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The opening of rural areas to renew rural generations, jobs and farms

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RURALIZATION (The opening of rural areas to renew rural generations, jobs and farms)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2020-10-31

A trend of unequal social and economic development exists between urban and rural areas. Rural areas face a series of challenges, such as concentration of landownership or aging of the population. The lack of rural regeneration contributes to issues, such as, a reduced workforce, social isolation, lack of local food supply, disappearance of small farms, landscape and environmental degradation and a large difference in GDP between urban and rural regions.

By 2050, Europe’s urban regional population is projected to grow by 24.1 million persons and will provide home to almost 50% of total EU-28 population (Eurostat, 2016). By contrast, the population of predominantly rural regions is projected to fall by 7.9 million.

The RURALIZATION project sees that opportunities for new generations of existing and potential rural inhabitants are essential for rural regeneration. Newcomers and new entrants into the farming are key players for bringing innovation into rural areas. Innovation includes technological, social and cultural dimensions. The RURALIZATION project looks at how farming can be part of this new rural reality and devotes both attention to access to land, a widespread barrier to enter farming, as well as to wider issues around facilitating new entrants and succession.
Framework for research and innovation

Conceptual guidelines and an assessment framework have been developed and an analysis of current literature and projects has been produced. Key concepts are regeneration, resilience, innovation and capital frameworks. Gender issues are addressed. The guidelines have been used to select case studies and regions. A guide for practitioners is developed.

Foresight analysis to identify opportunities

Over 1500 observations of relevant megatrends, trends and weak signals, including estimations of their impacts have been gathered. Sixty megatrends, trends and weak signals are selected to be represented by trend cards.
An inventory of dream futures of the youth is produced. Over 2000 young people (18-30 years) have provided insight in the location of their dream futures, the way they aim to earn a living, their preferred lifestyle and accommodation and any major obstacles they foresee between dream and reality. Extra questions on the impact of COVID-19 on these dreams and obstacles have been added to the inventory.

Facilitating: rural newcomers and new entrants

The developments of rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and successors in 10 EU member states is analysed. Main issues for new entrants into farming, are related to access to land, openness and integration into rural communities, compatibility with existing farmers, absence of policies addressed specifically to them, and access to training. Part of these aspects are also relevant for rural newcomers.
A start has been made to execute 30 case studies on promising practices relating to facilitating rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and farm succession in 12 countries. The case studies are located in a variety of rural, intermediate and urban regions and address a wide variety of practices.

Access to land

Access to land is a major obstacle in starting with farming or forestry. This is issue is analysed at the level of (1) legal and policy arrangements, (2) land markets and land holdings, and (3) innovative, bottom-up, practices.
(ad 1) For all EU member states a questionnaire has been used to report on the main legal and policy arrangements. Only few arrangements focus on generational renewal. Most emphasis is on the consolidation of land to allow more flexible allocation of extra land to sitting farmers.
(ad 2) There is a general tendency of consolidation of land holdings. In many regions many farmers hold a minority of the land and a few farmers hold a majority of a land. In many areas in Central and Eastern Europe unresolved co-ownership issues hamper the functioning of the land market. New generations tend not to be the economic strongest party and land is acquired by existing, consolidating land holders. Farm succession is usually not based on market transactions but on the patriarchal tradition of succession of farms from fathers to sons. The gender gap in farmers below 40 year of age is larger than with older generations: the traditional main path for females towards being a farmland holder is becoming a widow.
(ad 3) 64 innovative land practices have been documented and analysed. These practices include initiatives that support new entrants before land is identified, the organisation of farmland accessibility, the prioritisation of sustainable and multifunctional land uses, the securing of access to land for individual farmers and the enduring support to farmers after they have achieved the access to land. Four main “building blocks” for change are: (1) the strengthening of human capital to promote innovative practices; (2) adapting land regulations to new entrants; (3) boosting local authorities to support agricultural transitions and (4) changing the CAP framework to foster access to land.

Dissemination and Communication

Dissemination and communication activities included the development of a stakeholders database, a communication and dissemination strategy, the set-up of a website and visual communication material, including a video and an animation, the setup of grass-roots events and the organisation of a webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on new generations.
The outcomes of the analysis of trends and dream futures of the new generations will be discussed with rural stakeholders in specific regions to see whether they, in the context of relevant trends, can facilitate rural dreams of the youth and whether they can contribute to tear down the obstacles to realising these dreams. In these discussions, the dreams of new generations will be central in rural regeneration, which is currently not the case.

The outcomes of the case studies on promising practices will be analysed and discussed with regional stakeholders to discuss the potential of introducing promising practices in different contexts to provide opportunities for new generations. This may help to diffuse innovations to new contexts.

A study of 8 more specific legal or policy arrangements on access to land will be executed. Novel ways to address access to land will be developed based on current experience and insights in the issues at hand. The result will be discussed with a selection of regional stakeholders, both to establish impact and to have a reality check on the novel ideas developed on access to land.

Policy design and assessment will be the main focus of the project’s last year. This will involve a good practice guide for rural newcomers & new entrants to farming, a hand book for policy makers, policy approaches to support rural dream futures of the youth, policy assessment and communication of lessons learned.

New grass-root events and conference for policy makers will be organised shortly and two international conferences are at the agenda. A massive open online course will be developed to transfer knowledge to everybody interested in following it.
RURALIZATION Brochure 1 - Backside
RURALIZARION Brochure 2 - Inside