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On 25-29. April 2016, Hiiumaa LAG, Saaremaa LAG and the representatives of Hiiumaa County Government took a study tour to Bornholm (Denmark) and Skåne (South-east of Sweden) to learn from the experience of local authorities on development of sustainable energy and local food, and the experience in LEADER cooperation. Bornholm's energy strategy Bright Green Island sets an ambitious task - to become fully energy independent in 2030 and start exporting the energy out of the island. And this goal is taken in long strides. One helpful tool is energy simulator, which was completed after a thorough mapping of energy use: what kind of heating is used in homes and businesses, the termic isolation of buildings, possibilities offered by modern technology and how residents and businesses will see their role in implementing the strategy involved. Among many meetings with islanders, one of the most memorable was with the great friend of Estonian islands and former Bornholm Mayor and politician Knud Andersen at his home. Among many questions asked by the group on issues concerning regional reform, Knud commented that the island's municipal amalgamations was necessary, but within one municipality there is no discussion crucial for developments. Current Mayor Winni Grosbøll did not accept that argument, but highlighted the strength of one municipality and quick decision-making opportunity. It is now due to the uniting of the municipalities that the island's population decline has slowed.

The photo: Group with Knud Andersen and Mrs Andersen at their home


This is how our island of Hiiumaa is described in the web by the The Guide To Regional Food & Culinary Traditions. In the end of January, first three nominates for the membership in the network of Culinary Heritage were announced on Hiiumaa. On 28th of January, Niclas Fjellström, the project leader for the program, was here in the island presenting the ideas of the network to the particinats of the seminar "Hiiumaa food - a trasure to be revealed". The seminar was a part of an award gained by Hiiumaa Tourism Association in the EU EDEN contest representing Estonia.


The National Audit Office of Estonia analysed the distribution of LEADER support programm. LEADER support is aimed at the development of rural areas, supporting a wide range of activities ranging from business to development of the village. The beneficiaries are businesses, municipalities, non-governmental organizations and others. 

In summary, the National Audit Office concluded that the LEADER program has been successful in Estonia. Local action groups have been active in rural areas at all spheres of rural life. During the funding period 2007-2013 the LEADER program implemented over 7,400 projects with the support received by over 3,200 persons.

The objectives and performance indicators for the output has been exceeded, in some cases by as much as several times. The figures report it has is a good successful program.

However, the National Audit Office started out the problems - such as the need to improve transparency in the selection of projects to be supported and clearly explain why one project will receive the money and the other is not. There is also the problem with the creation of jobs, which is an important indicator for measuring the success of the program. Analyse of the annual reports of local businesses show that jobs created are rather of temporary nature.


Hiiumaa LEADER strategy 2014-2020 is approved by our NGO and sent for evaluation to the Ministry of Rural Life of Estonia on 9th of June. The preparation and negotiation process took almost 1,5 years of meetings and discussions. The very last guidelines in a form of the Handbook came out from the Ministry only in February 2015. By that time most of the work was already done by all 26 LAGS of Estonia.

Hiiumaa has decided to focus on jobs and sustainable use of ressources. As beeing the area of the Biosphere Program by UNESCO program Man and Biosphere, it is only natural to take advantage of the global interest towards places that have specific nature and culture. Out task is to protect our island with the means of education and science. 

In the strategy we foresee four specific measures: 1. Investment support for entrpreneur; 2. Investment support for public and NGO sector; 3. Innovative community (for knowledge exchange and learning); 4. Development cooperation (for the conducting development projects as marketing, or creating the Centre for Biosphere program). The special chapter is for the national and transnational cooperation of LEADER LAG that enables the LAG to continue with projects on local food and maritime heritage together with new projects.

Illustration: In the cover of the EARDF broshure of 14 best projects of the period, our project Growing Gastronauts is proudly presented. 


To start with - what we learned during the study tour was the spirit of community and cooperation in every project that we saw. Starting with warm welcome by the host of our accommodation Angus Williams, and continuing during all 4 days that we spent in the island of Mull. The problems tackled by the Mull community were similar to ours: distance from mainland, isolation, need to find different approaches to the everyday life’s tasks. For example: Island’s Abattoirs plays a vital role in promoting animal welfare simply to prevent long journeys to mainland slaughter houses; Green Energy Mull (GEM) operates the hydroelectric system for the benefit of community. Behind these and many other activities is the Mull and Iona Community Trust that is: “...dedicated and passionate locally based organisation focussed on improving the quality of life for the residents of Mull and Iona” as was stated during the seminar in the community house An Roth.

In the photo: Governor Kaido Kaasik and our host Angus Williams


Ten tourist and local food entrepreneurs from LAGs Hiiumaa and Saaremaa (Estonia) took the joint study tour to Italy, Milano and LAG Oltrepo Mantovanos. The aim of the tour was to exchange experience with Italian colleagues and to visit and work in Milano EXPO 2015 Estonian pavillion. The program on 3-4 of June in Milano and EXPO was jointly covered with Enterprise Estonia; the program to visit the LAG Oltrepo Mantovanos was compiled with the help and cooperation of the manager Carmelita Trentini. "it is very important to find partners that are reliable and ready for cooperation" said Ly Kaups, the member of the Board of Hiiumaa Tourist Association. "Italian partners were very good and the program they offered us was beyond every expectation. Thank You, Carmelita!".

Estonian islander and Italian hosts in the cheese factory


In the last hours of the end of last year we got the letter from the Head of the LEADER  Bureau of the Estonian PA, Marek Treufeldt: "Today, on 30.12, it is the historic day for PA – we approved the last project application of the 2007-2013 period. It has been a wonderful, difficult and enlightening journey for all of us in the Estonian LEADER family. More than 7300 projects (17 800 different activities) contribute to rural development and the promotion of community life. Thank you" writes Marek.



From 7-11. October 2014, 20 LEADER LAG members from Hiiumaa, 6 from Saaremaa and 1 from the island of Muhu (Estonia) took a LEADER study trip to Finland to examine the success stories of three local activity groups - Ravakka, Pyhäjärvi and Karhuseutu – that were outstanding during the last period. In particular, we wanted to know how they were so good in international cooperation work. While Hiiumaa and Saaremaa LAGs got 2 nominations in the Baltic-Nordic project contest, Finns were successful with as much as 6 projects. But we also wanted to see projects and success stories that fall outside of the LEADER support measure, but are important for the community, and serve for us as inspiration for new ideas. We held several workshops: about LEADER strategies for the next period, about the development of wind farms, about the promotion of local food and about the water studies and projects. For our Finnish hosts, we prepared a local food dinner to give an idea of ​​how good it is to live on the islands.