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Rye Commons | Civic Europe
Environment and sustainability, Community development

Rye Commons

Community building and traditional network restoration related to the recovery and updating of the rye economy in Ancares. From the vicious circle of belittling to the virtuous circle of self esteem.


Who is behind this?




Who is joining forces?

Teitos de Piornedo


Centro de Desarrollo Rural (CDR) de los Ancares


Cervantes city Council


stakehold interested in joining the project: Ramiro, local priest from Donis district Ancares Valley Sociocultural Association Manuel M. Master builder Manuel G., producer of beer from local rye


Idea pitch

A long time ago the RYE economy circle used to be the foundation of a centennial culture that integrated land management, architecture legacy, food and goods production, in a sense of community supported by the sharing of common concerns, agricultural work and celebrations.
We want to rebuild and update the Ancares territory network through participative projects, collecting knowledge, mapping the “actors”, confronting critical issues and “minding the gap” between citizens and administrations.

Where will your project idea take place?

Os Ancares (NW Spain) in between Galicia, Asturias and León. Comprising hundreds of small villages.

What is the specific societal challenge faced by this region?

Os Ancares population has reduced by almost 50% since 1980. In 2016, 40% of its neighbours were over 65 years old, distributed in settlements that rarely exceed 30 inhabitants. Resulting:
- Loss of the associative human fabric linked to the vital support provided by the work of the land. Led to increasing distrust among the neighbours themselves.
- Loss of its cultural structure, materialized in a circular economy and in the very structure of its villages, its traditional infrastructures (roads, threshing floors...), the popular architecture ("pallozas") and the elements of its ethnology.
The area is infrastructurally and culturally isolated. The administration’s abandonment of the territory has resulted in the inhabitants' distrust, which generates a belittling vicious circle

Who are you doing it for?

We intend to work together with 4 groups:
- Population over 60 years old, mostly defrauded by the administrations and little active in local governance. They make up around 40% of the total population of the valley.
- Cultural associations (We have contacts with 3 of them that are mainly led by women). They are few and few in number, but they are very committed to preserve cultural and material heritage of the region. Our project aims to highlight and open the focus of the work they already do.
- Individual actors active in the governance of the area (eg priest of Parroquia de Donís)
- Regional producers who may be interested in the sustainable exploitation of local materials such as rye, either with new or traditional products.

How do you plan to get there?

1a. Testimonials. We will look for people 60 and older who reconstruct the rye culture from their memory.
1b. Search for "Collective intelligence" evidence: all kinds of "smart" practices, objects and forms of management found in present cultural heritage.
2. Design of 4-6 meetings that revive old community meetings around rye: planting, harvesting, roofing, bread making, basketry. We will invite external experts. We will talk, we will imagine and we will inhabit our disagreements.
3. Establish a NETWORK OF LOCAL MEDIATORS. People living in the territory, trusted by their community, formed and especially motivated that can build a “bridge” between us and the local actors
4. Registration of the process and preparing documentation for communication with the administration and media

What are the expected results?

GENERATION OF EMPATHY as major result , which will arise from following:
- Awareness and mutual recognition. For the inside by “situating” every same aim actor and initiative already working in the field. For the outside: a bigger critical mass will mean better deals for Ancares.
- Strong bonding between citizens and the administration. Delivery of a two-way handbook for the Administrative-Citizen relationship . Explaining and easening of bureaucracies fostering new economic activities, housing acquisition, understanding of legal issues, etc, all avoiding depopulation and promoting settlements of young people.
- Safeguarding local knowledge = Innovation. Archive of local knowledges in order to hybridize it with modern scientific knowledge will produce what is known as retro-innovation.

How does your idea strengthen active citizenship at a local and community level?

Working from the individual to the collective:
1) Collecting testimonies from people over 60 around an element that used to be the hearth of local economy: rye. We seek to value the individual contribution and use it as a basis to create ideas for the future. Make it clear that the community shares a common memory.
2) Creating meeting and debate spaces between associations, locals and producers. Spaces for dialogue designed around ancestral community activities now abandoned.

3) Strengthen the connection between administrations, producers and actors at the territorial level with whom they can share objectives and concerns.

We are not looking for solutions but citizen involvement in decision-making processes, building empathy and creating links within and outside the community

Why is this idea important to you?

Personally: Some of the Zoohaus members are children and grandchildren of last century’s big rural migration to major spaniard and european cities. Through our antecessors we had the chance to live and recognise ourselves in these human and natural landscapes whenever we came back to ”our parents villages”.
In general terms: The territorial imbalance in Spain (what we call "the emptied Spain") is one of the great challenges for the future of our country. We firmly believe that bottom-up cultural initiatives that promote new horizons and generate strong ties in the community are those that will reverse the process of abandonment of the rural areas in Spain.
Our job is this: As architects we want to work as facilitators so that local voices and administrations can build these alliances.

€ 58220,-

Total budget

€ 48220,-

Funding requested from Civic Europe

Major expenses

Personnel 36,000 EUR (only 26,000 Requested)
Travel, Per Diem & Accommodation Costs 5,520 EUR
Production 15,000 EUR
Communication & Evaluation 1,700 EUR

What do you need from the Civic Europe community?

A feedback on our proposal would be very much appreciated. We would also be interested in hearing about precedents and examples of this type of projects carried out elsewhere in European rural areas with great social challenges.



Idea created on May 27, 2020

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