Every society, in its urban-rural context, is faced with the problems of sustainable and balanced spatial, socio-economic and demographic development. The topic of rural development in the world in recent years becomes more important. Any consideration of the future development of Serbian society, as part of its problems, must seriously take into account the issue of rural development and prevent urban-centered development trends. Environmental, socio-economic, demographic, and any other kind of equity in the development of a society is a necessary condition for its progress. A large part of the rural population is below the poverty line, socially and in every other way excluded from social events, and agriculture, as still dominant activity in rural areas, has been in crisis for decades (Jankovic, 2007).
A rural area can have the following functions: production of food, rest and recreation, conservation and improvement of the ecological stability of the entire territory, etc. (Huber, 1988: 36) In future it will be more and more emphasized the exploitation of the potential of rural areas for non-agrarian purposes. Rural development is not just the production of goods and services for the expansion of market goods and services, but also the environment protection. Sustainable rural development is possible only with the preservation of ecological values (even the improvement, if possible) of rural areas. Thus, the basic principles of sustainable development put agriculture farmers and other rural residents in the position of protectors of nature. It can be seen from the following principles:
- Integration of the development of nature in the development of agricultural production,
- Minimizing the use of externalities and non-renewable inputs,
- Full participation of farmers and other rural people in decision-making processes related to sustainable development,
- Greater use of local farmers knowledge and practices and
- Increasing social goods provided in rural areas (Đekić, 2000: 57).
Elements of competitiveness are many and depend on the context of each area individually. The main long-term objective of the development policy observed this way is the increase of widely understood quality of life in rural areas, creating jobs for the rural population, the integration of the area into a wider social system (health, education, cultural institutions), the creation of a network of relationships and cooperation of all stakeholders from government and public sector to private enterprise, NGOs and local associations. The aim is to mobilize local actors, local partnerships and active participation of interested individuals, social groups and institutions for better implementation of the endogenous potentials of the areas.
Social capital and capacity building of rural areas population
Rural areas represent a place of life and work of rural population, but on the other hand, they today assume a number of new functions. Specificity of development problems in rural areas varies depending on the particular social context in which they are being studied. This social context is conditioned by the development of every global society, the degree of its socio-economic development, the structure of the entire social system and the problems that every global society is facing. In the context of the development of rural areas, the problems that dominate are largely under the influence of the development of agriculture and rural economy. Rural areas are usually faced with the issue of isolation, social exclusion, transport and infrastructure incoherence, institutional non-development and the issue of diversification of the rural economy, which is to provide a place of employment of the rural population.
The comparative advantage of an area is reflected in the attractiveness of rural areas for the realization of opportunities for job creation, investment in infrastructure construction, local entrepreneurship and investment in small and medium-sized businesses, manufacturing facilities, the strategies for development of tourism, attractiveness of the area as a place of residence, and recreation and leisure and so on. Regional development policy should not encourage those activities that include maintaining the existing economic structure of the region no matter how much it makes them economically and developmental non-competitive, all for the sake of preserving social peace and social security of its people. The focus of regional development in terms of free market economy should be to strengthen the competitiveness of the region. This means that measures of that policy at local, regional and national level should make the region developmentally prosperous. With those actions it is necessary to activate the developmental potentials of the region, to take advantage of local sources of investment, incorporate the economy of the region in the national economy as a whole, and so on. It is particularly important that these measures make the region attractive for capital inflows from other parts of the country (especially the economically developed), and foreign investments.
In this regard, in addition to state incentives, the measures at local and regional level are particularly important. They need to allow potential investors to obtain economically acceptable and easily achievable locations for their business, stimulating use of local infrastructure, establishment of good relations with local government, and establishment of fair and friendly relations between the local population and the incoming investors. Am especially significant role of the overall regional administration is promoting and implementing the strategy of regional economic development of the state and the regions. Their involvement should be oriented towards the effective implementation of development directions and goals so that they jointly contribute to raising the overall competitiveness of the economy (general labor productivity and the efficient use of assets), while encouraging local and regional initiatives and environmental protection.
