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ALDA in Ypres: stories from rural Europe

Where is Europe?

Europe is in its rural areas. That’s why on December 2-4 ALDA went to Ypres, Belgium, where the event “Sustainable Rural Development” was held in collaboration with Flanders Field Museum. This event is part of a bigger story, which started with Eusave - a Europe For Citizens project aimed at promoting the exchange of good practices and fostering a network of actors for the development of smart rural villages. Besides ALDA, the project involves 6 rural municipalities in Italy, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Spain, Croatia, Portugal and Latvia; that in Ypres was Eusave's fourth international event.

The first day of the event focused on exploring tools and drivers for thriving rural communities, and navigated bottom-up and top-down drivers for an inclusive and sustainable rural development. We talked about rural development of cross-border regions, the role of LAGs in local development, and the synergies between social innovation and rural services.

Challenges experienced by rural areas today were discussed in the morning, while in the afternoon the focus was on sustainable solutions. Thanks to the participation of various local initiatives, we discovered some good practices of local development that were born from the grassroots. Among others, we learned about Repair Cafe, LETs and Free State Flanders; talked about car and bike sharing; visited the Bibus, an actual bus equipped with computers and books that moves around the West Flanders to bring services to the most inaccessible areas.

At the end of the day, a participant commented: “I have come here with my head full of problems; thanks to the meeting I will bring home different solutions and contacts to contribute to my community in a sustainable way”.

The second day of the event was managed by Flanders FIeld Museum and navigated the topic of integrated heritage management as a driver of rural development. In Ypres, the memory of WWI is kept alive on a daily basis: not only the Last Post ceremony is performed every day in order not to forget the soldiers fallen during the war and never buried; here, stories of WWI are set on music, kids learn them at school and through hands-on activities.

We therefore learned about how tourism can serve as a lever for local economy, and how remembering where we come from can help us understand who we are today. Which is always a good lesson.


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