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rural depopulation and spread of natural habitat

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Offline Spanish Footsteps

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« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2008, 19:49 PM »
Hola

This is a subject that is definitely up my alley.  I live in a small village called Rollamienta in Soria, the province that has lost 50% of its population over the last 50 years.  During the last election for Mayor in 2007 there was 46 people registered as living here.  However now in Jan apart from Louise and I, there are 4 others in the village.  We only get near the 46 during the month of Aug, holiday time.

The Castilla y Leon government are attempting to get the younger generation back to the villages, not so much to work the land, but to live.  Our village is only 20mins to the capital, so the CyL government have been building new homes in the rural villages which anyone between the ages of 18 to 35 can apply for.  You can then pay them off at a cheap rate, similar to renting except after 20 years it’s yours.  In theory the villages are repopulated and the new residents can still work in the city.

My mother is from this area, but decided to leave with my father to move to England to give her children a ‘better life’.  With the loss of village life come the loss of traditions, cultures and ways of seeing the world.   I have set up a walking tour company to help promote the region again.  We are helping to bring employment and recognition as a rural destination to this area, by using local family run accommodation and restaurants.  Everyone here have been great in helping us acheive this, locals aswell as gov bodies.

I don’t think we can bring farming back to the way it was, but I think we can use the land to promote rural tourism etc which will in turn create work and help repopulate.

My next door neighbour Carmilo a dairy farmer, will retire this year.  He is one of the few dairy farmers left in the Valley, an area that has been famous for its dairy products for centuries.

Regards, alfredo
 
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2008, 21:27 PM »
Hi all,
 Interesting subject which is rambling its way around and along.  Two things come to mind:

 fiirstly wasnt it ever this? Harping back to Australia where 90% of society lived in six large metropolises :noidea:.  Outside of these areas it was rape of the land by corporations to extract anything they can/could.  Tasmania as the smallest and island state was constantly depopulating - minerals and sheep and hydroelectricity.  Having decimated the natural rain forests for wood and electircity at least the western area is under protection of world heritage (although even that is open to corruption by local politicians for money /cronies) people from all over the world now go for serious walking/climbing/wildlife observation.
Secondly I take Clive's point about using the countryside.  We drove down the rambla over 8 kms about 10.30am yesterday - there were youngish  people cutting olives and spraying, saw one hunter (well away from where we llive ), a group of eight young spanish women walking with knapsacks, loads of cyclists in small groups at least one woman amongst them. People running.  Nearer town older people perambulating. If the smaller towns can retain their younger people then leisure will actually be of supreme importance and something to make their lives even more enjoyable.

They havent exactly had a lot of time to flex their wings with real choices.
SueMac
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2008, 10:38 AM »
Regarding Clive’s point about no one wanting to lead what’s seen as a “peasant’s” life, I wonder if this varies according to region. My impression is that in Andalucia people suffered greater and more harrowing poverty under a feudal system than in northern regions. In contrast, in Asturias and Catalunya, although also incredibly tough by modern standards, rural people had more dignified lives.  I remember the young Asturian ganadero who rescued us from a storm last summer who had no intention of moving to Oviedo and being cooped up in an office, and was collaborating with FAPAS.  He was quite prepared to do physical work, infact positively welcomed it. And with the improvement of roads, he didn't feel cut off in the middle of nowhere. He can’t be an isolated case.  But my impression is that people like him are more difficult to find in Andalucia and Extremadura.  (Anyone seen “Los Santos Inocentes”?)

Offline nick

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« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2008, 11:02 AM »
That is a VERY important point Lucy. My father-in-law has a near hatred of what he remembers of his early years in Andalucia.
Nick
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Offline SueMac

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« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2008, 12:23 PM »
Hi Lucy and Nick

Again look at the difference between the lives of people in northern and southern Italy. This gives some comparison to different qualities of life.