Sustainable development means that from the perspective of endogenous growth model, the local community has a certain level of participation and control over the development process, and the possibility of achieving and maintaining the benefits of the development (and its reproduction) in local frame. The ultimate goal is actually sustainable development, and an important element of sustainability is the potential synthesis of all dimensions of competitiveness, because a region must achieve competitiveness on several levels, e.g. environmental problems and pollution of land, water, air, can largely nullify “attractiveness” of an area for investment, housing, boost the so-called push factors for potential migrants – particularly rural youth, facilitate the development of tourism, the production of quality food and branding of local products and so on. On the other hand, the lack of human capital, for example the absence of younger educated population as a potential source of high-quality workforce, may prevent the investment of small and medium enterprises in rural areas.
Local rural communities have different degrees of ability to mobilize the local population and their potential for action in the direction of the desired socio-economic development. Social capital, on the one hand, is a prerequisite for development, but, on the other hand, it is a result of the ability of different actors to jointly and effectively act on the achievement of certain development goals. The basis for the establishment and maintenance of social capital vary, and as some of the most important are frequently highlighted the specific features of social organization, social norms, trust, quality and frequency of interaction, cooperation and mutual interest, distinctive local identity, the transparency of the development process. As such, social capital is seen as a resource that creates and maintains relationships, human and organizational resources, and the “glue” that connects people acting together. (Shucksmith, 2000)
Networks of interpersonal relationships and the recognition of common interests can lead to the creation of institutions that represent that interest. Farmers’ associations as a result of the interaction of interests of producers and social capital of a certain rural community, represent interest groups that have a range of functions, from the economic (marketing of agricultural products), to the function of mediation (negotiation) between the organizations of affiliated farmers and markets, that is, the institutions of global society. These associations serve as the mean of representation of the interests of affiliated members gathered around a commonly recognized interest, around joint (cooperative) values and norms which the affiliation means. Within these associations it is possible to strengthen the existing social capital (represented by the very institution of association), through education, advisory functions, information and networking of the actors in the market. In this regard, the associations of local rural people generally have different functions and do not refer exclusively to a particular sector (agriculture). The associations for local community development, for preservation of local traditions and heritage, folklore, sports, hunting, fishing, tourism, and a number of other associations can have a significant impact on the lives and development of a local rural community.
The state with its development models and centralist programs and strategies, can often produce a latent consequence of creating a sense of “mental addiction” with the local population, a feeling of helplessness and a state of continuing expectations for the government to do something to improve the situation. In such a situation, local initiatives may be unrecognized, inadequately supported or even completely absent. Local initiatives through local partnerships (between different actors – especially the public and private sectors) in planning, funding, coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects have a number of positive effects on the efficiency of development projects at the local level. This enables the exchange of experiences and ideas useful for development projects, joint decision making improves the quality of the project and its implementation, local knowledge and experience leads to better analysis of the advantages and disadvantages that exist at the local level, there is an increase accountability, improve of relationships (conflict management), feeling of social inclusion and so called capacity building of the local population (Moseley, 2003: 115-141).
It would be illusory to expect that these processes are not burdened with numerous problems. They are very much, especially in terms of the fact that local population is not used to such forms of cooperation and engagement, the risk of realizing the interests of powerful individuals and groups, the problems of the relative advantages of better organized local communities and regions that can attract a significant portion of the investment in their area (often influenced by local policy and powerful individuals). Also, there are problems for local groups to make a realistic assessment of the development and investment opportunities, which is the insufficient “capacity” of local groups and local administration to plan feasible and viable projects, which would have long term effects. In addition, there are possible legal and administrative barriers, lack of information, the problem of adequate and optimal mechanisms for the participation of local citizens and permanent open channels of participation, their motivation, dealing with financial management and assuming accountability, legitimacy of included representatives of local rural communities, possible conflicts due to the different interests and different view of the problems, burden of previous conflicts and bad experiences, as well as the aforementioned under-developed capacity of local administrations to manage such projects, and so on.
In any case, the aim of this approach is the initiation of the so-called process of “capacity building” and it represents a “long term investment” in human and social capital which is necessary for the processes of social changes. To achieve this, it is required a stronger cooperation between the public and private sector, state, local and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives, farmers’ associations and other associations in rural areas, educational institutions, mass media, etc., which is urgently needed for the sake of efficient work in the rural development process.
