Episode 4:
Rural Innovation

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By Zanji Sinkala, Kennedy Nyavaya and Kudakwashe Mushauri.

While the city center condenses, the surrounding provinces of Berlin offer vast spaces and cheap living costs. In this episode, we're visiting a project that tries to develop rural sustainable alternatives.

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In a world where the climate is changing and mankind is in constant search for solutions to the global crisis, a small farming community in north-eastern Germany called Rothenklempenow has big dreams and a diverse approach to solving the question of sustainability.

Many small communities in east Germany are bleeding for residents as the lack of essential services increases. While the population in Germany’s biggest cities has been rising, particularly in former West Germany, several smaller locations have suffered population declines. Residents are forced to move to larger places to get the essential services they need. However, not all hope is lost in Rothenklempenow, a municipality in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany has a redeeming story of its own.

The bringing down of the wall separating East and West Germany in 1989 saw a huge number of people, most of them young, move from the former to the latter, popularly known then as the "Golden West". The mass movement meant that most settlements in the East, especially the countryside, were left deserted with a population largely constituting of senior citizens. Naturally, the socioeconomic activity dwindled to dire straits and till this day, the Eastern side has struggled to attract much attention from the young and economically active.

In modern Germany, city life has fast evolved and the changes are visible as soon as one steps onto the streets. Super transport efficiency, impressive service delivery and huge investments in the latest technologies are some of the factors that endear youth to urban life. The zeal to catch up with the trendy wave of the moment is what keeps them glued to the city and for them it is hard or nearly impossible to imagine life in the relatively slower countryside. A glimpse at the flip side of the coin in rural areas like Rothenklempenow can give one an appreciation of the snails pace of activity characterizing daily life. This is inconsistent with what modern youth are now accustomed to.

However, the influx of these young people in big cities like Berlin has had negative ripple effects on urban life. The spike in population has created a congestion on the resources that are available. Likewise this has affected the cost of living with accommodation particularly becoming a huge issue of concern. With new trends like gentrification taking centre stage, more people are set to be pushed to the outskirts of the city because they cannot bear the soaring costs of accommodation. Soon the ordinary worker earning an average income will simply not be able to afford a space to live in, such as in the core area of Berlin. For innovative minds, this is a chance to think outside of the confines of the city.

It is in the midst of this unattractive reality that BioBoden, an eco friendly agricultural project, seeks to breathe life into this sleeping giant called Rothenklempenow. Based entirely on an environmentally sustainable strategy, the project has so far attracted a few businesses run by young people. Those who stayed put have become the first beneficiaries of the pilot project. When fully fledged, it is set to attract more young people to the area, which not only boasts of vast unused prime lands but also ample empty buildings fit for accommodation.

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This multimedia documentary is part of the 2018/19 training cycle of the "Young African Journalists' Accelerator Program" (YAJAP) facilitated by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation South Africa and JournAfrica!.