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Learning from Ireland

When it comes to active village communities and a satisfied rural population, the Republic of Ireland serves as a model for many. In recent years, government programs reduced the rural exodus. Opportunities to work from home have further fueled the trend toward rural living, Heather Humphreys elaborated. The Irish Minister for Social Security, Communities and Rural Development lives on a farm herself and is currently in Berlin for the 16th Future Forum on Rural Development organized by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). As a partner country, representatives from Ireland are contributing their expertise.

In his opening speech, Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir emphasized the importance of rural areas for food security, adaptation to climate change, the expansion of renewable energies and social cohesion. "I see myself as a lobbyist for rural areas at the cabinet table," he said.

Climate protection starts in the countryside

Whether it's drought, flooding or forest dieback, the effects of climate change are particularly felt in rural areas, he said. Despite government efforts to counteract it, the best ideas are developed locally. "Innovation and inventiveness are often at home in the countryside," Cem Özdemir said. "We open doors so that local people can try out their ideas for themselves." Programs like the regional budget support innovative ideas. The minister sees initiating and supporting change as his job, as well as maintaining an open dialogue with all stakeholders.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke underscored the strategic alliance with the Ministry of Agriculture. All regions of Germany are now affected by climate change, she said. "It threatens established value chains, including in agriculture," she said. Implementing the recommendations for action from science is not possible without conflicts of interest, she said. Her experience shows that good solutions emerge especially when they address different solutions at the same time, she said. The BMEL's Natural Climate Protection Action Program aims, among other things, to preserve peatlands and forests. Steffi Lemke calls these CO2-storing ecosystems "our life insurance."

In 32 expert forums, the approximately 3,000 participants of the Future Forum for Rural Development on January 25 and 26, 2023, will have the opportunity to inform themselves and exchange ideas on specific issues.

Speakers on stage from the Future Forum