Clean food production and rural development
The concept of rural development is based on the principle of multi-functional development (Tosic, 2001). By this it is meant a combined development of agriculture and other activities. The role of government is reduced to the help in terms of funding in the form of subsidies and loan approval for raising social standards and public utilities in the area and improvement of infrastructure, investment in human resources, the development of processing facilities, etc. (Vujatović – Zakić Stojanovic, 2004). Significant measures of economic and agricultural policy in the future should solve problems in the operation of small family farms. Before the increase of the economic power of rural regions it is necessary to create the conditions for increasing the motivation of people to work. The use of innovation in rural activities should create space for entrepreneurial activity with the participation of young people. The quality of that potential workforce will be provided by the retraining of workers, as well as directing people which lost their jobs in the cities towards the activities in the rural areas.
The main instruments for achieving rural development are the activities such as conservation of natural resources, regulation of agricultural land and making progress and economic security of rural areas, while protecting and preserving the environment. One of the base aspects of rural development is the model of agro-rural economy. Agriculture as an important economic sector accounts in the total GDP for about 37 % (Bogdanov, 2007). The growing demand for food has led to the fact that the agricultural production primarily relies on the application of chemicals, with the aim of achieving the highest possible yields and profits. It is believed that the organic food production is the solution to the issue of food quality, food safety, environmental protection, conservation of agro-ecosystems, etc. and that it is potentially one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. Organic agriculture represents a production management system that promotes the recovery of ecosystems including biodiversity, biological cycles and emphasizes the use of methods which largely exclude the use of off-farm inputs. This means the maximum use of renewable energy, reducing all forms of pollution, environmental protection, as well as the creation of conditions to meet the basic needs of agricultural producers and acquiring adequate income. Organic farming emphasizes the human health and respects the natural balance, and avoids various types of pollutants (Ceranić, 2010).
Cleaner production requires changes in behavior, responsible environmental management, development and implementation of appropriate policies and constant evaluation of different technology options. Cleaner production is focused on the causes of the problems related to the environment, rather than on the consequences and not only deals with the processes of production, but can also be applied to the entire product life cycle, from the beginning of its development, the consumption to the disposal phase. CP task is to ensure the conservation of resources, elimination of hazardous materials and waste reduction. Five basic techniques of implementation of cleaner production are responsible business, process optimization, substitution of raw materials, new technology and new product development. Cleaner production protects the environment by preventing the inefficient use of resources and the waste that can be avoided. Companies that implement cleaner production should gain an economic advantage by reducing labor costs, reduced volume of waste treatment, reducing disposal costs, reduce environmental pollution and so on. Investing in cleaner production has a long term impact on better economic results of enterprises and reduces costs in relation to the implementation of solutions for the treatment of the already existing waste. Cleaner production, in addition to the high investment, requires that a company operates in terms of constant change. Such a dynamic situation requires a different and more expensive technology and human resources. These conditions disrupt the stability that is necessary to safely achieve mass production, which is essential to make profits in a market economy. Application of cleaner production thus potentially causes major changes in the organization and management.
Non-agricultural potentials of rural areas – tourism development and branding
The specifics of some rural areas, or the attractions that they can provide, must be used up within the rural development. There can be identified certain areas of recreation (sports, hunting, fishing), and the development program may, depending on the conditions, include the development of tourism. The development of the rural tourism should be based on, among other things, the preservation of cultural and spiritual values of the area, which means it is not necessary in all the segments of a rural area to insist on the establishment of equality between rural and urban. It provides an opportunity for increasing agricultural production because a part of the production would be intended for tourists, especially when it comes to environmentally friendly food. In general, activities in the field of rural tourism should also be carried out in accordance with ecological principles, without damaging the environment, by those who provide as well as by those who use tourism services.
