The principles of the LEADER program, supporting local potential based upon association of different subjects operating in the province, are particularly suitable for the rural development. Local action groups following the LEADER principles complement operations of the local government in the best possible way.
Weak economic situation of the separate villages and the need of helping one another conclude in cooperation of the villages in the specific rural territories and in establishment of local partnerships of the subjects operating therein. The program of recovery of the province has been focusing on the development of collaboration of villages since its launch in 1998. The development strategies of the rural micro-regions are considered proven method of drafting, realization and running of activities aimed at social and economic development of the specific area.
The Czech Republic has its specifics defined by its historical development, by the structure of settlements, by the population and communications density as well as by the character of local economics. Specific features of the province also consist in the social-economical structure of population stigmatised by the after-war social and political changes and transmigration, by aging of the population, disintegration of the agricultural mass production, transformation of the suburban province and – recently accelerating – differences between the provincial and municipal areas.
Another important thing is the long experience of villages, community unions and local action groups with planning of development and with preparation and implementation of the projects (POV, SAPARD, LEADER ČR, OP Development of Province and Multifunctional Agriculture). Dynamic development of the local action groups requires mutual support based upon mutual informing, both passive (internet – development of LAG portal) and active (workshops, meetings, common social events). LAG should also learn how to concentrate on other potential resources of funding, for instance private resources from the LAG territory, regional grants, etc. It is necessary to generate the system of systematic education of LAG members in the field of management and administration, projects selection, work with public, projects monitoring, etc.
LEADER principles are particularly suitable for the purposes of the rural development, as their positive effects result from association of various entities operating in the region. Local action groups taking advantage of the LEADER program do not represent any opposition to the local government, but complement its operations in the field of recovery and development of communities and contribute to the development of agriculture and the care for nature and countryside.
Leader as a method of work and communication
● mobilizes local entities to realize problems of their region and to care about its future;
● offers decentralized and integrated approach to the territorial development and applies the “bottom-up” principal;
● by the exchange and transfer of experience and by development of networks, opens the provinces to other regions; is capable to take into account minor events by providing the designers of small projects with administrative and financial experts (territory animators, facilitators, advisers, administrators, etc.)
A positive observation of the programs that have been using the Leader strategy, is the fact that the local action groups fully realize the need to generate the “reservoirs” of quality projects considering the application and proper valuation of local specifics as a preparation for the upcoming program period of EU 2007 – 2013 and the realistic usage of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development as a tool of the EU Common Agricultural Policy.
In spite of still limited experience with the Leader method in the Czech Republic, we can affirm that its results have been unique and extraordinarily beneficial for the development of the rural micro-regions. In the conditions of the Czech Republic, with prevalent concentration on the former central control with targeted limitation of local and individual initiatives, this new method represents a significant innovation providing for sufficient space for active participation of all local subjects and entities in the development of the micro-regions, including transfer of responsibility for the results of such activities to the local level.