Many rural areas suffer from high levels of unemployment and lack vital infrastructure like high-speed internet and transport connections: the EU’s rural residents are up to twice as likely as city-dwellers to experience poverty or social exclusion.
The promise of a higher quality of life and greater economic opportunity elsewhere is causing a rural exodus, putting strain on Europe’s cities while leaving vast untapped potential in the countryside.
The EU’s rural development policy aims to counter this trend using agriculture as a catalyst for change that benefits all sectors. Funded by the €99bn European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), rural development makes up the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
While the CAP’s first pillar provides annual land-based direct payments to farmers, the second pillar focuses on multiannual projects aimed at boosting sustainability, investment and innovation.