Rural Development in The AzoresThe Azores are an autonomous group of islands owned by Portugal. In this mid-Atlantic archipelago, dairy farming is an economic staple. In recent years, however, Azorean farmers have faced financial difficulties due to rising costs of production. Given the economic need for rural development in the Azores, recent projects like PRORURAL+ provide hope.

How Poverty Takes Shape in the Azores

Despite being a group of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are part of the European Union. A 2022 case study by ESPON and the European Union names the Azores as one of the poorest regions of the EU since 1986 when Portugal gained membership.

Nearly one in four citizens of the Azores are at risk of poverty. A 2022 report by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) calculates the at-risk-of-poverty rate in the Azores as 24.1%.

The Azores’ Agrarian Economy

Agriculture is a major player in the economy of the Azores. A 2017 briefing by the European Parliament indicates that roughly 10% of those employed in the Azores work in “agriculture, forestry and fisheries.” Additionally, roughly one in four Azorean employees occupy other food-related service positions. To this end, rural development in the Azores lays the groundwork for reliable economic activity.

Livestock farming is the main occupation of Azorean farmers. On that front, a 2023 news release from the Azores’ government highlights the growing need for developmental funding for rural areas. Recently, heightened costs of production resources like fertilizer and animal food have necessitated funding for rural development in the Azores.

Rising Costs of Living and Farming

As a municipality of Portugal, the Azores Archipelago has suffered from recent increases in living costs like mainland Portugal has. EAPN’s 2022 report shows that inflation in Portugal reached 9% in June 2022.

The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had an economic ripple effect extending as far as this cluster of islands in the middle of the Atlantic. Some farmers have taken a substantial financial hit from this conflict, as the Azores Government’s 2023 news release reports.

PRORURAL+: Support for Rural Development in the Azores

Recent years have seen significant strides in supporting rural development in the Azores. One such program is PRORURAL+, jointly developed by the Azores Agricultural Federation and the Azores Government, aimed at providing aid to both individual and collective farmers in the region.

The Azores Government’s 2023 news release delves into the specifics of this plan. The financial support is a collaborative effort, funded by the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Azores’ budget, contributing 85% and 15% respectively. Depending on the farm’s land area, the allocated funding ranges from €600 to €1,050.

With the twin objectives of assisting farmers in improving their business operations and mitigating the impact of production cost spikes caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, PRORURAL+ accepted applications from January 5 to February 5 of the current year. Given the significance of livestock farming to the Azorean economy, this initiative aims to bring back a degree of stability during these challenging times.

– Noel Teter
Photo: Flickr