Changes in rural areas and regional development.
The present study examines how regional development has been
affected by social, economic and environmental changes in three regions
located in central Greece. These regions were affected significantly by
social and economic changes, because of substantial new infrastructure
development that took place related to a ski resort and agritourism
establishments. Sample data were collected on the characteristics of
residents and land use in these three rural areas. The results of the
study show that tourist development is very important for the
socio-economic improvement of these regions. Using cross-tabulation
statistical methods it was found that regions with better infrastructure
attract more tourists than regions with inferior infrastructure (p-value
= 0.000) and residents with higher education have better income than
residents with lower education (p-value = 0.000).
Key words: Regional development, social changes, economic changes, environmental changes
|Publication:||Name: Journal of Social Sciences Publisher: Science Publications Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Science Publications ISSN: 1549-3652|
|Issue:||Date: Oct, 2008 Source Volume: 4 Source Issue: 4|
Rural regions are influenced by social-economic changes. More specifically, demographic changes increase social and cultural divergence within rural regions and at the same time affected local values and standard of living. Also, the economy of rural regions differentiates as the service sector is increased considerably at the expense of agriculture. The dynamics of rural change and the non-homogeneous development observed in numerous rural regions has been the object of many studies of political planning for rural development. While planning a rural developmental policy most of countries opt for a policy strategy that takes into consideration the attainment of sustainability.
Sustainable development is a strategy aiming at comprehension of the relations between the society and the environment, as well as particular relations created in the society and the economic system. Sustainable development encompasses three basic dimensions: environmental, economic and social. The basic aim of achieving quality life for every individual at any time in any place that will include decent living and social participation in a suitable environment creates three basic needs:
* Social need: Intensification of social cohesion via justice between individuals, countries, social teams
* Economic need: Economic development to the degree that will ensure sustainability
Taking into consideration previous research such as by Hazel Henderson (The Oregon Benchmarks Program), various scientists have attempted a range of strategies of measuring sustainable development finally concluding in three groups of variables: Social, economic and environmental (1). Social variables value the quality of life and development. In general terms, social variables describe populations and demographic density, the level of satisfaction of residents from their research and the prospects that each municipality offers to them, but also more generally, literacy and educational level that affect investment, technology and quality of life. Useful economic variables are those that provide information for economic activities such as profits from tourism and its possibilities. The environment and its protection are essential conditions in the frame of sustainable development. The usefulness of these environmental variables is important, because they give information for regions on the state of their environment and the impact of human activities on it. Environmental variables mainly refer to atmosphere, air, water and the ecosystem (9-13), (15).
During the last decade, substantial new infrastructure development took place in rural areas in central Greece, which have changed the social, economic and environment conditions in this area. The most important structures that developed and changed the character of the study area were related to a ski resort, agritourism establishments and a new road that joined the city of Athens with these areas. In view of the fact that these areas are now more accessible from the city of Athens, many people, who work and live in Athens, choose and go for vacation to those rural areas. The result is that there is an increasing demand for agritourism establishments and the character of the land is changing from that of farms to residential areas. The increasing population and real estate without a specific plan for growth can have a negative effect on sustainable development (14), (16), (17).
The aim of the present study is to examine and illustrate the current socio, economic and environmental conditions through the measurement of variables that describe the quality of life based on the three basic social, economic and environmental needs in central Greece.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The study area consisted of three regions namely Mariolata, Gravia and Amfiklia located in central Greece. The following data on the social, economic and environmental development of the study regions were collected through a questionnaire survey during the spring of 2007: Demography, infrastructure, access to information, education, employment, transportation, tourism, agriculture, environmental protection, new technology transfer, real estate development, advantages and disadvantages of the regions. The investigators completed the questionnaires by visiting a random sample of residents who agreed to participate in the study and directly interviewing them in order to avoid misunderstanding in the completion of the questionnaires. The statistical frame of the study was based on a sample of 120 residents randomly selected in the three regions of central Greece that corresponds to 3% of population of each one from the three regions.
