Good Practices: The RURITAGE library of knowledge

RURITAGE project’s base units are the six Systemic Innovation Areas (SIAs). These represent areas of intervention whose intersections constitute a European model of heritage-led rural development. They are Pilgrimage, Sustainable Local Food Production, Migration, Arts & Festival, Resilience and Integrated Landscape Management. Each SIA has a unique potential as a driver of sustainable rural development. The project chose and studied a total of thirteen Role Models representing these SIA’s, which have implemented successful heritage-led rural regeneration models in their regions.

The end result of this Knowledge Building task was the RURITAGE Practices Repository and the Inventory of Lessons Learned (Figure 1). In the first, good practices from the Role Models were analysed and a total of 94 “actions” have been extracted: thirteen actions for the Pilgrimage SIA, twenty-seven actions in the Sustainable Local Food Production SIA, seven actions in Migration SIA, fifteen actions in Arts and Festival SIA, 16 in Resilience SIA and sixteen actions in the Integrated Landscape Management SIA. In the second, these actions were further analysed and a set of innovative solutions that make role-model regeneration strategies successful were distilled.

The Good Practices of RURITAGE’s Role Models

RURITAGE’s Role Models embody successful cases of rural regeneration. For this, they have implemented a series of Good Practices which are now part of a repository and which can be used as starting point for other regions to structure their own regeneration plans. Below are some of the good practices identified by our project and the evidences that demonstrate their success.

Within the Pilgrimage SIA, the role-models “Camino de Santiago” (Spain) and “Via Maria”, two heritage routes to sacred and historical places, have put in place practices such as the establishment of local associative bodies to manage the pilgrimage route, the restoration and reuse of old buildings, the production and marketing of local products or the promotion of eco-tourism and a fidelity card to support businesses (networked tourist offer). With this, Camino de Santiago has attracted over 270,000 pilgrims from more than 100 countries and has a total yearly income of nearly €34M.

A road marker along the Camino de Santiago

In its turn, Via Maria has more than 1,000 km of routes now available, more than 5,000 pilgrims involved in tailored programs and a sacred art festival (ARS SACRA Festival) involving yearly 400 people.

In the Sustainable Food Production SIA, the production of agro-food in the Puglia region, Italy, and the UNESCO World Heritage Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia, are great examples of how food staples are helping to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of both tourism and agriculture. In Puglia food clusters and marketing strategies were put in place at the same time a set of quality standards was created to certify quality. This is evidenced in the technological agro-food district which involves 100 companies, 12 Universities and research centres and 14 local administrations. In its turn, in Colombia where 195 000 tonnes of coffee are produced every year, a business management supporting service for coffee producers was set using a digital platform for online training and inventories and guidelines for the valorisation of the historical infrastructure defined. 

The Cultural Landscape of Coffee in Colombia

For the Migration SIA, the integration of migrants in the Asti province, Italy, and the migrant’s integration trough the natural environment in Lesvos Island Global UNESCO Geopark, Greece were chosen as Role Models. In the first, a Rural Hub for migrants’ integration was built, historic buildings to host these migrants were rehabilitated and Cultural and Natural Heritage (CNH) related training and internships were developed. With these practices, Asti is currently hosting around 160 migrants yearly in an historic restored building and newly arrived migrants work together with local farmers to promote integration and boost rural development.

In Greece, where integration and information programmes for migrants and citizens together with guided tours specifically tailored for migrants as a way to raise awareness on the region’s CNH, around 200 migrants are trained every year in the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest.

The SIA Arts & Festival, has in the Town of the Living Middle Ages, Visegrád (Hungary) and in British arts organisation Take Art, its Role Models. In Visegrád, around 1,000 performers and 40,000 visitors participate yearly in the Visegrád Castle Games and the city has connections and partnerships with six other cities in Europe promoting Historical Festivals. To achieve this, tailored visiting packs were created, traditional activities have been supported and a narrative strategy was created.

Take Art is an organisation born in 1987 that works with thousands of people across the Britain, providing them the opportunity to experience the arts. They have developed an innovative rural touring network as a way of bringing high quality, professional performing arts experiences to rural communities; developed public and local earned income funding strategies to sustain the rural touring ecology and created marketing events in partnership with local villages to attract audience and facilitate greater community wellbeing and inclusion.

South Iceland Katla and Crete’s Psiloritis UNESCO Global Geoparks are the two representatives of the Resilience SIA. In Katla Geopark, which receives accounts around 200 000 overnight stays yearly, intangible and tangible heritage is used to raise awareness on human resilience to natural hazards. For this, traditional storytelling as a means to understand the environment, foster awareness on the relation among landscape, hazards and man’s interventions and participative community projects are used. Currently, virtually all of the local population is trained on how to respond to an extreme event.

Landscape in Katla Geopark, Iceland

In its turn in Psiloritis Geopark, resilience training for the community, a toolkit to foster resilient citizens and research on the traditional practices to increase resilience are being developed. With this, more than 1,000 volunteers and local authorities’ employees were already trained with around 8,500 pupils involved.

Finally, the Landscape SIA, has three role models. The Austrått manorial landscape in Norway, the Douro Cultural landscape between Portugal and Spain and the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland.

In Norway, the deep intangible relationship between the Orland’s municipality locals and the landscape they inhabit is being used as a way to preserve it. This is done via a participative process for the recognition and evaluation of CNH features. Here, an integrated heritage management system was established leading to more local business opportunities, increased tourist numbers and employment related to this activity.

In Douro, which has over 300.000 hectares within the Natura 2000 protection area, the thousands of years old wine production activity has deeply shaped the landscape. However, this agricultural activity is in many areas still done and managed by traditional landowners. Here, strategies to evaluate interactions between social and ecological systems, local businesses empowerment & branding and a high-level training program for landscape managers have been put in place. The results are clear: 20,000 cultural elements and 1,000 historical towns protected, thirteen new brands and labels of local products, 110 companies supported, and 250 people trained.

The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland is the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. It has 157 discovery points, 1000 attractions and more than 2,500 activities along the way. The creation of a local brand and construction of a “Wild Atlantic Way” narrative, together with the valorisation of the local CNH and a strong integration of arts and festivals, is increasing the number of tourists in the region and promoting the re-entering of the private sector in the area.

A stroll along the beach in the Wild Atlantic Way

At the end of September 2018 our project launched a call for additional Role Models with the objective of gathering more good practices. Seven new Role Models joined and new practices such as creation of a network of mountain livestock farms interested in adopting agroecological innovations (Trento, Italy) or the restoration and conservation of 100 historic buildings at risk in the region of Halland, Sweden were added.

These are the actions that make our Role-Models leaders in rural regeneration. On our next article we will explore the Lessons Learned and present you the set of innovative solutions we have identified.