Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mountain communities face unprecedented challenges due to the lockdown and isolation. The situation brings social difficulties for people, even more those living in remote areas, and financial ones for rural businesses affected by the closure.
This item of news aims at sharing experiences and inspiring other mountain actors to help them overcome the current challenges.
How to support rural businesses facing the crisis?
A Hackathon to support rural businesses, Spain
Because of the fall-off in activity, many businesses face financial difficulties, including in rural areas. To exchange good practices and collaborate to implement solutions, a rural Hackathon was organised on April, 8, 2020 by El hueco, a Spanish association supporting rural businesses and social economy companies – an organisation which for instance supported La Exclusiva “the shop for rural areas with no shop” which participated to SILVER SMEs project. Discussions analysed possible supplementary sources of incomes and new activities for rural businesses as well as solidarity and social effects of the COVID-19 crisis for rural communities. To learn more on initiatives presented during the Hackathon, please visit 20 ideas to fight the crisis in rural Spain.
Small donations to support rural cafés, France
Bouge Ton Coq (an association working for the territorial development of French rural areas) and the Association of rural mayors of France launched a call for donations to support rural businesses in the country, including villages’ cafés and bistrots which will be financially affected by the closure during the lockdown. The idea is to encourage people who initially went to their village’s café to make a donation instead of “paying their round”. Donations are distributed on a weekly basis to mayors who applied for financial support to help businesses on their municipality. The crisis will indeed worsen the difficulties that these rural businesses have been experiencing for several decades in France and comes at a time when the government had set itself the goal of creating 1000 cafés in villages as part of the Rural Agenda presented in September 2019. Villages’ cafés are important places for mountain communities, they do not only serve drinks but are also quite often post offices, small restaurants, local groceries and sometimes even organise cultural events. For more information on the multifunctionality of rural cafés, see our good practice from Massif Central, France.
How to achieve solidarity and encourage social cohesion?
“Tick and crosses” community support in Ballachulish, Scotland
Ballachulish, a small village with 700 inhabitants, at the edge of the Bidean Nam Bian mountain, implemented the “ticks and crosses” concept. The idea is simple: if you are healthy and doing well you put a green tick on your window, if you need any kind of help you put a red cross. In just a few days, 50 people in the village volunteered to support the most vulnerable persons, to go shopping in the small village shop for instance. Volunteers also set up a public hand-washing station in front of the shop. The concept was replicated in several villages in the United Kingdom and could inspire other rural areas even after the lockdown. All material to help you in replicating the concept was made available on covidgo.uk
Mountain research support older people, Portugal
CIMO, the Mountain Research Centre, a member of Euromontana, has responded positively to the call from the Ministries of Labour and Social Security, Science and Territorial Cohesion to test the residents of the region’s retirement homes. An entire building of the research centre has been converted into COVID-19 testing rooms. CIMO is also providing support for human resources management.
“Giving a hand” a platform to foster solidarity, Slovenia
The Slovenian platform Pomoč na dlani, which promotes solidarity between people, connects persons in need of assistance and volunteers willing to literally “give a hand”. It focuses its current activities on support to vulnerable, disabled and elderly people for shopping or homecare (not personal care) and on babysitting for parents who must work and could not find another solution for their children.
Similar platforms exist in other countries:
Many other initiatives have flourished in rural and mountainous areas, giving an insight of the resilience and sense of mutual assistance of our communities. If you developed a similar initiative in your territory and are looking for ways to maintain it, please have a look at SIMRA’s practice guide which will provide you with key steps to implement your social innovation and support your mountain community.
Are you aware of a different initiative which can bring added value and support rural businesses and people? Do not hesitate to share it with us, contact Blandine Camus!24 April 2020