This article is written by the representatives of Village Life. I love what they do !
Village Life – development and yet respect for people, values and nature in Romania
More and more of us city people, dependent on modern technologies, are eager to learn about self-sufficiency and somehow reintegrate nature into our existence. The excitement around natural products, slow food, downshifting or urban gardens are some examples.
At the same time, naturally and culturally rich rural Romania is highly vulnerable. Young people migrate in mass towards large cities or other EU countries in hope of a better life. A battalion of EU and Romanian government regulations make EU funds inaccessible to the regular untrained villager who owns just a couple of hectares of land. Yet subsistence agriculture is no longer enough to support the growing needs of individuals living in a globalized world.
Admittedly, there is an urgent need to improve the generally low standard of living in the Romanian countryside, by creating opportunity for income generating activities. But we don’t need to cut our forests, impoverish our biodiversity, poison our rivers and work only in factories to achieve wellbeing. We also don’t need to all move to large cities; in fact, all signs point to the fact that our globe wouldn’t be able to sustain such trends, in the long term.
All this being said, at Village Life, everybody believes that the great opportunity of the Romanian village lays precisely in the capitalization of its specific traits. Unlike western Europe’s countryside that has succumbed to industrialization a long time ago, much of the Romanian village is still at a crossroads of development. There has to be a slower, but more sustainable way: ecotourism, healthy agriculture and small (but many) business initiatives based on local customs and resources.
This is, in a nutshell, what Village Life encourages through all its projects and programs. This is why they started the sustainable travel program, through which they bring a non-agricultural source of income and informal education to a carefully selected network of rural homesteads. The villagers – hosts and beneficiaries of the travel program – have opened their doors to travelers to offer a unique experience of the Romanian countryside, experience that is otherwise very hard to access. Of course, we are talking here of a particular niche, mostly travelers from industrialized countries like Germany, Belgium, France, Sweden, Norway, Canada, US or Australia, who are tired of all-inclusive packages and want to really get to know people, cultures and ways of life. It is great for them because together with local hosts, they get to not only watch, but participate in village activities or celebrations. For example, they can take care of animals, they can join a shepherd at the sheepfold, they can help with hay-stacking or even make cheese, wine, learn about bees and so on.
So far, Village Life has facilitated unique travel experiences for over 200 people and has offered support to more than 30 rural families. Their travel program is probably the most “real” experience one can have of the Romanian countryside, as it is, day by day, season by season. And the countryside is one of the most interesting things about Romania, from a lot of perspectives: natural, anthropological, cultural, social, you name it!