Russia participates in Ecovillages for Sustainable Rural Development
by Tim Willmott : Be the first to leave a comment
Ecovillages for Sustainable Rural Development is a project to create a network of ecovillages and tools for communication and the development of sustainable technology. Russian partners have participated in the project thanks to support from the Swedish Institute. During a project conference that took place in Druskininkai, Lithuania, it became clear that a strong and active network was in place.
Russian partners pleased with project results
Russian participation was a continuation of the EcoVillages Plus project that promoted ideas on sustainable living in Russia and Sweden. During the conference in Druskininkai we had a chance to talk to Laysan Mirzagitova, the Executive Director of the Russian Ecovillage Network, and Antonina Kulyasova, a researcher at the Centre for Independent Social Research in Saint Petersburg. They shared their experiences from the project and talked about fruitful collaboration and mutual understanding.
‘We actively participated in the application process and were very pleased with the opportunity to participate in the project,’ Mirzagitova says. ‘We felt welcome and integrated in the project team and had an excellent collaboration with our Swedish partners. We would love to continue.’
Both Mirzagitova and Kulyasova pointed out that the project’s success was largely due to the fact that the participants came from different sectors; namely academic institutions and organisations that work hands-on with ecovillages.
‘Many Russians do not understand what ecovillages are all about and lack confidence in us and our work,’ Mirzagitova says. ‘Because we were part of an international project with partners from the academic world, it helped us a lot. It made it a lot easier to build trust when we talked to Russian authorities, schools and the general public.’
They also discussed how rewarding it was to visit ecovillages in other countries and learn from their experiences.
‘This project has really expanded our horizons,’ Kulyasova says. ‘We have found many partners to collaborate with.’
In addition, Ecovillages helped the Russian ecovillage network to expand and develop. The network is now registered in Russia as a new NGO – Regional Network for Rural Development. This network will make it easier for Russian ecovillages to exchange ideas and work together.
Mirzagitova and Kulyasova are now looking forward to participating in REALS (Resilient and Ecological Approaches to Living Sustainably), a flagship project of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region supported by the Swedish Institute.
‘Sustainable development is a key issue,’ Mirzagitova says. ‘Despite that, there has been very little discussion about sustainable rural development in Russia. We have worked with these issues as volunteers in the past. External funding gives us better opportunities to carry on our work and change people’s attitudes in Russia.’
The Ecovillages project has been funded by the Baltic Sea region INTERREG programme and the European Regional Development Fund. It is a collaboration between organisations in Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Germany and Russia. The main goal is to promote a sustainable lifestyle and the development of ecovillages in the Baltic Sea region.
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