 I have been having discussion with my English neighbour about living off the land and what is a peasant.  Certainly  I think Murcia and Andalucia are sort of special.  Murcia has probably been last to lead a peasant life in the hinterland.  The question is  - are steve and I peasants by definition? Is Chris Stewart a peasant? These are not  rhetorical questions  -  despite having to have a satellite instead of a telephone surely we are just modern peasants?
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2008, 23:24 PM »
Greetings All,
Great thread - and as usual too many things to deal with in one go, so won't even bother for the moment, except for a couple of incidental comments:

Re. SueMac's
Quote
If the smaller towns can retain their younger people then leisure will actually be of supreme importance and something to make their lives even more enjoyable.

All (most?) social observers agree that Spain's smaller towns/provincial capitals have by far the highest standards of living (not necessarily income per capita), including access to education, social services and leisure time. I know many well-qualified people in their early 20s who come to work here in Madrid from medium-sized provincial towns/cities (eg Logroño, Sevilla, Gijón, Granada, Vitoria) for - at most - a couple of years and have very clear ideas about not wanting to stay here longer than necessary. Rather different in many aspects - training, background, outlook and opportunities - from their parents' generation of migrant workers. Good for them.

Re. alfredo's

Quote
I have set up a walking tour company to help promote the region again.  We are helping to bring employment and recognition as a rural destination to this area, by using local family run accommodation and restaurants.  Everyone here have been great in helping us acheive this, locals as well as gov bodies.

I don’t think we can bring farming back to the way it was, but I think we can use the land to promote rural tourism etc which will in turn create work and help repopulate.

Good for you, and good luck to you, too!

Regs.,
Technopat

PS.
Thanks for clearing that one up, alfredo (
Quote
My mother is from this area, but decided to leave with my father to move to England to give her children a ‘better life’. 
) - your use of English is so obviously that of a native English speaker ...
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline lucy

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« Reply #26 on: January 27, 2008, 09:33 AM »
There’s an interesting article (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2247538,00.html) about rural depopulation in East Germany, particularly Saxony, in today’s Observer. Women in particular are leaving the villages to look for work in the west.

 “One unexpected beneficiary has been wildlife. Not far from Königstein, wolves have made their reappearance, many decades after being forced out of old habitats by a then growing population. Elsewhere, lynx are making a comeback. As nature advances, man retreats: around 300,000 homes have been demolished in eastern Germany in recent years.”

Communities expected to boom after unification are dying out, so they’re trying to attract people by offering cheap land and property.  It sounds attractive except for one thing: the area’s a stronghold of the extreme right wing . . . Made me think how open Spain is to foreigners.

Offline SueMac

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« Reply #27 on: January 27, 2008, 12:44 PM »
Hi there
No one picked up on the idea of "modern peasants" but i looked at some definitions and following on from Lucy's post I think other EU nationals have taken advantage (positive connotation) of rural depopulation and have filled a vacuum in New Spain because as sure as eggs are eggs they couldnt have done it in England or Northern Ireland, possibly in Wales and probably pretty difficult in Scotland.  The Scots have been fulfilling this role of peasant small holder in lots of out of the way places ie.New Zealand, Tasmania, US-Canadian border.

Definitions of Peasant on the Web

a country person
one of a (chiefly European) class of agricultural laborers
a crude uncouth ill-bred person lacking culture or refinement
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

A peasant, derived from 15th century French païsant meaning one from the pays, the countryside or region, which itself derives from the Latin pagus, country district, is an agricultural worker with roots in the countryside in which he or she dwells, either working for others or, more ...
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peasant

In Europe or Asia, a small farmer or farm laborer.
fi.edu/time/Journey/Sundials/vocabsd.htm

a peasant is a farm worker who does not own the land he farms, but pays part of the crops he grows to the owner of the land as rent. Peasants cannot ever prosper, because, if they work hard and grow a surplus, the landowner will inevitably raise the amount of the crop to be paid in "rent".
naiadonline.ca/book/01Glossary.htm

........very wide definitions but I guess I am a modern peasant.
SueMac
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Offline Steve West

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« Reply #28 on: January 27, 2008, 13:10 PM »
Mmm..

