(01 October 2020) – “Which future do you want in rural areas?” – From May to August 2020, 3 436 people from 26 different countries answered the survey carried out by ELARD, the European association of LEADER groups, in cooperation with REDR, the Spanish rural development network. The results have just been published.
The aim of the survey was to find out what rural citizens and actors think of life in rural areas. What is important and does the LEADER/CLLD approach make a difference? Here are the main findings of the survey:
1. Rural citizens ask for basic services and job-opportunities. 80.2% of the people answering the survey rate jobs and decent employment as one of the top three necessities of rural areas. However, this is not true for all countries. For example in Sweden, “Accessibility to services comparable to those of cities” rates the highest. On European level, 61,5% of the people answering choose the accessibility to services as one of the top three priorities. The services that rural people need and value the most are the following: Health and Care; Education; Care services for the elderly and dependents; Connectivity; Affordable Housing. These are services are not necessarily completely replaceable with digital services. Rural people are – still -urging the same basic services as urban take for granted. The absence of these services are very important push factors for all possible migrants (inland, regional, international) that could imagine a life in rural areas.
2. The vital importance of rural territories to society as a whole must be recognized, its image and perception among urban populations and decision-makers must be improved, with a deconstruction of stereotypes – the urban norm needs to be broken. This means that public investments in the development of rural areas (except farming) should be equal to the investments in the development of urban areas per capita, and it is time to change the narratives of rural, and to employ and invest in rural people to support this change. People living and working in rural areas have a different perspective.
3. Expand and extend the LEADER method as the multi-level governance tool it is. This was drawn from statistical answers as well as the free text answers. There is a lot of information around LEADER in the conclusion of the free text answers, and the main point is that LEADER and CLLD has a huge support in rural areas, and should be expanded and extended. LEADER has proven to react flexible, quickly and target-oriented to the current crisis and it is a method with a 25 years experience. LEADER/CLLD can and should be trusted, also to lead rural areas into the future.