The data collected were analysed using descriptive statistics for calculating the means and standard deviations of continuous variables and the frequencies and percentages of discrete variables. Finally, cross-tabulations were made between related responses and the chi-square ([x.sup.2]) test of independence was used for statistical comparisons among them. We are reporting all significant dependencies with p-values of < [alpha] = 0.001, our standard significant level.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The three rural regions of Mariolata, Gravia and Amfiklia that were examined are towns with important histories since ancient times. They are located at the foot of mountain Parnassos where the first ski resort in Greece was established next to the valley of the river Kifissos in central Greece. Based on the 2001 census, the town of Mariolata had a population of 539. The town of Gravia had a population of 897 and the town of Amfiklia had a population of 2,500. However, their population doubles during winter vacation and weekends. The most important sector of the local economy is the rural sector (62.9%) with principle products including tobacco, cotton, cereals and livestock-farming. The tourist sector participates with a smaller percentage (11.4%) with its main activities including skiing on the mountain, hot natural spa and agritourism. These regions have more possibilities for tourist development with undeveloped but important archaeological sites and places of natural beauty (8).
Based on the data analysis of the 120 questionnaires the majority of respondents were men (54.3%) and their age ranged from 30-39 years old (24.8%). Most of the respondents were married (64.8%) and the average number of children per married responder was two. Most of the individuals were public employees (31.4%). Among the respondents who are farmers, 42.9% of them own a private enterprise and 32.4% are employed in the private sector. Their education level was mostly lyceum (61.9%) and their family monthly income was mainly 1001-1500 [euro] (41%). In addition, most of the individuals (48.6%) believe that technology reaches them fast enough, but they are not very satisfied (34.3%) with technology implementation. Also, they believe (76.2%) that the population density is very low. Table 1-4 show the above data.
Also, according to the analysis of the data the majority of the respondents (82.9%) believed that their regions attracts tourism mainly because of the ski centre (45.7%) and 96.2% believe that soft tourism will be the most important sector in their area for supporting employment in the future. In addition, they reported that the populations in the study regions double during vacation time because of the tourists. Most (53.3%) believed that the creation of new enterprises could improve local economy and half of these respondents (24.8%) believed that specifically the growth of year around or non-seasonal tourism could improve the local economy. A high percentage of the respondents (44.8%) believe that private initiative for investment is low.
Most of the individuals used their private car for transportation (78.1%) and only 13.3% used public transportation. Also, most of the respondents (76.2%) believe that there is no deterioration as far as air and water pollution in their region and they believe that their city is sustainable (96%). In response to the question about the comparative advantage of the region most of the respondents replied that it is mostly the natural environment (27.6%).
Table 5 shows what the locals think motivates the tourists to visit the examined regions. Table 6-8 show what the locals think are the advantages, the disadvantages and the most important infrastructure of the regions.
Furthermore, using cross-tabulation statistical methods it was found that regions with better infrastructure attract more tourists than regions with inferior infrastructure (p-value = 0.000 < [alpha] = 0.001). Also, it was found that residents with higher education have better income than residents with lower education (p-value = 0.000 < [alpha] = 0,001).
The results of the present study indicate that the three examined regions of Amfiklia, Gravia and Mariolata have important advantages that can support sustainable development. These regions are mainly rural regions where the dominant production is tobacco, cotton, cereals and livestock-farming. All three regions are characterized by mild climate, common history and cultural heritage, important archaeological sites and natural beauty, tourism and small to medium-sized enterprises that are related to tourism.
