Learning Village

Somewhere in rural Europe some volunteering inhabitants of villages are:

  1. meeting each other in a village council and thinking about the future of their village…
  2. working on a project with local central heating…
  3. organizing  a ‘village restaurant’…
  4. working on a project with ancient and forgotten fruit threes…
  5. taking action to safeguard their village heritage and identity.


  1. Why do they to this?
  2. How are the inhabitants participating in this?
  3. How does the success story starts?
  4. How are they continuing this?
  5. What’s the role of a supporting – educational – organization?
  6. And what can an educational organization learn from these examples to educate and stimulate other groups of villages inhabitants?

Learning Villages is a Grundtvig project (European Lifelong Learning Programme) which has as central goal to give some answers to above questions. By this partnership partners are going to identify, to know and disseminate different methods of community learning in rural areas practiced by the partners. Project is focused on learning how the rural communities are organizing themselves to assure a sustainable development in their villages. Under sustainable development in this project is meant the community (human resources) and environmental development too.

The project started in September 2010 and will end in August 2012. You will read here more news from this project during the accomplishment.

This partnership is built-up on five partners from five European countries. All applying partners are active in rural areas and are interested in community learning by bottom-up and rather informal approaches of adult learning. Our main topics are the sustainable development of community and environment.

  1. Fundatia Civitas pentru Societatea Civila (coordinator)
    Romania, www.civitas.ro
  2. Laendliche Erwachsenenbildung Thueringen e.V. (LEB) (co-coordinator)
    Germany, www.leb-th.de
  3. SFOF-Djursland
  4. Association for Lifelong Learning
    Hungary, www.alll.hu
  5. Landelijke Gilden vzw
    Belgium, www.landelijkegilden.be

The ‘Learning Villages’ project (2010-GRU-LP-233-PA) has received European Commission funding in the form of a grant from GRUNDTVIG-action of the European Lifelong Learning Programme. All views expressed on this website are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission or the National Agency of the partners country.

From Thursday evening until Sunday morning Marika Frense and Alfred Bax from LEB, met other professionals and volunteering learners of the partnerorganization from the EU-GRUNDTVIG-Project “Learning Villages” in the beautiful rural area of Djursland in Denmark.

It was a warm and positive visit. Besides getting the chance of learning about each other organization, they got the opportunity to speak with inhabitants, policymakers en organizations participating in village development processes. And very important, the chance to see some beautiful local projects about village development.  Some examples:

1.How inhabitants of Mørke created their own sports centre and are developing actions to work on the social and economical development of their village.
2.Different projects of the LAG (local action group, Leader) on rural development.
3.Ecological village projects: the local central heating project in Rosmus: a school of 300 kids and 50 houses are heated by this system. The open house method whereby inhabitants of Djursland who own a system of green energy (such as solar or wind energy systems) open their houses to present en tell about their experiences with those systems.
4.The very ’original’ and specific story of Friland, Feldballe. Their mission: how to build  a sustainable village which is free of:
 – bankdebt and governmentgrants
– ecological waste
– to do what you want…  ( www.friland.org)

On Saturday there was also a meeting with the partners to finalize the frame for the interviews with the project-initiators and to capture the next steps of this Grundtvigproject. To be continued.

The participants of the Grundtvig visit to Djursland.

The Szeklerpeople used to be tough and rather individual, but during the fourth study visit of the Learning Villages project, we learnt that nowadays a lot of them are trying to develop their life, villages and area in a cooperative way. NGO’s as Civitas, have the difficult task to create a more active and participative way of thinking in the citizenship and entrepreneurship. With a lot of good spirit and optimism they are succeeding in this goal. We saw a beautiful and real rural area, with a couple of good examples of village and rural development.

More specific, 24 representatives of the five partner organization (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Romania), professionals and volunteering learners visited the following projects:

  • Fruit of Tradition project (Lupeni). This is a community-based economic development model developed and implemented by Civitas Foundation in Odorhei Region. The main activity of this project includes the development of a strategy to get value out of the many varieties of cultivated and wild fruit in the area. Not only to get an income out of it, but also to take care of some varieties which are threatened to disappear, and of the knowledge of the local, mostly elderly people about the fruit varieties. Civitas and 27 steering local members thought about their strategy: the manufacturing way, the marketing, and the education of the local farmers/persons. They constructed a fruit processing manufacture which is still expanding. Last year 350 farmers made use of it by manufacturing 180 varieties. They developed an interesting way of membership which includes voluntary work. Now they are thinking about some other related project.
The participants of the Grundtvig visit before the Fruit Manufacture in Lupeni.
  • The fruit trail (Păltiniș) is a spin-off idea of one of the members of the fruit project. It exits of the developing of a 70 km long marked thematic trail along which the visitors can experience and learn about the fruit, the villages along the trail. One can follow the trail by foot, bicycle or by horse and track. Off course, we did the last…

The second study visit of the Learning Villages project went to the North-Great Plain of Hungary, one of the most disadvantaged region of the country. We saw a beautiful and real rural area, where you can have views of some kilometers without seeing something except for sward lands, farming lands and apple orchards.

