THE Spanish Association Against Depopulation (AECD) has launched a brand new program to help bring female faces into the traditionally male dominated world of rural farming.
The program has been coined the Escuela de Pastoras (School for Shepherdesses) and has been designed to bring farming and livestock training to women rural and remote communities.
Based in the northern Cantabria region of Spain, but with courses all over the country including Andalucia, the school was born from recent findings that showed women were leaving rural areas at a higher rate than men.
Faced with declining female populations, and under pressure to bring people back into the countryside, the AECD drew up the course and designed it to set itself apart from other schemes currently in place across Spain.
According to Susana Pacheco, course tutor and brains behind the scheme, the course will focus on the industry from the point of view of the women.
“We will focus on work-life balances, managing time with children, creating support networks between fellow female farmers.” said Pacheco.
The nine month course consists of 500 hours of online study and one month vocational training at a farmstead in Cantabria, where the enrollees will get hands on experience on dealing with livestock.
During their stay, the women will learn about sustainable farming and agriculture, using native species of flora and fauna and using state-of-the-art technology such as drones to understand how the industry is progressing into the 21st century.
For those women with children, they can also attend the vocational stay with lessons on beekeeping, cheese making and animal care.
“So far the scheme has been really successful,” claims Lidia Díaz, a trainer at the school.
“We have had 265 applicants from across Spain, even as far as the Canary Islands.”
“Rural villages, as well as being wiped off the map due to depopulation, they are also being masculated in the process as more and more younger women feel they have no place in these communities.” said Diaz.
Pacheco hopes that her scheme turns the table and injects life into dwindling rural communities.
“There are 50% more seniors in villages compared to youngsters” said Pacheco, citing statistics from the INE.
“Women are vital in keeping these communities alive and hopefully our program will work toward giving the roles that the women carry out the recognition they deserve.”
In 2019, the Andalucian faction of the scheme gained national recognition from the Ministry of Agriculture who issued them with a Rural Development Program certificate for their work during the 2019 training program, held in Ronda and the catalyst for 14 new qualified female farmers entering the industry.