To start the development of rural and ecological tourism, it is necessary to animate and educate the local population, develop strategic plans at the local level, establish local working groups and development groups (Lazovic, 2004). When animating the population it is necessary to give a clear view of all the positive aspects of the introduction of tourism to the local community. The effects and benefits that the local community could have must be clearly pointed out, but it must not be forgotten to present the effects of preservation and placement of local cultural and historical heritage. The development of tourism in rural areas is also reflected in the creation and definition of development plans that are based on valid information, and accepted by the local population. We cannot speak about the development of tourism if the funds in various funds and state authorities are not provided. The role of the state would be reflected in the co-financing of development plans relating to the improvement of infrastructure and basic living conditions, which is the prerequisite for the development of rural and ecological tourism (Tourism Development Strategy of Serbia for the period of 2005-2015). A prerequisite for the activation of rural areas is improving the quality of life, with the following measures: increasing the availability, an appropriate level of technical infrastructure, provision of basic public services, and retraining of the population.
In order to increase the competitiveness of a rural region as a destination in the domestic and international tourism market, in the short and long term, it is necessary to remove the existing deficiencies. Identified competitive disadvantages can be eliminated by applying the key competitiveness programs and their application should remove competitive disadvantages and significantly improve its competitive position in the domestic and international tourism market. The competitiveness programs can be seen in terms of separate program parts:
- Development and improvement of accommodation facilities,
- Development of tourism infrastructure,
- Training of personnel,
- Development of entrepreneurship,
- Planning, development and protection of the area,
- Tourism signalization,
- Improvement of public services and public infrastructure,
- Establishment of quality systems.
The current level of management and tourism development has a basic flaw in the absence of clearly defined management structure, as an organizationally professional approach to the determination that tourism is one of the directions of the future development of a region. The issue of management on the level of a tourist destination is particularly significant because it is one of the main driving forces of development of the value chain that would allow tourists an unforgettable travel experience. That means that someone is engaged in the development of competitiveness of certain area in a professional, effective and efficient manner, that is, it means that there is an institution that will assume the operational responsibility for the implementation of this strategy. In this context, it is necessary to consider possible models for organizing the management of the region as a tourist destination.
In the process of globalization the focus has shifted from the local to the global level, from the branding of products and services on the branding of regions. In the current process of connecting the world and the creation of a large global village, it is a challenge to brand a whole rural region, introduce to the world its unique characteristics, and promote the true values, while making the region develop in the right direction. In order to achieve these goals it is necessary to form all the marketing activities so as to improve the function of socio-economic interests of the destination. The main objectives of promoting should be:
- Development of Tourism,
- Development of the economy,
- Boosting investments,
- Improving the image.
Popularity of branding is directly driven by the process of globalization with the goal of unique differentiation and positioning. Clearly defining the image of a place, better positioning and popularizing within the international market framework, all of that helps to know better different destinations and bring closer different cultures and people.
In the future, the phenomenon of branded regions will be more prominent. In a sense, it seems that the identification with the brand, in our individualistic, materialistic, purchasing, egocentric era, became in a sense a sort of replacement or supplement to religious beliefs, that brands represent a person’s identity in a confusing, competitive world in which there is the possibility of losing rational choice (Olins, 2003). People define themselves through brands, express themselves, their emotions, and complement their personalities, position in the globalized social environment. Brands and branding have a certain prospective in the future, but it is up to us which way we will direct it and how we will shape it. Reviewing the current situation in the world market, where there are many examples of manipulation by brand, we come to the conclusion that it is needed to use brands and branding in favor of socio-economic development of countries and regions. The brand has a perspective if strong emotional ideas, coherence and consistency basically support the development of loyalty to itself. Depending on these settings, brands can be divided into desirable and undesirable. They can become socially responsible and promote positive values, achievements and obtain a certain attitude (positive or negative) towards the local community.
In the field of globalization and strengthening of the market competition, regions pay strong attention to branding in order to transfer the image to the world public of a desirable tourist or investment destination. Region branding is the modern way of their development, which may contribute to their promotion and positioning in the country and the world. Having in mind the actuality of countries, regions and cities branding in the world, significant benefits would be achieved from the definition and implementation of effective brand strategy of the regions in our country.
The goal of branding is to develop a notion of a location as unique, attractive and credible. In this way, the main objectives of a region should be: economic development, tourism development, increase of investment and improving the image. The result of the project of branding is an emphasis on a clear competitive advantage, which would ultimately contribute to greater inflow of foreign direct investment in the region, increased exports, increased tourist numbers and/or larger number of organized cultural and sporting events. Accordingly, the branding of a region would help in the overall socio-economic development of the region by strengthening the economy, promotion of cultural heritage, job creation and poverty reduction.
