Monday, 20 July 2015

Planning for Rural Resilience

The recent publication Planning for Rural Resistance edited by Wayne Caldwell examines what it takes to ensure future viability of rural communities. Resilience refers to the ability of a system to withstand stress and recover back to or better than it's original state. While the focus of the book is on energies and climate change, there is also mention of agriculture and sustainability. Technology is a key factor in establishing a resilient agricultural business.

In one case study, a farmer decided to counteract rising energy costs through adoption of technologies that keep operation costs down and improve crop outputs. Modern farming technologies depend on the use of high-speed internet connections across the farm, making internet access an integral factor to rural resilience.

We interview Wayne Caldwell who is the Director of the School of Environmental Design and Rural Studies (SEDRD) at the University of Guelph in addition to being a professor. Following are a few responses to questions we asked relating his book to the R2B2 Project and it's focus on rural broadband.
Question 1: What is the most important challenge currently facing rural communities in Ontario?
Click here for book info. 

Wayne: In some ways I think the most important challenge for rural communities is to anticipate and respond to change. Whether the issue is economic, environmental, or social rural communities are facing new and evolving issues that will challenge their capacity to respond. Examples include the need to respond to an evolving agricultural sector, climate change, and an ageing population. For each of these issues there’s the need for leadership and innovation.
Question 2: Do you think that connecting (internet) communities is an important factor in establishing rural resilience?
Wayne: Yes I do. Information, education and capacity development are important and can help to ensure that a community is well informed and aware of appropriate actions and strategies that can help respond to some of these changes.
Question 3: What role does agriculture play in rural resilience? Will technological improvements such as high-speed internet access for rural farming aid in rural resilience?
Wayne: For many rural communities, agriculture is a key aspect of the local economy. It should be noted that there are various models and approaches to agricultural production. In some instances agriculture has gotten larger and more intense, while in other instances there is the opportunity for small-scale production. The key point being that agriculture will continue to be important for many of these communities. Equally, technological improvements such as high speed Internet access will assist all farmers helping them to be more competitive and innovative. This will assist agriculture from an economic perspective, however hi-speed Internet can also ensure that farmers have access to the best information that will help them to farm with minimal impact on the environment.
 We want to thank Wayne for taking the time to talk with us about his latest publication and showing us how rural connectivity fits in to the idea of rural resilience. Broadband is one of many aspects that will help rural communities and agricultural businesses to prepare for the future unknowns.

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