Reviving Spain’s rural areas through the Puebla project

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This article is part of our special report Green Deal and agriculture: between words and deeds.

A new Corteva Agriscience project to reverse depopulation in Spain’s rural areas is sowing the seeds for a brighter future, writes Igor Teslenko.

Igor Teslenko is the President for Europe of Corteva Agriscience.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of agriculture in the functioning of our societies into stark relief. Amid the upheaval of the foundations of our daily lives, the need for a plentiful supply of nutritious food has remained ever-present.

And farmers have delivered throughout the crisis. With agriculture declared an essential industry, the sector has been able to overcome challenges and secure an uninterrupted supply of food for consumers in Europe and beyond.

But if the rural exodus – the departure of people from the countryside to cities continues – they may struggle to do so in the future. As young people flock to cities, rural areas are seeing increasing levels of depopulation. The emergence of demographic deserts and the ageing population of those who remain in rural areas is resulting in diminishing public resources, a lack of education facilities and few work opportunities. And so the cycle continues. There is no time to waste in reversing this trend: we must all work together now to retain and attract young people to agriculture – this is crucial to the very survival of the sector.

We at Corteva Agriscience are committed to investing in future generations, and an important part of this is enabling rural areas to thrive. Through Spain’s Puebla project, we will sow the seeds of change and take a step closer to meeting our mission: To enrich the lives of those who produce and those who consume, ensuring progress for generations to come.

Through the sales of Pioneer® sunflower seeds, Puebla will support six projects focused on encouraging young people to take up and maintain careers in the countryside. An expert jury will choose the winning projects based on several key indicators, including innovation, the fight against depopulation, environmental impact, sustainability and digital transformation.

Not only does Puebla help regenerate rural areas, it also facilitates opportunities for young Spaniards, meaning they are not forced to abandon their roots due to a lack of career choices in the countryside. Innovative new projects implemented as part of Puebla will pave the way for new generations to meet their potential and play a full role in ensuring that the agriculture sector not only survives, but thrives.

These projects will contribute to the generational renewal of the agricultural sector and help ensure we remain on track to meet our 2030 Sustainability Vision, which includes a commitment to enabling youth.

Puebla is just one example of the practical steps Corteva is taking to engage young people in agriculture. As a company committed to future generations, we have launched several initiatives across Europe to better understand the issues facing young people and how we can encourage them to consider careers in agriculture.

In Central and Eastern Europe, for example, we are working with popular social media personalities to raise awareness among young people of potential agrarian careers. The initiative, now in its second year, follows a survey of more than 6,000 urban and rural residents from Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, which found that only 1% of 14- to 18-year-olds were considering a career in agriculture.

The study sponsored by Corteva and carried out by the analytical agency Proinsight Lab revealed that youth are strongly influenced by social media when making career decisions, with this rate particularly high in Ukraine, Romania and Russia. So, last year, we began working with popular social media influencers to demonstrate the benefits of working in the industry.

As my colleague Monica Sorribas, Corteva Agriscience Marketing Leader, Europe, writes on LinkedIn, we are also using our involvement in the eSports arena to spark enthusiasm for the next generation of farming, through our sponsorship of the Farming Simulator video game and associated tournament.

Much remains uncertain in the new era of COVID-19 but one thing is clear – consumers need a reliable and sustainable supply of food to sustain them in times of crisis and every other day. We at Corteva Agriscience will work tirelessly to innovate and regenerate rural areas, engaging young people as the agents of change and advance the sustainable agriculture that is so crucial for the survival of our sector and the preservation of our planet.

Corteva is working on the Puebla project alongside the Spanish Alliance for a Sustainable Agriculture (ALAS). ALAS is made up of national professional agricultural organizations ASAJA and UPA, as well as the Agro-Food Cooperatives of Spain, FEPEX and the Spanish Association for Live Soil Conservation Agriculture (AEAC.SV).

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