Partnership And Subsidiarity: An Irish Case Study Of Rural Development
The governance and rural development model is considered to be a conducive policy approach for a EU rural economy that contemporarily seeks to focus less on intensive productivist agriculture and more on innovation and diversification. The model claims to encourage more representative and effective rural development, on the basis that different local stakeholders are involved as decision-makers in the development process, and that the emergent development outcome is more local and integrated as a result. The operation of governance and rural development models that are designed both to achieve popular participation and to represent a diverse range of interests for the purposes of developing the rural economy is hinged on a number of assumptions, however, among them the broad generalisation that local rural people are “competent actors in the development process” (LEADER European Observatory, 1997). With growing emphasis internationally on the need for innovation and diversification in rural income-generating activity (Future of Rural Society, CEC (1988); Lisbon Strategy, CEC (2007)), it is timely to explore the sociological factors that have governed the extent to which, and how, rural inhabitants (as well as different social groups) have been engaging with new paradigms for rural development thus far. With reference to the Irish case, this paper explores the possibility that the partnership model, though representing an effort to ‘hand over’ the development process to local people, can also marginalise local people through its fostering of a particular rural development ‘product’. Entrepreneurs who engage in indigenising the local economy (tourism; organic and artisan producers) are the new pioneers, with traditional agricultural producers often in the position of having to adapt to new development rules. In Ireland it is evident that a high number of officially categorised non-viable farming enterprises are persisting and conventional farmers are showing resistance to involvement in contemporary rural development programmes. This paper explores the key features of the contemporary rural development agenda and presents case-study analysis of the factors that conventional farmers identify as featuring prominently in their decisions not to engage.
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