The EIDER project: Empowering rural development through education

by | Sep 18, 2023 | European stakeholders

Author: Ana Fernández de Casadevante (FECOMA)

Translated into English: Miranda García (AEIDL)

The EIDER project (Education for the Promotion of Rural Development) is an initiative presented by the Federation of Cooperatives and Social Economy of Madrid (FECOMA) to combat the issue of depopulation in rural municipalities.

“We often concentrate our efforts on just 15% of our territory, while the true essence of quality living lies within the remaining 85%.” This significant portion of land is either depopulated or gradually being abandoned due to the limited opportunities it offers to young people, lack of essential services for comfortable and connected living, transportation challenges, housing issues, limited access to high-quality education, and inadequate elderly care services.

The EIDER project aims to address these pressing concerns by introducing essential services that can either attract or retain newcomers in small municipalities, all while leveraging the power of the social economy. The goal is to establish educational services within the framework of the educational system while simultaneously addressing rural challenges through collective entrepreneurship in various sectors, including housing, agri-food, and socio-sanitary services. These initiatives are intended to stimulate economic and social development in depopulated regions.

For instance, a critical issue in rural areas is the scarcity of housing. Land is limited, existing housing is expensive, and construction costs in rural towns can be exorbitant. Governments should consider implementing land-use policies, while cooperatives can play a vital role in constructing affordable housing.

The EIDER project is set to kick off with a pilot programme in municipalities eager to retain their population or attract young people for settlement and territorial engagement initiatives. It will also focus on regions undergoing repopulation efforts that lack fundamental services. The cooperative and social economy business model are seen as pivotal in creating economic structures and fostering networking opportunities to draw professionals and resources from various regional and national communities.

While the primary focus of EIDER is on promoting rural education as a driver of development, it also has the potential to support the growth of other economic activities that can facilitate progress in these regions.

Although the project’s primary interest lies within the Community of Madrid, it remains open to collaboration with other organisations from the cooperative and social economy sectors to contribute to EIDER-related initiatives in different regions.

The fundamental idea behind this project is to position education as the driving force for development. This involves establishing rural schools equipped with innovative educational models that hold substantial value for the growth of young individuals and communities within the EIDER network municipalities. Such an approach is expected to attract additional interest in initiating other impactful projects within the rural community.

Furthermore, the project will feature a training platform that not only addresses the educational needs of children but also serves the broader community. This virtual platform will offer a diverse range of content categorised by topics of interest.

The social economy sector can play a transformative role in revitalising depopulated regions in Spain by fostering learning communities, educational cooperatives, worker cooperatives, housing cooperatives, transportation cooperatives, trade cooperatives, as well as diverse service cooperatives. Ultimately, it aims to engage with the territory, contributing to community-building efforts. Carlos de la Higuera, President of FECOMA and the driving force behind this project, asserts: “By prioritising people and education, we lay the foundations for the creation of human capital. Supporting rural schools is an investment in development.”

In line with these objectives, FECOMA is actively identifying initiatives and engaging with municipalities and local stakeholders involved in repopulation or settlement projects. The goal is to establish a Support Network that can aid in promoting this project. Through the social economy, EIDER strives to provide solutions to meet the essential service needs of the population, including education, healthcare, housing, leisure, culture, agriculture, livestock, and a wide spectrum of other services.

If you are interested in learning more about the EIDER project, please do not hesitate to contact