However, today the primary sector based for many years on community subsidies for crop cultivation, e.g. tobacco, is in decline and it can not offer a satisfactory family income. Tourism, which is a new rising economic activity in the examined regions, could become a supplement for family income. The examined regions double their population during winter vacations and weekends because of tourists, therefore, investment for expanding tourist activities all year around could increase local income even more by founding new stores and enterprises, which will cause the expansion of public and private services like banks, health centres, coffee shops, restaurants, infrastructure and transportation. Tourist development is very important for socio-economic improvement not only for a region, but also for an entire country. However, the respondents' concern about their own 'attitudes' and about 'immigrants' might constitute social barriers to the kind of development that it is proposed above. For that reason it is important educational programs to be introduced that they will target these two issues to improve prospects for tourism development. Nevertheless, this progress demands highly educated people. Therefore, improvement of education, investments and infrastructure without downgrading the natural environment will attract more visitors. In addition, young persons who often abandon their place of origin to live in the cities due to lack of employment opportunities and in search of social-cultural interests could have more possibilities for jobs because of the increase in tourism.
Furthermore, all three regions, besides recent infrastructures developments, still have deficiencies in basic infrastructures-water supply, sewage network, health, education facilities-that impede any developments and degrade the quality of life of residents and visitors.
Therefore, it is very important for the examined regions to introduce suitable policy formulation and program implementation in order to overcome their problems and to have sustainable development. These policies must suggest specific constraints for tourism increase in order to avoid environmental deterioration, to promote vocational programs in order to increase employment, to encourage environmentally friendly activities and most important to create the necessary infrastructure in the area.
The researchers are grateful to Dr. Dean MacCannell, Professor Emeritus in Environmental Design and Landscape Architecture University of California, Davis, USA, for valuable discussions.
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(1) Helen Theodoropoulou and (2) Panagiotis Kaldis
(1) Department of Home Economics and Ecology, Harokopio University, 70 E. Venizelos, 17671 Athens, Greece
(2) Department of Oenology and Beverages Technology, Technological Educational Institute of Athens, Ag. Spyridona, Egaleo, 12210, Athens, Greece
Corresponding author: Helen Theodoropoulou, Department of Home Economics and Ecology, Harokopio University, 70 E. Venizelos, 17671 Athens, Greece Tel: +30-2109549205 Fax: +30-2109577050
Table 1: Age of the respondents (n = 120) Age percentage (%) 10-19 005.7 20-29 018.1 30-39 024.8 40-49 020.0 50-59 014.3 >65 017.1 Total 100.0 Table 2: Educational level of the respondents (n = 120) Educational level percentage (%) Primary school 020.0 High school 018.1 Lyceum 061.9 Total 100.0 Table 3: Occupation of the respondents (n = 120) Occupation percentage (%) Farmer 021.9 Public employee 031.4 Private employee 019.0 Self employed 009.5 Unemployed 018.1 Total 100.0 Table 4: Income of the respondents (n = 120) Income percentage (%) 0-500 008.6 501-1000 015.2 1001-1500 041.0 1500-2000 035.2 Total 100.0
Table 5: Opinion of locals on reasons that tourists are attracted to visit the examined regions (n = 120) Reasons percentage (%) Ski centre 045.7 Relaxation 004.8 Local restaurants 001.9 Resort 001.0 Landscape 017.1 Countryside 012.4 No reason 017.1 Total 100.0 Table 6: Opinion of locals on advantages of the examined regions (n = 120) Advantages percentage (%) Geographical position 003.8 Environment 027.6 Local customs 004.8 Hospitality 010.5 Mountainous landscape 005.7 Low population density 007.6 Tranquillity 005.7 Local restaurants 001.9 Green landscape 032.4 Total 100.0 Table 7: Opinion of locals on disadvantages of the examined regions (n = 120) Disadvantages percentage (%) Bad roads 005.7 Local's attitude 026.7 Bad sewerage 003.8 Immigrants 049.5 Infrastructure 005.7 Far distance from urban centres 008.6 Total 100.0 Table 8: Opinion of locals on most important infrastructures in the region (n = 120) Infrastructures percentage (%) Irrigation 015.2 Canals 015.2 Restoration of historical buildings 016.2 Road construction and maintenance 014.3 New buildings 021.0 Cultural centres 018.1 Total 100.0
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