I don't think it is a question of bringing young people back to toil in the fields. That is not going to happen.

It's a question of promoting modern-day activities which are compatible with (or better still foster) the rural environment. These might include:

rural tourism,
wardens, wildlife guides, etc
hunting (yes, hunting)
fishing
forestry
local produce (needs very good channels of commercialisition to work)
e-work (possibly the most important)

None, alone will work. Most, in most areas, will fail. But... it's a big country and there are already examples of it succeeding





I agree with all that you say Nick. The trouble is it's a slow and difficult job to revive rural economies in such a way, and it needs a lot of political goodwill. Then Las Vegas comes into the Monegros offering shiny glass beads to the locals.....

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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2008, 14:18 PM »
Greetings All,
Although the following topic should probably have its own thread, am reviving this one for two reasons: a) I reckon it's too important to let it go the way of so many others, and b) it's the only one that came up on the search feature when I typed in RUNA.

Nick’s excellent blog brings to light the following very interesting issue (I hope he doesn’t mind me copying and pasting extracts from it here – no copyright conflict?):

Quote
RUNA
April 17th, 2008 | by nick |
Over the next two days (18-19th April) I’ve been invited to attend what promises to be one of the most interesting meetings in recent Spanish conservation history. The seminar is entitled “Conservation of Biodiversity and Rural Development” and is organised by the RUNA project under auspices of the Fundación Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente. Some 40 representatives from an array of Spain’s leading conservation and rural groups will be attendance along with experts in e-portals and information technology. The aim is to help to define the RUNA (rural - natural) project, which seeks to find ways of combining rural life with the natural world, and hand back the custody of the latter to the people who live in isolated rural areas, and who, by accident or design, over the centuries managed to foster such a rich biodiversity. This is to be a partnership between those who live and work in the rural world (farmers, hunters, foresters, etc) and those who work in natural history (biologists, wardens and environmentalists), turning biodiversity into an economic asset which can foster sustainable development and bring young people back.


A bit further on, he raises some interesting questions and some ideas off the top of his head (Sp. anyone?) which I’d like to go over here and so set the ball rolling for meaningful debate (at which stage yours truly bows out gracefully so that the folks out there who know about such matters can get on with it).

Quote
Some questions:
1.   The project is very ambitious. How to organise so much information and so many people with so many different ends.
2.   How to make these admirable digital contents useful for the real projects in villages and the countryside. That is, how to transform information into a real economic asset for the inhabitants of the rural areas, especially those least visited, and to turn their protection into an economic asset, and provide a real alternative to the attraction of mass development (skiing, golf, residential estates for the rich. industrial agriculture) in some areas and to the rapidly dying communities in many, many more. I repeat. We must offer real alternatives. The project must in the end be useful for the inhabitants of these areas and not just for the usual suspects (like me).
3.   How to get everybody to work together. As Roberto Hartasánchez notes in this month’s Quercus, it is not only farmers, hunters and who are in conflict, but often pointless infighting between conservation groups themselves. As a Spanish friend recently commentated, the Reinos de Taifa come to mind.


As always, one question inevitably leads to another and that’s where everything ends up in a muddle. As Nick points out, stating the obvious is often looked down upon by “experts” and the scientific community, but it is precisely in basic research and developments thereof that the greatest advances are made. So, ignoring for the moment the unfortunate name chosen for the project  :banghead: , in answer to Nick’s first question, ambition is often frustrated because the basic fieldwork has been botched. It is necessary to define the project’s mission statement. Pending Nick’s field report, I would like to hope that this first step has already been taken.

