What is Leader
The Leader initiative, launched in the nineties with the aim of improving the development potential of rural areas focuses on bringing together the different public and private local actors. Malta, thanks to the financial allocation of about €3.8 million devoted from the Rural Development Programme 2007 – 2013 to the implementation of the Leader strategies has started to put in place this innovative project.
The Leader approach is based on the crucial role of Local Action Groups (LAGs): a public/private partnership composed by representatives of the Local Administration and the private sector. The Local Action Group is in charge of coordinating the design of the local development strategy as well as its implementation.
In Malta this is the first time that LEADER is implemented and three Local Action Groups have been created covering the wide majority of the rural area of the Country:
These groups are formed by representatives of the public sector such as Local Councils and other Government entities as well as representatives of social economic partners and other civil society organisations. The Leader approach is a priceless tool in the realisation of the various interventions to improve the quality of life in Maltese and Gozitan rural areas with the active participation of the residents and operators of the areas, thanks to the consultation process all LAGs are undertaking.
The first crucial challenge for the LAGs was the preparation of a Local Development Strategy for their territory. The Strategy has been developed to address the main weaknesses of the areas and innovative actions have been proposed to improve the quality of life as well as the economic opportunities.
The Leader programme aims to the creation of a regional identity, to the development of a local development strategy with a bottom up approach, to the implementation of innovative approaches, the implementation of cooperation projects and the networking of local partnerships.
It is envisaged that the Leader approach in Malta will play a fundamental role in bringing together and connecting all the relevant local actors. This should help in building local partnerships that can develop and implement local development strategy/s better suited to address local needs and strengths. It is aspired that the new Leader approach shall stimulate the local potential to realize the management of various rural issues aimed at improving natural and cultural heritage, supporting local tourism and also implement infrastructure related tourist activities.
Local councils do a lot on their own but this is the first time that through the LEADER programme and with the support of MAGF, they will be able to come together to develop and implement common proposals of a regional dimension. There is a great potential for the Leader approach in the local context, on condition that it is introduced in a well-planned manner.