[article publicat al meu perfil de linkedin el 15/1/2017]
Maybe you are one of those that have never before heard about the concept “local development”. If so, you are likely to ignore the job “agent for employment and local development.” Do not panic, unfortunately you are not a rara avis, you make part of the mainstream that fits both answers.
My job during these 8 years has consisted basically of developing locally the municipality of la Serratella, of which I consider myself very proud. I have always applied to myself the idea of “thinking globally, acting locally.”
La Serratella belongs to an area of territory located in the northern Valencian Country, called Maestrat. Maestrat occupies a vast area ranging from Vistabella del Maestrat to Vinaròs, from Vilanova d’Alcolea to Rossell, from Ares del Maestrat to Alcalà de Xivert. From the inner land (with heights from 1,800 mts) to the Mediterranean coast. Maestrat is like a desert in the way from València to Barcelona.
Far from the main cities of Maestrat (Peníscola, Benicarló, Vinaròs), which accounts for 60,000 inhabitants in total, the rest of the 27 municipalities add up hardly 30,000 inhabitants. The datum means a lot about how population is concentrated on these coastal municipalites. Nevertheless, the rest of 27 little municipalities have traits in common that must not be neglected, all of them located in rural areas.
- Poor infrastructures. In some sense, there are little areas that have bet for industrialising the raw material obtained from nature (almonds, cheese, cherries, olives). There are other areas, in les Coves de Vinromà, where famous enterprises like LM WindPower have settled its business, oriented on sustainability (wind energy). They export high demand through Castelló harbour to the North Sea, although the blockage that hampers every order in the form of poor roads and the absence of highways (the closest to 15 km). Loss of competitiveness. Moreover, little enterprises go forward in the global market from the convincement and everyday passion of their owners.
- Isolation. Related to the previous point. Our municipalities prefer to see themselves indoors rather than outdoors. Indeed, that attitude provokes isolation. Many of the cultural associations in Maestrat work together in order to break the imaginary local bonds. Building bridges, weaving nets.
- Continuous depopulation and aging of population. The lack of expectances for young people pushes them to go abroad in search for a future. Meanwhile, old people is diying at a fast pace, more accelerated by now than in recent years. All this leakage, not only the brain drain but also the “life drain”, affects the behaviour of local residents, undermining their everyday life until the extent of scorning themselves.
Local development should have all these factors into account to promote positive values, boosting self-esteem among local population, letting them to empower through tools, being open to embrace any action or proposal from the society. In this sense, our task as agent for local development is to assess, to propose, never to impose or lead. However, there are cases of bad practices.
In the next article I will talk about the nature of our job, the streams and conditions into which we work, basically. Have a nice week! 🙂