As for the second question, this is very clearly a case of doing a SWOT analysis (Sp. anyone?). For those of you out of touch with the business world, this means analyzing your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Not as easy as you’d think, and consultants charge luidcrously high fees to teach their clients how to go about it …

And finally, the Reinos de Taifa (more or less “petty kingdoms”), a well-ingrained phenomenon which accounts for much of local corruption endemic to Spain, and elsewhere, of course. Coordinating all the localized initiatives (Think global, act local!) will require a dedicated multidisciplenary co-ordinating committee of such mind-boggling dimensions that this must surely be the project's weakest point.

Moving on to Nick's ideas, his concern for the “few key dates of the year while the rest of the year owners are faced with very low occupancy levels” is simply a matter of fact for Spain’s tourist industry in general, with even top-quality hotels at seaside resorts closing for many months of the year. Don’t have the mindless stats. to hand, but if anyone is really interested, I reckon I could get my hands on ‘em from one of my Very Reliable Sources. As a solution, the British Agricultural Revolution’s four-field crop rotation system springs to mind here.

Likewise for the second point, landscape and biodiversity.

Which brings us to the 3rd idea Nick comes up with: channels for agro products and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). This is very dear/near to my heart and something that I see as fundamental to sustainable development in all its aspects (pollution, as in carbon footprints and pesticides, etc.). It really makes me mad (mental images of John Cleese having a fit) to have to get Pimientos TIPO Padrón imported from North Africa (where the hell is that?) or apples from Brazil/China. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the so-called “rich world” helping (?) the so-called “poor world” in viable projects to raise standards of living, etc. for everyone. But that is not the case. It’s just century-old exploitation in order to make a quick buck. By all means, let’s import fair trade sugar, coffee and other products that grow “naturally” or have been cultivated for centuries in foreign climes. The effing ostrich farms that sprouted here in Spain as a get-rich-quick scam are a case in point. I shall now stop as my blood is boiling and there’s a danger of me going off topic, for a change (Sp. anyone?).

Looking-forward-to-feedback regs.
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline nick

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« Reply #30 on: May 09, 2008, 12:38 PM »
Food for thought there TP. I'll be back on this one
Nick
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Simon

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« Reply #31 on: May 09, 2008, 17:31 PM »
Hello everybody,

It's good to see this topic coming back to life again. I suppose as enthusiasts of all things Iberian (well many things, perhaps!) and matters rural, it is close to all our hearts.

I quite agree with Teeps' concerns about the name 'RUNA', which in Catalan at least means rubble, as in builders' debris. As an aside, every time I see signpost for a 'Depòsit de Runes' I think of a sort of retirement home for worn-out Nordic sagas  . . ., however!

Re the rural tourism bit: I think the mindless stats are available to download from the national statictics office, the INE (www.ine.es) but these don't drill down as far as Rural Tourism, although it is useful for global statistics across regions and such things as who is staying - just look at the proportion of Dutch who go camping!

I frequently see occupancy figures for Catalonia on the news, which isolated rural tourism (always really high occupancy over the 'puente' weekends) but hesitate to use them now as there may be no standard reference, i.e. what is a rural tourism alojamiento, across Spain as a whole. So qualitative research, i.e our own impressions, are as good as anything else. What they do here in Catalonia is that to qualify for status as 'Turisme Rural' or 'Cases de Pages' or any of the other official schemes, one has to be both actively occupied in agriculture, food or fishery and be resident in the comarca, especially if grants are involved.

I don't know if that's what Technopat is getting at with his field rotation idea. Maybe an answer to seasonal occupancy, or at least to fill up during the week, is that schemes like educational field trips, environmental  recovery projects, etc. should be dovetailed in, with the local CP's providing the digs? The trouble here is that often the local authority is also itself a tourism operator. In the case of our local town the Ajuntament runs a large auberge and subsidises facilities like a bar/restaurant at the railway/bus station. Both are for an equally good cause, but there is a potential conflict of interest.

