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03.1 At the crossroads of rural development and migration: translocal corridors as a lever for local revitalization and resilience

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
9:00 - 10:30


Dr. Camille Hochedez
University of Poitiers

International mobilities, a resource for the transition of rural areas. Highlights from the natural wine sector in Saumurois (Loire Valley)


Based on a survey of the ‘natural wine’ industry in the Saumurois conducted between June 2022 and March 2023, our contribution proposes to explore the links between the recent migratory trends in rural areas and the growing of an alternative and more ecological wine model of production. We hypothesize that international mobility (settlement of foreigners in agriculture, temporary presence of foreign seasonal workers or asylum seekers, international professional experiences of French neo-farmers) constitutes a new resource for rural areas as well as a socio-economic capital for the actors of the sector which allows to develop alternative activities based on values more in line with a sustainable rural development.

We characterise the nature of international circulations, networks and flows in the wine industry by using various methodological tools (immersion in a natural wine farm, biographical grids, semi-structured interviews with the sector's keyplayers). We then show that these international mobilities stand for a capital that neo-winegrowers use to set up then to make their business viable. Moreover, it is a factor of sustainable development: it contributes to build a model of natural wine companies based on agro-ecological practices, and on another relationship to peasant work envisaged as emancipating for social groups traditionally dominated in agriculture.

Finally, we discuss a paradox raised by the study: if international mobilities are indeed a factor of anchorage in rural areas, it also reveals forms of disconnection with the local economy - a large part of the production of "natural wines" is sold and consumed elsewhere.
Dr. Stefan Kordel
FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg

Translocal development through self-employment? The case of international migrants in European rural areas


In many European rural areas, diverse migrant groups arrived in the past and still do so today, ranging from working migrants to asylum seekers and refugees to lifestyle migrants. While for the former both, the participation in the employment market is considered as a goal in terms of integration policy, the latter group is often addressed as economically privileged and therefore not in need to make a living through paid work.

Interestingly, however, both refugees and lifestyle migrants decide to become self-employed and start to run businesses in rural areas. In this paper, we present empirical data on aspirations and opportunities for their personal development, their business practices and translocal / transnational strategies and embeddedness. Data stem from qualitative, biographically oriented interviews with two groups of business operators: (1) migrants with refugee background in small towns in rural Bavaria who run grocery stores and (2) lifestyle migrants in rural Slovenia, mostly involved in tourism and real estate.

Conceptually framed by employment biographies and migrant economies, results show various meanings of employment and an explicit desire for self-employment, considered as an opportunity for self-determined acting and a means to increase agency. Moreover, structural and individual challenges characterise the foundation of businesses. In terms of running a business, both local embeddedness, e.g. knowing potential client structure and specific needs, and translocal networks are found to be crucial.

Since self-employed migrants often fill niches or respond to specific demands, they contribute to a diversification of local supply and may finally stimulate local development.
Anton Paumelle
Phd Candidate
EHESS | Umr Géographie-cités

Ageing of rural very small towns: a potential source of local development ? An approach by residential migrations


The European countryside is structured by very small towns which provide facilities, goods and services to their surrounding local areas (Servillo et al., 2014). In France, very small towns have been facing series of structural processes for several decades (restructuring and closure of public services in rural areas, retail decline and residential vacancy in town centres), which have strained their historical functions (Van Leeuwen, 2008) and raised the question of their obsolescence (Estèbe, 2018). They therefore benefit from unprecedented national and local public policies in which ageing of population is seen as an important symptom of decline. Indeed, in France, very small towns, have become municipalities with the highest proportion of elderly people.
However, based on a study of old age residential migrations at national scale, we show that very small towns are relatively repulsive to younger age groups but also mainly attractive to older people. While some very small towns are facing socio-demographic weaknesses, arrivals of retired people sometimes maintain or even increase the number of inhabitants, despite departures of young people. Thus, ageing of very small towns is partly due to their attractiveness to a diversity of retirees. The presence of rural amenities, shops, services, basic facilities and a diversity of housing enables them to capture long-distance migrations at retirement age and local "adjustment migrations“ of elderly retirees. Finally, from three cases of study (Vayrac, Tarascon-sur-Ariège, Loué), we also discuss economics contributions of retired migrants to very small towns.
Dr. Elisabeth Gruber
Post-doc Researcher
University of Innsbruck

Inviting the pioneers in: How do temporary stayers contribute to local development?


Temporary migrants, such as multi-locals, second homers, or digital nomads have been discovered as potential for local innovation and development of rural areas. Due to digital modes of working the interest in temporary stayers has even increased in recent times and in Austria and Germany we are able to observe various initiatives for attracting temporary stayers (e.g. by offering coworkation, or supporting initiatives to found coworking spaces). Further, initiatives have been discovered that go even further and try to offer newcomers or returners not only an attractive workplace for their (temporary) stay, but housing for a certain amount of time and a community. The research builds on two case studies with initiatives that take place in rural areas and small towns in Austria and Germany. In the initiatives, returners, or newcomers were invited to temporarily become settled. The research focuses on the different actors of the projects and their expectations. We find not only public actors, but also private companies, as well as housing cooperates. We will discuss why these actors are involved. What is by them considered as a successful outcome and what are desired long-lasting development effects for rural areas and small towns? What remains, when the pioneers leave again, and what if they stay? Further, we want to find out who are the pioneers and what are their motivations to (re-)settle in rural or peripheral areas. The research is still in progress, but preliminary results of already conducted interviews should be displayed.
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Prof. Dr. Zenija Kruzmetra
Assoc. professor, Researcher
Latvia University of Life Sciences and Technologies

The Impact of Newcomers in Remote Rural Areas: Case of Community Network “Selia Islands” in Latvia


This research as the part of National Research Program project VPP-LETONIKA-2021/4-0002 “Cutting-edge knowledge and solutions to study demographic and migration processes for the development of Latvian and European society (DemoMigPro) focuses on the evaluation of the impact of newcomers in various territories in Latvia. The findings mentioned in scientific literature indicate rural newcomers as the agents of change and stress the role of social networks playing a significant role in integration processes (Mailfert, 2007), demonstrate that newcomers may contribute to the demographic imbalances and loss of the human capital (Piša, Hruška, 2019; Stockdale, Haartsen, 2018, 2017; Gülümser et al., 2012;)
The research data was collected using a qualitative social research approach – case studies in remote rural communities that included semi-structured individual and group interviews with newcomers, municipality representatives, and local activists.
Although various problems can appear during the integration process, research results reveal various newcomer`s positive impact on rural areas, such as creating new economic and social practices, promoting population growth, renewing and strengthening rural communities (via education, common creation, community needs mapping), filling empty rural houses, boosting the spreading of new knowledge, creating new ideas and putting the territory in order. As a result, they can become the drivers of development and new social movements that are especially important in remote or left-behind rural territories.

Session host

Bettina Bock
University of Groningen

Annelies Zoomers
Utrecht University



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl