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Abandoned and uncultivated

Oct 04, 2021 / Veronika Hribernik, CIPRA International
Remote mountain villages in Piedmont/I have been struggling with heavy emigration for years. The region is now supporting people moving back to the mountains. A study from Austria shows how endangered Alpine agriculture actually is.
Image caption:
A revitalised mountain village: Ostana/I at the foot of Monte Viso had just five inhabitants in 1985. Today it is home to a real laboratory for sustainable future technologies. © Remo Costantini, wiki commons

A house used as a main residence in a mountain village with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants may qualify for financial support of between 10,000 and 40,000 euros: at the beginning of September 2021, the region of Piedmont/I published a call for tenders for a funding pot of around ten million euros for the purchase of Alpine real estate. Preference will be given to young people who work from home, have children under the age of ten, renovate the house with regional materials in the architectural style typical of the region, or commission a company based in a Piedmontese mountain community to carry out the renovation.

It remains to be seen how the new residents will be able to work away from their home offices. In the region, it is hoped that village communities will grow again as a result of the influx from the cities and that this will also create new employment opportunities. However, there is a risk that only short-term settlements will occur. A further support programme should therefore enable the establishment of “service shops”. In addition to products, services for the local community are to be offered there in order to combat the commercial desertification of mountain villages.

Mountain farming

Producing ever more at ever cheaper prices: an Austrian study shows that this trend has marginalised mountain areas and made them dependent on compensation payments. In the Alpine region in particular, there is a great danger that agricultural land will be abandoned. To counteract this trend, the study recommends policy instruments such as training programmes, financial security, low-threshold support for small farms, targeted investment support and simplified access to land. In addition, the authors of the study write in an article for Via Campesina that the negative concepts associated with mountain farming, such as “backwardness” or “disadvantaged”, must be overcome. They conclude that examples of innovative activities are needed so as to support possible alternative forms of farming and positive models. The study was carried out for the European Parliament by the Federal Institute of Agricultural Economics and Mountain Farming (BAB) and the Austrian Institute for Spatial Planning (ÖIR).

Sources and further information: (it), (it), (de), (de), (de), (de), (en)