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Entrepreneurship in rural development, background and experiences from Slovenia


DURING RECENT DECADES, new trends and conditions have brought significant changes in rural development strategies in all parts of Europe. The main objective is to improve living conditions and strengthen the economic potential of the rural areas within changing markets. Most Central and Eastern European countries have elaborated rural development strategies after recent political, economic and social changes. The problems and changes they are dealing with are mostly the same. In general, they are preoccupied with agrarian reform and the privatization process.

The purpose of this paper is to present the most crucial problems, changes and challenges the countries in the transition are facing in the field of agriculture and rural development by highlighting the situation and experiences in Slovenia, the northern republic of the former Yugoslavia. The concept of entrepreneurship as a vital force for rural development is illustrated through practical experiences.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the rural sector in Slovenia faced the same problems as other countries, such as small farm size, part-time farming and increasing market disparities in agriculture, continuing depopulation trends, lack of employment opportunities in other sectors and low quality of life in general.

The democratization and privatization processes that started with the structural reforms have introduced crucial changes in rural development policy orientation for a long-term solution of the basic problems. In 1992, the agricultural development strategy had two basic conclusions.

· Development of agriculture can only been seen in the context of rural/regional development. Agriculture can no longer be the sole economic base for long-term sustainable development of rural areas.

· Sustainable development of rural areas as a global objective can only be achieved by maintaining their identity and diversity. Defining and activating local development potential in diverse geographic, cultural, natural and human resources is a new development orientation.

The concept of rural development through entrepreneurship was built up by new actors and supported by new development measures. The task of development policy in this new concept is to stimulate and generate the idea of business, using existing local resources, and to support the development of small-scale business by providing the necessary information, knowledge and infrastructure.

The experience of Slovenia proves the existence of hidden development potentials and opportunities for new economic activities in rural areas, which can, if supported by entrepreneurial development programmes, lead to a new and more stable economic basis of higher quality in the rural areas.

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