Slovenian finalists of the european competition for Rural Inspiration Awards 2022
This year's fourth edition of Rural Inspiration Awards taking place under the slogan The Future is Youth is organised by the European Commission together with the European Network for Rural Development. The aim of the competition is to raise the visibility of the rural development policy and the contribution of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development to the long-term vision for rural areas, and to promote the exchange of views and networking between interested stakeholders in rural areas. Slovenia submitted eight projects for the European selection.
In May and June, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food gathered Slovenian entries for the European competition of the best practices in rural areas. We received 17 entries and eight of them were shortlisted by an expert panel.
Slovenian finalists for the four thematic categories of this year's competition are:
- Green Futures
The project entitled Increasing the productivity of agricultural production by increasing water use efficiency and sustainability (PRO-PRODUCTION) contributes to sustainable water use and smart irrigation, resulting in the mitigation of climate change and a better quantity and quality of plant production. The project introduced the use of the Irrigation Decision Support System in practice. Farmers decide when and how much water they will add based on the advice they receive. The project is important as the level of agricultural production with a high added value (vegetables, berries) is very low in Slovenia. One of the reasons behind this is also the lack of knowledge on water use.
The Wooden phoenix project, which is co-financed under the LEADER measure, boasts innovation with urban equipment made of discarded wood. The equipment was installed in the local environment, drawing attention to the principles of circular economy and displaying the concept of the re-use of wood. A new approach to the development of the educational process was introduced, bringing together the economy, the local community and an educational establishment with the aim of achieving the final result.
The project entitled High welfare floor for dairy cows is an example of good practice. It is not only the first stable of this kind in Slovenia but also in the world. High Welfare Floor is an innovative stable-floor concept for free-range farming. The floor provides a dry and safe living space for dairy cows and supports their natural behaviour.
- Digital Futures
Innovation partnership for the integrity of organic food supply chains EIP – EKOPAKT addresses the challenges faced by the breeders of organic beef and the entire organic beef supply chain. An efficient traceability and marketing system for organic beef has not yet been established in Slovenia. Large amounts of organically produced meat continue their way through the supply chain as conventional meat. The aim of the project is to establish a modern digital traceability system for organic beef, which would ensure better transparency of the entire supply chain from stable to fork.
- Resilient Futures
The project entitled Innovative cooperative – the integration of farmers (UNITY IS STRENGHT) establishes a group of potato producers and a group of vegetable and fruit producers as part of a cooperative. The project succeeded in bringing together over 1,700 farmers. Farmers work together in order to provide sufficient amounts of products for large retailers. It remains the only cooperative in Slovenia to buy milk, cattle, timber, vegetables, potatoes and fruits, and carries out a commercial activity of selling everything that farmers need in a one-stop-shop.
The project entitled Bonita, new resistant club apple variety in Slovenia brings together researchers, advisors and producers, who aim to introduce a new scab-resistant club variety of apples. On the producers' initiative, they examine the production technology of the Bonita variety under the EIP project, which will be finalised in 2022. They have been introducing a new marketing system over the past year, involving a unique packaging and a specific quality of fruits, which are made available when they are most appropriate for consumption.
- Socially Inclusive Futures
The project entitled Xena – new learning environments in the city and rural areas was conceived because a need for additional infrastructure in the field of education (one class in the kindergarten) and for leisure and other activities emerged within the local action group (LAG). The aim was also to achieve a greater participation of vulnerable groups (children, young people and the elderly) in the fields of self-sufficiency and nature protection and conservation in the LAG "From Pohorje Hills to Bohor Hill". The main outcome of the project are four programmes of experiential learning and four new learning environments in the city and rural areas. The activities also contributed to resource efficiency and greenhouse gas emission reductions, since the established life cycle of food promotes a low-carbon and zero-waste society forming the basis of circular economy.
The success story of Štorklja Intergenerational Cooperation Centre was written in one of the most remote rural areas in Slovenia under the Goričko LAG 2020 LEADER project. The Štorklja Center, which lies within the Korenika eco-social farm, enables the social inclusion of the young and the old in an innovative way and develops the potential of rural areas for young people. It enables young people to acquire traditional skills, while older people are given the opportunity to socialise and acquire digital skills. In addition, it is the entry point for new jobs and entrepreneurship in rural areas. The main added value of the project is the establishment of a long-term intergenerational cooperation based on an innovative partnership.