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Emmental to benefit from sustainable development project

The village of Bowil in the Emmental: the region is benefîtting from an Agenda 21 programme. pd

The Emmental region is benefitting from one of a series of sustainable development projects, agreed at the Rio Earth summit in 1992. The project is part of an international programme, known as "Agenda 21".

This content was published on August 24, 2000 - 09:27

"Agenda 21", adopted by 179 countries at the United Nations environmental summit eight years ago, aims to preserve and promote sustainable development. There are currently 48 projects across Switzerland.

The project in Emmental region, which is known worldwide for its cheese, aims to keep the landscape intact and make the region more attractive for the people who live there. At present, there is a fear that the region will be reduced to little more than forest and heavily cultivated land.

"The Emmental is special when compared to other regions because it's so hilly, so green and it has beautiful landscapes. But we are experiencing change in the agricultural structure of the region," says Karen Wiedmer, one of the three people in charge of carrying out the project.

"About 30 per cent of people live from farming in the Emmental at present and their numbers are falling so we have to try to offer those who are thinking of giving up some other possibilities of making a living," she says.

The project is based on a landscape development concept, and Wiedmer is keen for its impact to be seen and felt. "We'd like measures to be carried out so that you can actually see something happening in the landscape, for example by planting bushes in the middle of farm land or making brooks flow naturally again.

"Another part is to make the people of the Emmental more sensitive to the value of the landscape and try to make them support production of regional specialities by buying them."

The idea is to promote smaller producers, who make sheep and goat cheese, sausages, bread, flour and pasta. The Emmental also produces berry wine of which most people are unaware.

The Confederation, local communities, the regional marketing association and others have all chipped in to finance the project to the tune of SFr180,000.

Wiedmer knows measuring the success of such projects is difficult, but she feels that local people will be satisfied once they see improvements in the landscape and better sales for their products.

by Robert Brookes

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