Dr. Farrell: Women are “untapped potential in rural development”

Women in rural economies, in agriculture or in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are probably one of the most untapped potentials of rural development, according to Dr Maura Farrell

Dr Farrell, who is a senior lecturer in the School of Geography and Archeology at the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, was speaking on ‘Rural Ireland: Our Long-Term Vision’ at the Irish Rural Link 30th Anniversary Conference in Athlone. May 6.

“Future rural areas must provide greater opportunities for women to engage in business and have access to land if they wish to engage in agriculture,” she told the rally.

“In considering rural trends in the future, we must first explore where we are now. Rural Ireland, like many other rural areas in the EU, has undergone fundamental change.

“The pace and persistence of these changes is unlike anything we have seen in history and is largely driven by social modernizations, such as a decline in organized religion or mass education; innovation behind new technologies and how we are influenced by globalization,” said Dr. Farrell.

“Currently, rural areas face challenges, which range from our post-pandemic concerns about improving rural isolation and health care to the decline of the farm family and inadequate rural services and facilities. On the positive side however, rural areas currently offer an enriched quality of life, new opportunities for remote work and community integration.

“By looking at future trends in rural areas from a sustainability perspective, it is possible to envision considerable change, from a social, environmental and economic perspective,” said Dr Farrell.

“Societal changes are inevitable, with rural areas potentially experiencing a demographic trend of rising populations due to new economic opportunities in rural areas and better option of remote working. Older people currently make up a significant percentage of rural population and this trend will continue in the future.

To adequately deal with this future reality, Dr Farrell said there will need to be increased services and facilities for the elderly, but particularly in the care industry.

“The opportunity for supportive housing and independent living must be realized to ensure older people have the opportunity to stay in their own homes.

“Older farmers also need consideration, of their retirement options and indeed their quality of life if they retire. However, rather than a disadvantage, an older rural population can be viewed from a silver economy perspective, with many small businesses, services and facilities needed for older people, which in turn can have a positive economic impact. .

young people

Addressing young people in rural areas, NUI Galway explored their dreams for the future through the Horizon 2020 RURALIZATION project.

“His results showed that the majority of young people surveyed wanted to stay in a rural setting, but close to an urban centre,” Dr Farrell said.

“They wanted to live in an individual house and get involved in community and volunteer life. They also found work-life balance extremely important, while seeking quality employment, in line with their qualifications, in a rural setting. »

One of the key future trends affecting rural areas, she said, is the increase in the number of migrants living in rural areas, including Irish returnees, EU migrants, refugees and forced migrants, including the most recent increase in Ukrainian migrants.

“These ‘New Irish’ can improve the diversity of rural areas in addition to augmenting declining populations in some areas and workers in others,” she said.

“To ensure that Ireland does not go down the path of right-wing populist thinking, migrants must be included and accepted in society and seen as a benefit to sustainability and rural development, rather than a form obstacle.”

In the future, key rural environmental trends will potentially include climate action, biodiversity protection, issues related to land use for production and the environment, sustainable energy, water protection, agricultural change and community engagement, she said.

“These trends may offer opportunities for the environmental and economic sustainability of rural areas, through considerations around new agricultural systems, or the protection of our wetlands and peatlands with quality of life and tourism potentials alongside environmental benefits. “, said Dr. Farrell.

“Our current policy environment in the area of ​​agriculture and rural development, from the new CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) strategic plan to our rural future, the Rural Development Policy 2021-2025, provides policy avenues and guidance adequate to prepare us for future trends in environmental issues, but what becomes important is how we hold government accountable to ensure that all policies are fully implemented,” Dr. Farrell continued.


“A good example of a current trend, which could play a key role in future trends and directions in agriculture and the environment, is the European Agriculture Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI)”, said Dr. Farrell.

“Currently Ireland has 57 EIP-AGRI Task Forces working on many projects in various parts of the country.

“The key philosophy of these projects is the multi-stakeholder approach, which ensures that each operational group is made up of farmers, advisers, researchers and industrial partners, etc.

“This multi-stakeholder approach is essential to ensure that we adequately address key rural issues,” said Dr Farrell.


“Technology will undoubtedly dominate our future trends in the economy, for example, how we establish remote work in rural areas and how we develop SMEs,” the lecturer said.

“The SME sector can play a key role in the long-term sustainability and development of rural areas, especially with a focus on the food industry, namely organic farming and horticulture.

“Tourism will continue to play a key role in the economic viability of rural areas, but with a longer-term focus on environmental, educational and historical tourism.

“The marine and ocean economy could grow in the future, playing a key role in energy production, but providing a ‘spin-off’ industry in remote and peripheral regions.

The knowledge-based bioeconomy, said Dr Farrell, will also play a role in rural enterprise and development in the future.

However, to ensure that rural areas can benefit economically from new businesses and industry in the future, it is essential that investments are secured for rural infrastructure, namely broadband, transport and housing.

“Industry and government support for remote work is critical to the availability of quality jobs in rural areas from a remote work perspective. It is also essential that a higher level of value is placed on the SME sector, that it is recognized in the policy environment for the contribution it makes to rural sustainability and development,” said Dr Farrell .

“Economic prosperity in rural areas also depends on positive rhetoric in rural areas in the future. The rhetoric of ‘declining and dying Ireland’ often uttered must change and we must present an image of innovation, dynamic change and capability, which appeals to business but also to people.

According to Dr Farrell, the smart village concept promoted by the European Commission since 2017 is a good example of what rural towns and villages can aim for in the future.

“This concept encourages rural communities to improve their towns and villages by building on existing strengths and assets,” she said.

“The idea of ​​the smart village encourages innovative and intelligent ideas driven by local communities but supported by rural policy.”

About Keneth T. Graves

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