Urgent need for policymakers to focus on rural economy and communities

THERE is an urgent need for greater emphasis on the rural economy and rural communities by policymakers, a Teagasc expert has suggested.

David Meredith, Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre, made the claim at an Irish Rural Studies Symposium 2010 in Cork.

Research indicated the rural economy was particularly exposed to the economic crisis due to the large number of men from rural areas working in the construction and transport sectors. Women fared little better, as many worked in the retail sector, which has suffered a contraction in employment.

With the collapse of the economy, these weaknesses and their attendant problems of creating jobs and sustaining population are once again exposed.

These challenges are compounded by the fall in family farm incomes in recent years.

They have also been compounded by the long-term impact of renewed emigration and the increasing prevalence of rural poverty.

Research presented to the symposium by Mr Meredith showed that Ireland is divided into 54 distinctive local economies, most of which are based around smaller towns and their associated rural hinterlands. A number of contributors emphasised that rural potential reflects locally available resources and assets and, as such, it is critical that a strategic framework be put in place to aid the development of their potential.

The Irish Rural Studies Symposium (IRSS) took place in UCC and was jointly hosted by the Department of Food Business and Developments, UCC and Teagasc.


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