LeVi HU Map

And we – 13 representatives of the five partner organization (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Romania), professionals and volunteering learners – met great peoples and pearls of sustainable community and rural development. We visited the following communities:

  • Nagykálló, where operates the KÁLLFO Social Welfare Foundation and nonprofit ltd. Their main target groups are the disabled people from the region. The foundation offer domestic and medical help for them. The nonprofit ltd. hires more than 250 peoples. 75% of them are disabled peoples. In their oldest settlement the employees, as hired hands, learned to make insets for ski boots. The foundation and nonprofit ltd. have some community-activities also like festival organizing for inhabitants, community building renovation, establish a bus-station etc.

The foundation started to operate an Open Learning Centre in the last year which is aimed to be a new adult education instrument for competence development in the area.

  • Géberjén is a small village with 560 people. The local NGO is „Jót s Jól” Association focusing on social services, education, rehabilitation activities. It runs daily social services for people with disabilities combined with work-rehabilitation and local development activities. The products, e.g. drinking cans and candles, are sold on the market. Beside this they are working on some projects of rural and village development as in conservation of nature, building a social cooperative with local farming products and tourism, e.g. the restoration of a castle.
  • Túristvándi, with about 700 inhabitants and is situated in the natural reservation area of Szatmár-Bereg. The challenges in way of living (being one of the most disadvantaged village of Hungary) encouraged the village to start thinking about the possible development ways. The tourism was the driving force of the economic programme. The village is the proud owner of a wooden watermill which is a well known industrial historical monument in Hungary. The village created guest house with 320 beds with a result of 7000 stay-over nights in 2011. But tourism was not enough. The really dynamic mayor of the village have one basic goal in her policy: becoming economical independent and creating a financial chain in the village itself. She is collaborating very well with the community. First they started with a telecommunication house (telecenter) with a lot of informal training. At the first time they had no internet. Now, they are offering the internet-service for other 12 communities. By this telecentre they offering help to the farmers with the digital subsidy requests. They created a social cooperative and now the mayor is thinking of a local food production and consumption system.
  • Rozsály is a village with 800 inhabitants situated in almost the most Eastern point of the country, near the Romanian border. Here we met also with a dynamic mayor who is collaborating very well with the inhabitants. After the communist regime the agricultural cooperative wasn’t destroyed here. The local government with inhabitants created a „farmer yard” keeping together the lands, animals, machines and farmers too. They are producing locally the food and the cobble needed for the community. The local foundation manages, beside others, the so called “Social land programme” and run the Open Learning Centre as well. There are also cultural activities: chorus and folk dance groups.
The participants of the Grundtvig visit in Rozsály

The ‘Learning Villages’ group learned from this study visit that everything is possible with devoted people which are collaborating with the community because: „Who have a clear goal, not the circumstances determinate their way of thinking, but their thinking determine the circumstances.”

Only two Belgian municipalities, Heuvelland en Ieper were needed to visit and to get presentations from some village and rural development projects in this third visit of the Grundtvig-project ‘Learning villages’.

14 representatives of the five partner organization (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Hungary and Romania), professionals and volunteering learners learned about the differences between Belgian and other European rural areas. They got a great introduction in Belgian rural development policy. And learned that farming is not just agriculture, but is a more complex activity including tourism, education, care and agro-services. The diversification is needed.

They also met some enthusiastic and devoted people who told about their project. Some examples:
• Heuvelland, Geert Vandewynckel, first alderman of the municipality told us how he tries to work on village development, for example village meeting centers and to involve the inhabitants in these different projects.
• Nestor, Rebecca Vandemaele explained how they work on care especially for elderly people who have lost their local network with family and friends. Thanks to 180 volunteers this project visits the inhabitants who became 80 years old. During this visit they try to research if the elderly people need help with grocery an doctor visits or small household en gardening tasks. In 2011 the project tries also to reach poor people.
• Platform of inhabitants, Isabel Lebbe brought us the story of Abele, where they founded a platform of inhabitants, a kind of village council where they not only discuss issues of their village and transmit it the responsible of the municipality, but also work on it by different projects.
• Dranouter, how a folk festival in a small village can develop year by year to a national folk festival. This festival is not just about music but has a strong impact to the local and regional economy too. Several years ago the initiators created the Folk Centre in Dranouter which run a fantastic interactive music museum too.
• Care-farming as an example of diversification in farming besides tourism, education, care and agro-services. By care-farming, a farmer who takes care of people who needs care but need to get out the care institution for a couple of days of weeks . They, adult people with mental problems, ‘trouble kids’ etc.; stay on the farm and helps the farmer. The ‘fresh air’, the quietness, and working with nature, plants and animals helps in the care process.
• Short-chain initiatives of farmers, more and more farmers try to sell their product directly to their – local – consumers. We saw the example of the farm ‘T Lindebos, where they have a farm butchery and sell their products on their farm and also are a producer for a local ‘Food Team’. Lieven Godderis told us about his farm where they work by the Community Supported Agriculture: 40 families who live in the neighbourhood are a member of his farm and pay a yearly ‘membership amount’. By this the families can get al their vegetables they need. Every last Saturday of the month they work together on the field.