The Polish Rural Forum (Forum for the Animation of Rural Areas – FAOW) is the first national platform of cooperation of rural organizations in Poland. The organizations cooperating within the Forum work together towards a more effective functioning of Polish rural communities within the European Union, through animation and increased participation in decision making.
The aims of the Polish Rural Forum are as follows:
– to work for the development of rural areas and their inhabitants;
– to support and promote sustainable rural development;
– to support civic society development and knowledge-based economy,
– to build partnership and dialogue for sustainable rural development, and
– to animate local communities in rural areas.
The Forum was created as an informal platform in 2002. The initiative was taken by twelve rural organizations, active at the national as well as local level. In December 2005 the Polish Rural Forum has become a legal person, and from that moment it functions as a „union of associations”.
One of the Forum’s objectives is to promote the LEADER-type approach in Poland – an approach that has proved effective in the animation of rural areas in the European Union.
LEADER is an EU programme to support those rural communities which wish to cooperate and build partnership. The LEADER programme supports communities in improving the quality of life and economic situation of their „native land”, through joint effort and broad cooperation. LEADER was initiated in 1991, and at present (2000-2006) it is in its third programming period – „LEADER +”. After 2007 a considerable proportion of EU rural development funding will be allocated in accordance with the LEADER approach.
The Polish Rural Forum from the moment of its creation cooperates closely with PREPARE and is its Polish partner.
PREPARE (Pre-accession Partnership for Rural Europe) is a pan-European network aiming to support civic society development in rural areas, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. PREPARE is also a programme which promotes international cooperation and exchange in rural development. PREPARE’s activities focus on the cooperation between national rural networks within the wider European perspective.
In September 2003 (with financial help from the PREPARE Group, using funds from the CS Mott Foundation), the Forum launched a programme of training for trainers, who will themselves animate the creation and work of local action groups.
The Forum organised two of the Travelling Workshops for participants in the PREPARE Gathering of October 2003. Over 30 people from Scotland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania flew into Warsaw; were joined by participants from Poland; and then split into two groups to travel by bus to Slovakia. One group passed through central Poland, visiting development associations or partnerships at Baltow and in Bochnia, a model farm at Stryszow, and the Babia Góra partnership. The other group passed through eastern Poland, visiting the Western Polesie Biosphere Reserve, the Academy for Theatre Practices at Gardzienice, and the LEADER-type partnership at Dolina Strugu.