Village deaths and rural exodus are issues that have become more and more present and explosive in recent years. The EU provides billions in funding for rural development, but where does the money go? Using the example of a small village.
In the Sauerland, more precisely in Ottfingen, the effects of village death can be felt painfully. Where there used to be a butcher’s shop, shoe shop, flower shop, electrical goods and post office, there is now a yawning emptiness – all gone. The primary school in the middle of the village was closed after 240 years despite violent protests. The local Volksbank had to close.
At the end of 2019, the last inn and the only remaining grocery store in town followed. In 1990 there were more than 66,400 small grocery stores across Germany; in 2017 there were only 8,650.
The broadcast runs today, February 17th, from 10.15pm to 11pm on WDR. You can also watch the 40-minute article ” Small village, big ideas: How a village shop changes life ” in the ARD media library.
Ottfingen: The fight against village death
Some courageous citizens of Ottfingen do not want to accept the desertification of their village and defended themselves with creative ideas.
They resisted the closure of the primary school and founded the “Future Workshop Ottfingen”. The goal: to bring people together who are committed to improving the quality of life in their village across party and association boundaries and that on a voluntary basis. A cultural center is to be created from the former primary school.
Foundation of a village shop
Another project of the future workshop: the establishment of a cooperative organized village shop. For years the village shop served as a “meeting point”, a kind of analog social network. The store in a Mediterranean country house style with bistro, regional and organic products, a large fresh produce counter, stationery, drinks market and cash dispenser was a meeting place, a place to talk and, especially for the elderly, a grocery store within walking distance. With the closure in 2019, all of this fell away and is a painful thing for many residents. Ottfingen’s “Facebook” is now to be reanimated through the cooperative organization of the shop, where citizens can purchase shares in the shop, actively help shape it and revive a small part of hupenyu hwemumusha .
But building a village shop organized as a cooperative is not something you do with left-handed: apply for funding, draw up business and construction plans, pass the cooperative association’s examination, find people, take on responsibility on the board of directors and the supervisory board and all of this on a voluntary basis.
WDR accompanied the establishment of the village shop for almost a year
For almost a year, WDR author Erika Fehse accompanied the activists in setting up their village shop. Over 400 villagers are involved in the shop through their cooperative shares. But will the residents of Ottfingen really shop in their village shop instead of in the nearest large supermarket? Can the project last in the long term? And would Ottfingen be a role model for many other small villages?