project is described. Finally, the text argues that some valuable initiatives of rural development might start from local people themselves rather than as a response to government policy, and suggests possible opportunities for transformations and innovations at neighbourhood level.
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