‘If we lose the countryside, we will lose it all’: language, traditions and people
Ways of stopping a youth outflow from Tatarstan villages were found at Volga expert club’s meeting
Food security remains a priority task of the development of the country’s agro-industrial complex. But it isn’t possible to keep people in the countryside without holistic development of rural territories and support for all forms of management. “Once Tatarstan had 14,000 farmers, while today 4,500 left,” Vice Minister of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Tatarstan Rishat Khabipov complained about an outflow of active working people from Tatarstan villages at Volga expert club’s meeting. Public investments in road construction, school repairs and, most importantly, human capital are necessary to save the countryside.
To stop the exodus from villages
Precisely small farms and farmers have had to assume the burden of responsibility for developing remote rural territories today, but only the state can truly inspire new life into fading villages and solve the employment problem. This is what attendees of Countryside Support: Course for Sustainable Development discussion that took place at a meeting of the Volga expert club on 13 August concluded. Russian State Duma deputies, heads of several municipalities and entrepreneurs themselves debated on what will save our birthplace.
In any state, agriculture is considered the country’s “breadwinner,” it is subsidised with preferential loans, while villages are improved, and this is inevitable. In the republic, the agricultural sector is under the constant tutelage of the republican authorities that created an entire countryside support system. Thanks to this, as Vice Minister of Agriculture and Food of the Republic of Tatarstan Rishat Khabipov claimed, Tatarstan remains one of the leaders in agricultural production.
Agriculturists completely meet the needs of citizens in bread, vegetables, meat and milk. “Farmers are ready to produce any amounts of agricultural produce,” he assured the audience.
Rishat Khabipov: “Loan rates must provide a farmer’s income, then people will start returning to the countryside”
Loan rates must provide a farmer with income
But to support affordable prices for staples, it is necessary to subsidise agriculture. “Preferential loans aren’t enough, while a loan with a rate over 2% a year is unprofitable,” Khabipov asserts. In his opinion, due to the anomalous hot weather this year, the state should compensate for farmers’ entrepreneurial risks to impede a further rise in prices for food. “Loan rates must provide a farmer’s income, then people will start returning to the countryside,” he thinks. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, 900,000 people in Tatarstan villages, but just 60,000 of them are working-age.
Nowadays countrymen’s living conditions cannot be named suitable for a good life, the attendees noted. “There are first-aid stations but without doctors. There are schools, while there is a shortage of teachers. Culture centres need to be repaired, roads need to be built,” State Duma deputy Ildar Gilmutdinov explained the reasons for people’s outflow from villages.
According to him, it is necessary to urgently develop social and transport infrastructure in the countryside: “Tatarstan has a programme of holistic countryside development. 34 million rubles are allocated for it. It was launched a year ago. It should have been launched as early as 10-15 years ago, the emergency should have been avoided,” he claimed. This year, there is a federal programme in the country to develop rural territories for 160 billion rubles, which is designed to improve rural people’s living conditions.
Guzel Sanzharova: “As soon as you start providing jobs, you learn about villagers’ other concerns. I would like the state to be involved in them, to build the road, repair culture centres”
“People leave the countryside because there aren’t jobs,” social entrepreneur Guzel Sanzharova from the village Maly Tursh, the Urals, joined the discussion. She once successfully graduated from Moscow State University, then went back to her remote village in the Urals and launched a small business there. “As soon as you start providing jobs, you learn about villagers’ other concerns. I would like the state to be involved in them, build the road, repair culture centres,” she said.
To inspire life into small village
“Guzel is right, it is necessary to create conditions for life, not just provide a job,” noted Mayor of Nizhnekamsk and Nizhnekamsk District Aydar Metshin. He said that all 13 settlements of the district have socio-economic development strategies that help plan territorial development. Self-taxation, grants are the source of funding for the programmes. “Guzel’s experience shows that the most important thing is to save and develop human capital,” Metshin concluded.
Head of Mamadysh District Anatoly Ivanov offered to attract the youth not only with jobs in the countryside but also provide with housing. First, he complained that the preferential rural mortgage didn’t reach the district, it stopped in Kazan’s suburbs. While Ivanov sees that settling in abandoned empty houses as a solution. “Our district has quite a lot of good but abandoned houses. They could be sold for 500-600,000 rubles upon agreement with owners,” he said.
Aydar Metshin: “The most important thing is to save and develop human capital”
Later, Ildar Gilmutdinov announced the necessity of raising social responsibility of big agricultural holdings in the countryside. “‘Landlords’ often ask me when I will provide them with specialists, veterinarians, stock breeders...But have you built a home for the people?” he asked rhetorically. He thinks that large agricultural holdings only gather harvest and count their own profit, they don’t care about workers. Electricity tariffs are another problem. “The price for a kilowatt-hour for a farmer is higher than for the industry. It is unfair, it is wrong, it needs to be fixed,” Gilmutdinov was indignant. In his opinion, the state should either lower the tariffs or subsidise production.
Ildar Gilmutdinov: “The price for a kilowatt-hour for a farmer is higher than for the industry. It is unfair, it is wrong, it needs to be fixed”
New countryside development programme for 220 billion rubles in action
The debate ended on an optimistic note. Despite the hardships, the country should help, and people will start returning to their birthplaces. They hope for the best because the Russian authorities are going to allocate a lot of money to support the countryside as early as next year.
We are talking about 220 billion rubles, and Vladimir Putin claimed on 10 August he set a task of developing the programme. The president specified that “different options are considered, not only support for agricultural production itself.” “We have good financing to support the countryside this year. The amounts are big, hundreds of billions, for social development. By the way, there will be additional money for land improvement, 7 billion a year,” the head of the country assured the citizens.