A project by Complutense University seeks to see rural Spain as an area of ​​opportunity

Diario de Teruel

The Geovacui-2 project of the Complutense University of Madrid, funded by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (Fecyt), considers in its final results that rural Spain affected by depopulation should be seen as an active region and not full of opportunities. The researchers who conducted the study visited the Albarracín and Jiloca regions earlier this year as part of their fieldwork, and in their conclusions they now propose a decade of action to combat depopulation.

The study carried out this year is a continuation of a study carried out in 2021 with the intention of bringing an approach from the academic world of the University to the situation of the rural environment, and on this occasion, focusing on the cooperation initiatives carried out in Turkey. they give in these lands to fight against depopulation.

Among their conclusions, they propose a ten-year action plan for public administrations to combat this phenomenon; These include the need for a consensus among political parties to address this situation, the need to simplify administrative procedures, improve digitization and connectivity, and address the uniqueness of each region to promote policies that should be implemented to correct the problem.

Over the decade, the researchers have produced a video titled Neither empty nor emptied: an active rural Spain, as well as other materials such as a warehouse and a shared map of 89 startups in rural areas. sample.

In addition, the authors of the project have updated the geovisors carried out in the first phase of the project, which ensure that the sociodemographic, population, accessibility and mobility information is known on the maps. To this they added different training workshops to sensitize Secondary and Baccalaureate students to the phenomenon of depopulation.

Carmen Mínguez, from the Faculty of Geography and History at the Complutense University of Madrid and principal investigator of Geovacui-2, stated in their final report that they “adopted a positive discourse that they wanted to make visible”. work to identify common patterns.”

The way this research is conducted is based on the citizen science model, so that the population contributes with their contributions, but ultimately the expression of results occurs through the academic world.

Mínguez explains that through this system, participants are involved from the very beginning as they can learn about the results, comment on the results, and make recommendations to the research team.

Stating that they listen to the suggestions of the citizens, the lead researcher says, “They are not citizen scientists, they are citizen science,” and explains, “We discuss and consider them, but according to the scientific method, we have the last word.” .

With their conclusions and recommendations, they prepared the final report of the Geovacui-2 project in this way, with the same name as the video they produced to achieve greater prevalence: Neither vain nor vain: an active rural Spain .

Covered by a photograph of Albarracín, this document presents the background of the project, raises discourses on depopulation, and defends an image of an active rural Spain before the recommendations reach ten years.

Their initial advice has been actively and passively requested from these regions and transferred to the General Courts through initiatives that have already received wide support, yet the issue of depopulation remains a throwing weapon in the political arena. arena without consensus.

For this reason, the researchers of the Geovacui project want a State Pact to be reached, because such a phenomenon requires a “consensus” between the parties, regional, social and economic complexity in order to be able to “define cohesive policies”. poses.”

On the other hand, they recommend implementing policies preferably from the bottom-up rather than from the bottom-up, because, according to the study’s authors, “they should be largely designed by local or county governments to suit their specific needs.” .

Capturing the video made within the scope of the Geovacui-2 project, which can be seen on the internet with the results of the project

As a third recommendation, government support is considered to be “necessary” for the realization of good local public or private initiatives.

The academic world believes that the implementation of differentiated taxation is equally necessary. In this sense, “financially equalizing the rural and urban environment presupposes clear discrimination against low-population areas with small-scale agricultural production systems and no easy access to fast means of communication”.

“Fair taxation should design tax exemptions and incentives in rural areas and, in any case, differential treatment to rebalance the social and economic imbalances that exist between them and rural areas,” they insist on this point of their decade. .

consistency

Another issue they emphasize, which is an old demand of the people, is the need to simplify administrative barriers. They remember that this is what rural businessmen and entrepreneurs convey to them, arguing that for this “consistency and ease of administrative processes” should be given as a necessary claim to foster rural entrepreneurship.

The sixth piece of advice they make is the urgency of quick and lasting connection and connection in rural areas because “isolation entails the loss of references and opportunities for individual and collective development”. In this context, they emphasize that “physical accessibility and good internet connectivity are essential elements to prevent the isolation and impoverishment of rural areas far from dynamic centers”.

Another point that they affect in their decalogues is the singularity value. The authors claim that each region “has inherent potential and resources that must be evaluated individually.” For this reason, they ensure that the strategic lines put into practice are expressed by measures that “observe the singularities of rural areas”.

We are asked to address this phenomenon with our feet firmly on the ground, with suggestions from the academic world of the university that should be “realistic and sound”. They argue that any proposal for socioeconomic revival in rural areas must be adjusted to “concrete” facts that are “strategically sound” and compatible with “sustainability”.

Another point that the researchers of the Geovacui-2 project emphasize is that there should be a binomial of will and professionalism. They point out that the development of projects aimed at revitalizing rural areas requires both “professionalism” and “rigor” on the part of all relevant agents, both entrepreneurs and public administrations.

Finally, they close the decade with the basic recommendation that the region should be the center of all action. In this context, they point out that “the question of depopulated Spain constitutes a major management problem that has one of its inevitable keys in the planning of the region”.

In their study, the researchers note that the functional support of the disconnected and declining rural world should be treated more as a loss than as a loser.

To this end, they argue, they qualify their depopulation discourse because low density “by no means means empty”, because practice shows they are “flexible spaces” capable of “developing valuable initiatives to ensure survival.” Geovacui-2 sees rural Spain as a region “active, rich in values ​​and initiatives”.

Recognize and highlight the area as an active and flexible place

One tool that emerged from the Geovacui-2 project is a collaborative map available on the internet on the project website, which creates a repository of successful initiatives in the region and can be a reference for replication elsewhere.

The project’s researchers insist on the idea that rural Spain is not empty but full of activity and should be “recognised and highlighted”. In addition, it is stated that the phenomenon of population decline does not affect all regions equally with the same intensity and that the hegemony of the initiatives carried out is of special origin.

This collaborative map also shows that beyond rural accommodation, traditional economic sectors dominate, despite the gradual implementation of new sectors related to population, bioeconomy, endogenous resources and recreation with the provision of services and roads.

In the vehicle developed by Geovacui-2, it is seen that there is a high rate of innovation in successful initiatives.

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