It also occurs to me that a weakness of using Rural Tourism is that people will only want to go to the better known and more romantic areas; which not only adds to the environmental pressure on these areas but leaves the less 'trendy' regions left in the shade. But the need is to support all rural areas, perhaps especially those that are close to major conurbations.

I couldn't agree more about the globalisation of the food industry. The irony is that if only remote or developing countries could stick to their natural 'monopolies', i.e. what only grows well there, eg. rubber, coffee, bananas, etc. and had their own local food market, even within a largish region like the Carribbean, then they would be considerably better off. I'm afraid the World Bank is the major culprit here; insisting on development funding being linked to tariff free trade and 'liberalisation'. This is probably the single, most readily remedied, cause of global poverty.

Here is Iberialand it is ridiculous that we should be importing foods that grow really well here, causing stress to local producers, just to satisfy the insatiable demand for profit of the big supermarket chains; i.e. more product, more profit. They are actively 'educating' punters to demand more and more out-of-season produce, just look at an in-house magazine to see what I mean (try Caprabo's. I'm sorry that you fall into Catalan as soon as you search the actual recipes but Caprabo is the biggest retailer in Spain, thanks to its subsidiaries, but you'll get the idea: http://www.caprabo.es/portal/cercador_recepta.jsp?idiom=2) Actually the recipes aren't half bad either, but following them is a great way to a) kill the planet, b) make your shoppig cost twice as much as it need, c) fill yourselves with all sorts of chemicals d) eat flavourless 'preserved' foodstuffs e) never know the pleasure of the changing seasons offer your diet and palate . . . .

Now I'm probably wandering off topic a bit, or at least preaching to the converted - I hope so!

Anyway, much to discuss and so little time!

Cheers

Simon

PS I saw a report on telly last night that said the Catalans aren't drinking enough of their own wines, shame on them!

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #32 on: May 09, 2008, 20:38 PM »
Greetings Simon and All,
It worries me when I find myself agreeing with everything someone else say, even if that s. o. else is a fellow/ess iberianatureforumer. After all, one has a certain reputation to live up to  :technodevil:

Re. grants for encouraging tourism at local level, a Very Reliable Source (financial director for very imp. multinational) told me that last weekend that he had visited a tiny village in Guadalajara, where the only bar was run by an immigrantfrom an eastern-European EU member state - with a very low level of Spanish - whose salary was paid for by the village council and included the use of the living quarters above the bar. Not quite sure yet of the implications of this anecdote, but working on it.

Regs.,
Technopat
PS.
Re. yer
Quote
PS I saw a report on telly last night that said the Catalans aren't drinking enough of their own wines, shame on them!
, Et tu, Brute? is the only thing that occurs to me ... :banghead: and even  :speechless:
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Simon

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« Reply #33 on: May 09, 2008, 21:47 PM »
Hi Teeps and all other concerned immigrants (ouch!),

Two related stories spring to mind. A few years ago the village of Bisbal de Falset in the borders of the Priorat region (you may see this coming TP) was almost literally saved from extinction by the arrival of immigrants, in this case from Bulgaria I think, who not only bought up and kept the village cafe open but thoughtfully provided the school with enough pupils! I'm not sue whether they got a grant for either activity!

More recently, as of this January the small town of Guissona in Lleida had increased its population by over 50% and, I think, now has more 'foreigners' than native Catalans. (http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cataluna/Guissona/ONU/miniatura/elpepuespcat/20030513elpcat_19/Tes).

So what? Well, maybe the consequences will be surprising. Firstly; it is axiomatic that most migrants, especially those with skills and/or good earnings potential, will return home as and when the opportunity arises. This is particularly true of immigrants from the recently expanded EU. The hot money is now going out to countries like Poland, Croatia, etc. where there is plenty of EU funding to swell the coffers along with the dosh that migrant worker have sent home - and may well take with them in equity from 'playing' the property market here and in the UK.