Branding is a complex process in which, in order to achieve maximum results, it is needed the involvement of all stakeholders (residents, local authorities, industry representatives) to create and broadcast a single message to the public. For this reason, branding is primarily seen as the responsibility of local government to take the initiative and utilize all the resources in close cooperation with representatives of industry and experts in relevant fields.
Tourism is almost entirely dependent on the environment. Natural resources and man-made resources are the primary source of tourism. Any degradation of the primary sources is likely to cause the reduction of tourism. Thus, their economic analyses are of great importance for tourism. Like other economic activities, tourism requires the consumption of certain resources. Today, tourism is seen as one of the main economic activities in the world. It contributes about six percent of the world’s income. Of course, it has a significant impact on the demand of exhaustible and renewable resources. It manages the significant amount of waste and thus influences the solution of the problem. Operation of tourism enterprises reflects market characteristics of other economic sectors. The expansion of tourism or concentration in certain destinations have neglected the long-term dependence of industry and the environment, which has led to over-exploitation on natural resources and non-economy (Cater, Goodall, 2002). Ecotourism is a form of such use of the space, which means minimizing the negative impacts on nature and the local population. It helps the protection and management of the protected natural resources and other natural areas. Ecotourism affects the long-term participation of local people in decision-making and determines the economic and other benefits to the local population.
The potentials of Leader initiatives
The processes of planning of rural development must be located both at the regional and local level because of the optimal use of resources, facilitation of the connection of regional and local actors, avoiding bureaucratization and lack of understanding of regional and local conditions with the central institutions, etc. In this way, local and regional (internal) issues are gaining in importance (e.g. level of income in the region, the level of employment and preservation of natural resources, increasing revenues from agriculture, local initiatives for development and rural regeneration, etc.). Experiences in terms of rural development in Europe are numerous and they partially represent local and regional (territorial) answers to questions of development of rural areas, which are incorporated into national rural development strategies. Examples of this are European initiatives of so-called endogenous rural development Leader 1 and Leader 2. A general assessment of Leader 1, 2 and Leader + initiatives is positive. The positive experiences of the first two initiatives have led to the continued funding in the form of Leader + initiative, i.e. the measures planned for the period after the year 2007, when Leader exceeds the level of a pilot initiative and becomes an integral part of the “programming” of rural development. This initiative has led to the creation of hundreds of local action groups throughout Europe, which are connected and share experiences of their development projects.
General characteristics of the Leader initiatives (symbolically, often called “laboratories of rural development”) are: development focused on a specific territory for better use of endogenous potentials of the area, horizontal integration activities, strengthening the common identity and vision for development; bottom up approach, which is reflected in the active participation of local people; local partnerships, operationalized through local action groups (LAG) that actively coordinate these processes; innovative approach, aimed at creating alternative and original solutions for the sake of raising the competitiveness of the area; multi-sectorial integration, as a combination of activities of the various economic sectors, social groups and institutions; networking, in terms of connecting different groups and territories covered by Leader initiatives, in order to allow dissemination of information, ideas and experiences among rural regions of Europe and to stimulate cooperation among regions (active participation in this task is mandatory for all users of Leader programs); decentralized management and financing, with participation in the financing by the person who uses the programs.
Leader actions have contributed to the sustainability of the development processes at the local level, have proven to be adaptable to different socio-economic and managerial context and applicable to smaller territorial activities in rural areas, have induced the responsibility of local partnerships, linking public and private sector in a common strategy, as well as the interests of many different stakeholders (Shucksmith, et al., 2005: 109). These activities are faced with many problems and obstacles such as the influence of interest groups and the issue of the quality of partnerships in local action groups, problems of administrative barriers for the implementation of projects, the relatively low participation of women in local action groups and problems of institutional underdevelopment, which can be an obstacle to successful development activities. Leader in the next period becomes an integral part of the EU rural development policy, along with other similar types of SAPARD funds (IPARD), PHARE, ISPA or similar national programs similar to Leader, focused on rural development of local rural communities.
