“There’s no soul here” is a bitter sentence that you can sometimes hear while walking through the narrow streets, the so-called ‘rughe’ of our inland areas. They are “villages”, historical centres, small centres. Our Italian villages steeped in history and traditions, knowledge and flavours, but often inhabited by just a few hundred people.
With the complicity of the CoVid pandemic and the spread of the smart working phenomenon, even the youngest people have re-evaluated and appreciated their “slow and peaceful rhythm” because they are places where life is “genuine” and where they can plan to stay.
For a long time, these places have been asking for important problems to be resolved, such as the exploitation of nature, the digital divide, the lack of essential services; deficiencies that in the territories often turn into social inequality and accentuate the phenomenon of depopulation. Yet sectors such as craftsmanship, agriculture and experiential and slow tourism are economic sectors that are potentially present and unknowingly linked to the circular economy and the R paradigm (Recovery, Reuse, Regeneration).
In fact, in the villages there are innovative examples of agricultural enterprise and community cooperation that can stimulate job opportunities and strengthen identity without neglecting essential services and sustainability. The wood industry, for example, through sustainable forest management and the use and reuse of wood, can become a great example of a circular economy.
For inland areas, these forms of economy are vital and now, finally, possible.
They are forms of economy that have existed for a long time but over the years have suffered from the indifference of politics and the division between local authorities.
The “Poliborgo” territorial vision pact, which to date formally unites five municipalities in the lower Jonio area of Catanzaro, also seeks to counter territorialism and municipalism because, in order to achieve ecological and digital transition, it is necessary to go beyond one’s own “small courtyard”. This wide-area approach is crucial in order to put again local communities at the centre of policies.
“Poliborgo” proposes the vision of villages as strategic spaces where sustainable economic practices can be developed. Each regeneration story is particular, not replicable, but can contribute to facilitating innovation processes in each context.
Bringing human resources, businesses and learning to manage innovation to the villages does not only require smart working or co-working centres for freelancers, but also the ability to attract investment and resources.
The NRRP* is a great tool for this. The north-south issue, the few million euros in the component dedicated to the circular economy for green communities (M2) or even the presence of the word “Borghi” only ten times in the strategic document should not matter because the real issue is to enhance the role of our villages in each component of the Plan. Our territories cannot just be places for summer tourism, walks or churches to visit.
The villages are and must be strategically transversal to the missions and all components of the NRRP. And let’s not forget that the truest and most authentic Italy of the “Borghi”*, in addition to the NRRP, with a total value of more than 200 billion euro, can count on the React Eu of more than 13 billion euro, which allocates to the South of Italy more than 8 billion euro for projects to be implemented by 2023, and on the 2021-2027 Programming of Structural Funds, which allocates to Italy more than 40 billion euro with another 40 billion euro of national and regional co-financing.
Many different but complementary instruments to be drawn on by unbundling the various planned interventions and planning with the right combination of expenses to be incurred and coherent sources of funding.
Our effort as active citizens, also in line with the commitment to the ecological and digital transition, must be to stimulate the creation of important models of natural resource management from below, pragmatic “workshops” and virtuous laboratories suitable to start processes of urban and social regeneration, in order to return to the most depopulated places and unable to face the great challenges of the present, a more sustainable economy and stronger communities. Villages as gyms of innovation and design where ecological and digital transition must be placed at the centre of all action.
The commitment of those who are politically in charge of it, in respect of their citizens, should not be to turn the villages into something to be capitalised on in terms of votes but to make them liveable: facilitating the creation of different ecosystems but based on the concept of quality of life, stimulating youth leadership and investing in the villages as places ready for innovation and circular economy.
* The National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP)
* Borghi stands for hamlets
Pietro Curatola – Founder and President of the Jump Association