The vision underlying the urban-rural agenda of Cuenca is to make the province of Cuenca a reference case for forest bioeconomy, a territory where the rural environment is lively and nurtured by a local economy that builds on an innovative and resilient forestry sector. This vision is tackled by means of several specific objectives, some of which totally or partially recall the objectives pursued by the UFIL project.
In brief, the agenda aims to:
- Demonstrate to the general public the importance of the forest sector for local development, and of sustainable forest management for the conservation of forests.
- Modernise forest value chains and add value to forest products and services.
- Promote the sustainable socio-economic development of rural areas through the forest economy.
- Promote forestry research and knowledge-transfer as drivers of change.
- Facilitate access to open data in the forest sector.
- Have a governance framework in place for circular bioeconomy (i.e., a circular economy based on nature).
- Diversify economic activities in the territory through entrepreneurship, education and training in forestry.
- Improve competitiveness and facilitate entrepreneurship and circular bioeconomy development in rural areas.
Objectives 1, 2, 3 and 7 are very close to UFIL objectives.
Objective 4 is interesting because it introduces the need for research and knowledge-transfer activities which are at the basis of innovation development. This component was weak in UFIL.
Objective 5 introduces the need of having more and accessible data available. This is at the basis of informed decision-making at all levels. It needs to be recalled here that a lot of time was dedicated in UFIL to develop the knowledge base to be used as a starting point for training and other project activities. This objective may thus be intended as the result of a 'lesson learnt' during UFIL.
Objectives 6 and 8 introduce the concept of circular bioeconomy. Circular bioeconomy is a circular economy that is based on bio raw materials. Indeed, circular bioeconomy is a step forward with respect to bioeconomy and raises very much the level of ambition of the agenda.
Overall, the above objectives aim to address a series of challenges that do not differ too much from the challenges considered by UFIL when the City of Cuenca launched its UIA/EUI project. However, in the outline of these challenges, it is evident a higher level of awareness of forest sector issues that was not present when UFIL started back in 2018.
- Among the challenges identified in the agenda and already pursued by the UFIL project are: the lack of understanding by the general public of the opportunities offered by the forest sector, and of the importance of forest management to have healthy and productive forests; the demographic decline that undermines the socioeconomic sustainability of the territory; insufficient synergies and knowledge-exchange in the entrepreneurial ecosystem; the need for skilled workforce and training for the modernisation of the forest sector; and the low attractiveness of the forest sector, with bureaucracy still being a barrier to business-making.
- Among the challenges identified in the agenda and derived from a higher awareness of the needs of the forest sector are: the low dynamism of private forest owners; the low capacity to follow up to forest management plans by forest owners; the low level of application of technology in the forest sector; and the low profitability of existing forest-based value chains.
The agenda identifies five areas of intervention and 13 actions to tackle the above challenges and achieve its objectives. Each action has the timeline (short, medium and long-term) specified and clearly indicates impact and monitoring indicators. Implementing stakeholders are outlined in the narrative of the action while financial resources for implementation are not indicated.
The actions of the agenda are looked at in more detail in the following sections.