According to the 2007-2013 financial perspective, 43 percent of the total EU budget goes to rural development and the implementation of EU agricultural policy. Given the complexity of the Common Agricultural Policy, EU supports candidate countries in the adaptation of the agricultural sector and rural areas, as well as the implementation of EU legislation in the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy. Component relating to rural development is intended for candidate countries in order to prepare for the implementation and management of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Implementation of assistance under this component contributes to the sustainable development of the agricultural sector and rural areas, as well as an improved implementation of the acquis communautaire in the field of the Common Agricultural Policy. Also, through the process for using this component of IPA, the candidate countries for EU membership are prepared to use funds from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Technical assistance is a measure which is related to the assistance to the public administration in the implementation of IPARD operational program. This measure is aimed for helping to establish the IPARD Monitoring Committee, conducting monitoring and evaluation activities, seminars and meetings, and so on. It is also important to note that the administration and organizations active in the field of rural development, established in the beneficiary countries under this IPA, have access to the European network for rural development. Through participation in this network a user can have an easy way to establish cooperation with relevant actors in the field of rural development in the EU member states and thus to further improve the agricultural sector and the protection of their interests at European and global level.
Measures that are particularly important are:
Encouraging the diversity and development of rural economic activities through the launch of economic activity, creating employment opportunities and through diversification into non-agricultural activities. Priority is given to investments for creating micro and small enterprises, crafts and rural tourism in order to improve the development of entrepreneurship and economic production. In areas where the local rural development strategy is already determined, the investment under this section shall be in accordance with these strategies.
Preparation and implementation of local rural development strategies through the preparation of projects of cooperation in accordance with the priorities of rural development and management of local public-private partnership by establishing so-called “Local action groups”.
Activities to improve the environment and nature, through the implementation of pilot projects in order to develop practical experience in the implementation of actions to improve the environment and nature, both at the level of administration, and the level of agricultural holdings. Examples include organic farming, crop rotation, reducing the use of fertilizers, etc.
Improvement and development of rural infrastructure by reducing regional disparities and increasing the attractiveness of rural areas for the development of entrepreneurship and providing conditions for the development of rural economies. Priority in this program is to measure the investment in water and energy supply, waste management, local access to information and communication technologies, local access roads of particular importance for local and economic development, as well as infrastructure and fire protection because of the risk of forest fires.
Improving the training in order to contribute to the improvement of professional skills and competence of persons engaged in the agricultural, food and forestry sectors and other economic actors employed in the fields covered by this component (but keep in mind that the funds will not be awarded for training courses that form part of normal education programs or systems at secondary school or higher levels).
Important experiences of rural development policy in the European Union, from which Serbia should learn are mobilizing and connecting all stakeholders in the process of rural development, regionalization, decentralization (de-concentration of decision-making and management), application of knowledge and experience of other countries, regional and local development projects, the idea of local action groups at the community level and so on. Serbia should turn this idea into a formal development strategy and operationalize them in a way that they can be practically achievable. Thus would be built the capacity of rural areas population, which in conjunction with other forms of capital of every rural area can increase its competitiveness and potentially produce a number of positive social changes.
Industrialization enables the improvement of the living standards of a large number of people on Earth, but it has a negative impact on the environment and human health. Education for environmental protection is not just about exploring the natural and social sciences necessary for understanding and solving environmental problems and environmental pollution, it also includes upgrading moral principles and the establishment of a new value system of man in relation to nature and the environment. The main instruments for achieving rural development are the activities such as conservation of natural resources, regulation of agricultural land and making a progress and economic security in rural areas, while protecting and preserving the environment. Organic farming as a model agro-economic development can be an important instrument for achieving rural development, given the fact that it is a solution to the issue of food quality and safety, environmental protection and conservation of agro-ecosystem, and that it is potentially one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.
The specifics of some rural areas, or the attractions that they can provide, must be used up within the rural development. Activities in the field of rural tourism should also be carried out in accordance with ecological principles, without damaging the environment, by those who provide as well as by those who use tourism services. In the current process of connecting the world and the creation of a large global village, it is a challenge to brand a whole rural region, introduce to the world its unique characteristics, and promote the true values, while making the region develop in the right direction. Branding is a complex process in which, in order to achieve maximum results, it is needed the involvement of all stakeholders (residents, local authorities, industry representatives) to create and broadcast a single message to the public.
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