Abandoned Villages to Sustainable
Last decade the abandonment of villages is getting more highlighted than ever. Abandoned villages can be considered as scrapped elements of our capitalist society and in the same time as sources of our identity. This topic is a matter of great concern mostly in European countries. In another point of view villages are seen as the national body and the cell-life must be healthy and developed for the national body to be healthy and developed (S.Aurobindo, 1934).These villages, abandoned due to maybe various unfavorable conditions, are an extreme outcome of the phenomenon of rural desertion. Along to this topic I raise the questions of what is called of a village today as a site of identity and what are the new methods to re-engage a community with the village? In which ways could the repopulation of an abandoned village be implemented by practices of sustainable tourism? Qarrishta and Llangaj are two villages, located in Librazhd municipality, set in a different geographical and socio-economic contexts, which have been depopulated and still represent potentiality for development of rural tourism, agriculture and permaculture. Through these appliances it is thought a new way of organizing the villages ,socially, spatially and economically. The aim of this research is to find new meanings of countryside living and to develop methods of revitalization of it, focusing also in territorial perspective.
Keywords: abandoned villages, rural desertion, socio-economic, community, rural desertion, sustainable tourism, permaculture
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Introduction and problem statement
The rapid development of urban settlements is getting many disadvantages in accordance to human lifestyle and natural habitats which are being invaded every day to be filled up with concrete. People are heading off to urban centers and leaving behind their homes for a better life. A chain which closely relate city and country is weakening more because of migration into only one side, city. And when I say city-country it’s a pick up-give (unequal) relation in wider aspects and yet it has grown a contraposition of both. Inequality is not just an issue between individuals, between classes, between regions. It’s between urban and rural (M. Ignatieff ). Even nowadays society, which is a capitalist one doesn’t seem to care about rural since globalization has found the solution, leaving local in the corner. To turn it shortly, it is seen that if country areas continue depopulating and cities populating, a whole socio-economic, environmental chain will break down. In such cases it is seen reasonable that in order to head our lives toward cities why don’t we sit and think what is happening to this areas that are not seen useful anymore to humans? An option that raises up is repopulation of already deserted villages and regaining a form of activity of those that are being deserted.
In Elbasan region, the poorest areas are Librazhd and Gramsh, seeing their agricultural character that they have, has weakened their economy as agriculture in Albania is left handed. It’s obvious there is a misfunction of villages. Furthermore, all villages around have become victims of neglection of agricultural activities and migration. Qarrishtë is more than 250 year old village; the first builded towers have been kept safe by the left community. It has 67 houses in total, where one of them is an abandoned school. There is a lack of primary services. Llangaj is also more than 100 year old; has around 35 buildings and no primary services at all. Both of them have interesting locations as Llangaj is a very strategic composition and Qarrishtë remains isolated in the middle of national park Shebenik-Jabllanicë; for Albanians may not be seen as a positive aspect for that area. Qarrishtë village is in need of changes that can increase quality of space, in overall, number of habitants and functionality. Llangaj village, differently from Qarrishtë, is totally abandoned and in a case like that maybe the return of a permanent community may not be possible but a transformation to a seasonal touristic village can be considered.
One of the main reasons that I choose Qarrishtë/Llangaj as the focus points of my study have been the history of their settling, the location of both, similarity in building and the history of their depopulation. Both villages have been inhabitated till 1970; after that year migration started to happen massively. As a phenomenon is quite fresh and that has triggered my study. I believe that this phenomenon can be healed only if we superpose other layers to this villages of the same cause, rural tourism, eco farms or declared heritage sites etc…The transformation of villages, turning them into tourist developments, may be of use in terms of promoting sustainable development provided that a number of conditions are met, such as the preservation and development of the heritage in the global sense, not only giving a contribution towards social sustainability, but also preserving the local identity and memory of sites (Postiglione & Lupo, 2006; Inacio, 2010:131). The old historic, tourist villages, agricultural settlements and structures, which are no longer inhabited, still attract many admirers who, for different reasons and following adventurous paths, discover, visit, survey, map, analyze, photograph and listen to the places that, for various reasons, have been abandoned. The aim of this paper is to examine and re-evaluate villages in regional/Albania level; consider and create a development approach which is tended to come as a solution by the existent community itself or just for the sake of sustainable tourism and potentialities that area offers. Albania lacks varieties of tourism that results fewer in number of tourists and lower budget.