This is happening already and will only gather momentum as a) Spain's economy collapses, and b) the resulting backlash of the "They take our jobs . . ." kind makes Spain less attractive as a migrant destination (NB just to demonstrate how ridiculous that idea is, (and I shouldn't have to!), just look at the commet from the above article quoting the MD of the CAG Guissna cooperative, i.e. the employer/benefactor of all these people: He points out that when the other big employer locally pulled out, the America multinational, Lear, of the 1,200 workers made redundant only 15 came to work at CAG, despite that fact that they take on 500 workers each year!

And don't think it's just because CAG does things like slaughtering chickens and pigs as it says in the article. The majority of the jobs are in the distribution and retails end of things - in fact CAG are so generous we once seriously thought of going there - they would have set Mrs S up with a truck, a regular 'round', and even given us a subsidised mortgage to settle there (check out their site: http://www.cag.es/ for the current state of play, it's not quite as generous as it was a few years ago - significant methinks!)

This brings me onto a really important point: Who the heck would want to live in a dump like Guissona? OK, it's got everything, more sports facilities than you could shake a stick at, the CAG, which is a cooperative, has cradle-to-grave scope on welfare that historians amongst us will readilly recognise from the epoch of the Victorian industrial philanthropy, see the Rowntree MacIntosh clan, Leverhulme, Titus Salt and many more . . . Even the birds and wildlife on the Pla d'Urgell are pretty impressive if you know where to look, as I'm sure our friendly Lleida birdnik would confirm . . . But that still doesn't bring folks to live in the country, even temporarily.

So the challenge is really huge. Some folks who've listened to my more radical ravings will know that I view the urban and the rural worlds as two sides of the same coin; mutually interdependent. It simply doesn't make any sense to think of 'rural' needs or issues in isolation. Translate this onto ground level and you have the phenomenon of the weekend countryman, which is happening anyway, as the most likely and effective activist for a sustainable environment.

I know this is anathema to some, I can imagine Sue's teeth grinding if she's reading this (she was polite enough to listen to more of the same without hurling me into the Garganta Verde the other week!  :clapping:), but although I absolutely take my hat off to the likes of Sue, Clive and others who are out there 'doing it' - and we do need a repository for essential skills and knowledge - there are simply too few people around with that knowledge and above all dedication to make it work. I know that what that means is a sort of facsimile of the 'genuine' rural scene - and a recent visit to 'rural' North Norfolk has reminded me of just how false that can be - but I think it's all we've got!

Phew, I must get off my high horse now! This is most probably nonsense - a house speciality of mine! But if it stimulates debate it's worth it.

Off to dreamland now methinks

Simon

PS the ref. to the Priorat wine growing region, TP, I don't know why the cats aren't drinking the hooch - too expensive I guess - it certainly is for me!

PPS if anyone is still interested i Guissona, see this sneak preview of next Sundays 'Els Nou Catalans' a brilliant TV show - the food always looks fantastic! http://www.elsnouscatalans.tve.es/

PPPS I think the IbNat spellchecker is even better at new glossary items than us mere mortals: its latest gem was for Pla d'Urgell: 'Dunghills' weeeeell!!!

Offline nick

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« Reply #34 on: May 20, 2008, 13:16 PM »
Hi TP, Simon and all,
I really should put together a summary of the meeting and the state of things as they are now with Runa, but very briefly the project is now awaiting official backing (and money), and we probably won't here anything till after the summer.

For the time being, this long article in El Mundo's supplement Natura provides a good overview of what appears to be a movement gathering apace. There is a reference to Runa itself at the end, but there the whole article is written from the same percective.

El nuevo mundo rural
El ocio al aire libre activa la vida y la economíade comarcas deprimidas

http://www.elmundo.es/suplementos/natura/2008/25/1210370404.html


Nick
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A guide to the environment, climate, wildlife, & nature of Spain
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