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Newsletter #5

November 2020

Rural Planning with the help of System Dynamics Modelling

Could complex simulation be of help to rural planning and development? PoliRural thinks yes, and is testing the use of System Dynamics Modelling (SDM) as one of the building blocks in the project. This will be showcased and the Innovation Hub. The strength of the SDM approach is that it allows the planner or decision maker to consider the rural area as a system, and see the implications of specific actions or policies both on the whole and on for specific indicators. However, the use of SDM presents is not a single-sided blessing, as with all new technology it brings new challenges to tackle. To mention a couple: to be useful and relevant, a model needs a quite complex structure but at the same time it has to be understandable for the users, not giving the impression everything is decided in a black box; and the need of a user-friendly interface.

The solution proposed by PoliRural deals with these challenges by defining:

  • ­Several levels of different users, including model authors, model executors, model viewers and system integrators;
  • ­A general qualitative model, the ‘PoliRural Base Qualitative Model’. This model will allow any rural area to introduce local quantitative and qualitative data and be run, without the need for any other modelling software. The model aims to provide output that will support foresight analysis for the rural area and will also allow testing policy actions and draw scenarios;
  • ­The possibility to enrich the model locally is present through the ‘Local Customized Model(s)’, to get more accurate results and interpretations of local conditions and perspectives. In this case a revision of the model takes place (to refine calibration, modify variables or relations, or even introduce new modules). This process incorporates experts’ work as well as a public layer for consultation;
  • ­A public database of local dynamics, fed from the Local Customized Model and expressed either in causal loop diagrams or a more structured way. This will allow comparing regions best practices and identifying general dynamics and trends in rural development;
  • ­Finally, in order to bring SDM into the reach of planners and decision makers, PoliRural will experiment with integration of SDM functionality in mainstream decision support systems such as geoportals and other systems currently feeding planning and strategy processes in rural areas. A pathway for collaboration between SDM professionals and people who merely wish to tweak or execute existing models is also proposed.

(for further details on the above, interested readers may find more information in the deliverable 3.3. System Dynamics Tool Technical Specifications, available here).

These pieces together with a well-established workflow will allow the development of a learning community combining local and general experts. But it will also stimulate the production of relevant knowledge to be integrated in iterated versions of the model. A good example could be made around the CAP. For a given rural area, examples of relevant questions about CAP could be, is it going to increase agricultural jobs? Is going to make farming more attractive to young people and newcomers? Is going to improve natural capital so that tourism can be improved?

Antoni Oliva (22SISTEMA) and Ruran Bergheim (AVINET)

Kick start of the Slovak Vision for more Attractive Rural Areas

In the representative premises of the National Council of the Slovak republic at Bratislava Castle was held on 22nd September 2020 the 17. annual “Rural Day”. This traditional event was organized by the Rural Parliament in Slovakia under the auspices of the Chairperson of the Slovak National Parliament Mr Boris Kollár and in cooperation with the Parliamentary Committee for Agriculture and Environment. The Ministry of Agriculture of the Slovak republic was represented by its state secretary Mr Fecko. All Slovak partners of the PoliRural project participated with the presentation of the project with a special focus on its current foresight activity aimed at developing the common vision for more attractive rural areas in participative and inclusive way. Representatives of different national and local media were present as well. The members of the parliament, as well as the government representative, promised to actively engage themselves and participate in the process of elaboration of a new vision for the rural areas. Following the event, meetings are already scheduled to continue in the discussions.

Participants acknowledged that the problem remains that Slovak countryside is losing its traditional form, its agriculture has declined significantly in recent years, Slovakia has lost its food self-sufficiency, young people refuse to work in primary agricultural production and go to cities or abroad, and ownership relations with land are still unresolved. There are a lot of unresolved issues, and it will really be necessary to tackle them gradually together. Even at this time, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to discuss rural problems even more than ever before, to point out the negative effects of the pandemic for rural areas and to propose current solutions.

It will really be necessary to take real action to remedy the shortcomings that have arisen. We need our municipalities and the entire agricultural sector to have the same conditions and state aid and support as they have in the developed countries of the European Union. It will be very important to pay more attention to the issues of agriculture, nature protection and securing a sufficient amount of food from our own production. After all, these are vital tasks and would deserve a higher social award, as is common abroad. There are many accumulated problems. One could begin to address this with special support for the youth to make it attractive for them to work in agriculture and with the active promotion of agriculture. Rural areas without agriculture are not rural. The Slovak ancestors lived for many centuries mainly from agricultural production, and it is a shame of losing the food self-sufficiency today. It is only recently that the widespread corona crisis has shown how important it is to be self-sufficient and not be dependent on basic food imports.