Scope, motivation and objectives
The main aim of the study is to identify issues that have led to depopulation phenomenon in Qarrishtë/Llangaj villages and analyses potentials they have to offer to their communities. What I find interesting, despite location is the fact that depopulation happened same time for each village, last decades, turning Llangaj totally a ghost village and leaving Qarrishtë with only 100 people in total. Qarrishtë, being surrounded by national park and the diversity of water resources proves to be a very unique asset for the community and for outside comers too. Llangaj, matched with nature, in a linear way, lies in parallel with ‘Rruga e Arbrit’ that continues to other villages as Fushë studë, Stëblevë and goes on to Dibër region. The study is focused in gathered data available on internet, visual materials, studies on site and questionnaires filled by left community and pastors in the area.
What got me motivated to work on this research on this area, is that during my exploratory trips, happened by casual, found that people weren’t satisfied with the life in the area. In casual conversations that I had with residents, understood that people who were in migration were ready to come back if some policy attitude changes toward agriculture. Not only that, they feel flaunted because of government neglection. Incomings were too low so they decided to migrate to capital city of Albania and to neighboring countries. While in western countries, even in Europe, countries are encouraging citizens to repopulate in villages, paying attention to areas that are not affected by urban smoke. The results have been more than satisfactory. According to World Bank Group, Germany has grown rural population by 1.3% in 2017, Switzerland rural population hasn’t change since their policy works on regional development specifically. In Albania the grimy situation of agriculture still goes on and rural tourism is not in vocabulary. These are examples we should take in consideration.
The product of my study is to propose solutions for the village in environmental (landscape), social(local community), economic aspects. Though, it is thought to achieve, as follows:
- Understanding the reasons we shouldn’t let the villages go toward depopulation
- Study Qarrishtë/Llangaj villages and their surroundings, spatial programs and cultural contexts
- Search for other similar conditions in Albania, region, Europe.
- Propose ways of how both villages can become resilient of factors that already are impacting in depopulation
- Demonstrating how agriculture and rural development can contribute to the revitalization of these villages
- Propose a model applicable and suitable in these villages
This approach helps the process of giving a new recovery process of the villages, having reasonable expectations while developing a design idea in each village.
The research methodology helped me a lot to learn how to use other information resources and to enable critical evaluation of it. It also helped to describe and analyze methods of treated situations in the paper clarifying consequences and throwing light in my thesis. The procedures I used in carrying out my data in this research study is based in some steps:
- Gathering information, as a part of understanding and a general overlooking of the areas
- Analyses of the data to enable a better studying of natural and demographic components accompanied by bibliographic support
- Analysis of territorial context; land use, land tenure aim to give a picture in which villages are located and their productivity
- In depth interviews and questionnaire structured for residents and tourists
- Strategic approaches, through proposals to find solution to the problems and to include steps which will integrate together many features such as social, economic and environmental aspects. The whole process helps to identify threats of the areas and make efficient use of potentials and sources of the area.
The research method includes a wide variety of literature reviews and bibliographic content to reach a qualitative research process. The paper has on focus the study of demographic, territorial, economical, infrastructural aspects of the Qarrishtë and Llangaj and identifying problems of social with economics and politics. Identifying these problems will eventually point out opportunities of the villages, valuable to the aim of the problem solution. All this information will lead in comparison and relationship of two villages through this elements.The majority of the information was taken from internet research and literature reviews and also observation from my study trips on site. I also was part of informal conversations with left residents of Qarrishtë village and pastors around the area; have provided me with a good background of the issues and problems that people have been fronted all this time to oblige them desert their lands and homes.
- Country and city relationship
- Stereotypes (on countryside living)
- Land abandonment and factors
- Impacting factors on depopulation of countries
- Spirit of the village
- Rural development and agriculture in Albania
- Land fragmentation after cooperatives
- Sustainable development
- Eco villages
- Rural tourism
- A success of farming( case study)
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