According to the World Bank the driving factor in innovation and economic growth at the world level is urbanization, taking into account the effects of modern world trading relationships. With this perspective in mind and taking into account the effects of world commodity price fluctuation with its attendant effects on family farm incomes, as well as the other economic challenges facing rural areas, there is an urgent need to reconsider options for growth, investment and job opportunities in rural areas across the continent of Europe.
While the natural environment has sometimes been portrayed in the historic past as a barrier to the economic development of rural areas, or as a factor limiting greater intensification in food production (e.g. due to soil or climatic conditions), the twenty-first century has seen greater emphasis on the economic opportunities that a high quality environment offers. Whether from its contribution to a clean green food industry, or tourism, or even in its ability to supply new and innovative services to the urban areas in relation to water management, a healthy environment is increasingly recognized as a driver of economic growth.
The Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside provided an opportunity for an exchange of views between interested parties from Northern Ireland and the science, water management and leisure management industry in the Netherlands. The discussion reflected on ways in which these issues are being explored in regions across Europe, including by government, science and business in the Netherlands.
The meeting focused on viewpoints and actions taken in the Netherlands and Northern Ireland with respect to water management, farming, tourism, recreation, and nature conservation.