Marieta Okenková,
Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra

PoliRural consortium publishes 2 Scientific Publications

Scientific Publications are a key activity to reach the target audience, especially researchers, decision makers, and members of public or private sector seeking information on rural planning. In this context, PoliRural consortium has already published 2 scientific publications in 2020, both available in Open Data Repository ZENODO.

These Scientific Publications are the following:

1. Towards Future Oriented Collaborative Policy Development for Rural Areas and People (available here

The article presents PoliRural project, its objectives and methodologies. In addition, the paper attempted to make several important contributions. First, limits of rural policy development and evaluation methods are analysed, and a new approach based on text mining is presented. The text mining tool will feed additional data into the present situation evaluation and future scenarios modelling while relieving researchers from the cognitive burden. Second, inspired by the tried and validated Framework Foresight method, a participatory foresight for rural policy making approach that combines work with a broad spectrum of stakeholders on policy evaluation and needs analysis, text mining and system dynamics modelling is proposed. Third, in the paper is argued that future scenario models should be of qualitative nature but, at the same time, fed with quantitative statistical data. This will allow for interaction between domain experts and grassroot stakeholders which should guarantee high precision of the models.

2. Attractiveness of rural areas: development of initial definition (available here

The article focuses on the creation of an initial definition to the “Attractiveness of Rural Areas”. As part of the PoliRural project, the aim of the presented research was determined - to create the initial vision (i.e. definition) of rural attractiveness by considering factors that influence people’s desire to live and work in rural areas. To that end, a mixed method approach combining qualitative and quantitative techniques was used. The overall research framework was executed in several sequential steps: brainstorming, literature review, survey questionnaire, data analysis, and evaluation. In defining rural attractiveness, two different but interrelated perspectives were considered, one focusing on people, the other on the entire rural ecosystem. During internal survey of project participants –respondents prioritized definitions by assigning points or scores on their preferred definition. Accordingly, an initial vision’s definition of rural attractiveness was created based on the highest assessment score.

Sofia Cunha,
Sociedade Portuguesa de Inovação

Building Synergies: RURALIZATION

The economic, social and territorial cohesion of the EU is threatened by the unequal development of urban and rural areas. Population is expected for instance to grow of 12% in urban areas between 2014 and 2020 while a decline of 7% is expected in rural regions. Significant differences are registered as well as in per capita GDP. All in all, rural areas are faced with specific constraints related with depopulation and apparently poor development opportunities and the transition from primary sector focused areas.

The RURALIZATION project, one of a growing ‘family’ of EU-funded projects under H2020 programme, aims at developing knowledge and support policy making in answering some of the challenges above mentioned and more specifically to facilitate rural newcomers and new entrants to farming. In particular the project will improve understanding of rural regeneration, define innovative instruments and strategies to facilitate generational renewal in agriculture and support policy making to make rural dreams for new rural generations true.

The project counts with the participation of 18 organizations from 12 European countries, including Universities, research institutes, SMEs and other practitioners such as five members of the ‘Access to Land’ network. This multi-disciplinary consortium put in place research and innovation activities ensuring the involvement of farmers, young people and rural entrepreneurs.

As main relevant activities carried out so far, in the framework of WP5 RURALIZATION team has identified 30 case studies on promising practices related to rural newcomers, new entrants into farming and successors. These promising practices are being deeply analysed with the aim of providing insights on the background from which the promising practices have emerged, the implementation processes and the role they play in generational renewal, rural innovation and rural development. Further information on this analysis and the description of the selected case studies can be found here.

Geographical distribution of RURALIZATION WP5 selected case studies © RURALIZATION project

The work carried out within WP6 has recently come up with the first results on facilitating access to land. An inventory of 64 land practices aimed at summarising, analysing and understanding the huge variety of innovative land practices that are contributing to rural regeneration and to a process of ruralisation across Europe. This analysis attempts to influence national policy impacting land use and land transfers. In addition, WP6 team worked in an overview of legal and policy arrangements that exist or are discussed in 28 EU Member States to ensure access to land by using a list of questions addressed to experts and stakeholders. The object of this analysis is to analyse and discuss the way these fit or can be fitted to the internal market. The latest work in WP6 finalized with an overview of relevant developments in land holdings and of land market trends that are relevant for access to land for new generations in rural areas. The related reports concerning these studies will be published on the project website once they are approved by the EC.

Last but not least, on 15th September 2020 the RURALIZATION consortium organized a webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on young people in EU rural and urban areas. The recording of the webinar is shown in the project YouTube channel here.

Cira Mendoza,
Communications Officer for RURALIZATION

 

This project has received funding from European Union’s Horizon H2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 818496.

 

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