Future prospects for rural areas: our approach

The Federal Rural Development Scheme (BULE) promotes model projects and model regions, contests, research and knowledge transfer. Local communities transform rural areas into dynamic laboratories of the future for the development of our society.

Strengthening rural areas and creating equal living conditions across Germany are among the core responsibilities of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). In the process, we want to integrate the valuable experiences of the parties that are actively confronting the challenges on the ground. The knowledge and commitment of the people living in villages and small towns are treasures that need to be brought to light. This is precisely the aim of the Federal Rural Development Scheme.

Model projects and model regions

Model projects receive funding through the Federal Scheme because they may serve as role models in the area of rural development across Germany. The Federal Scheme acts as a seismograph of rural development in the call for funding for model projects. We support model regions if we want to try out specific concepts in different regions – for instance a regional budget or digital applications. We always want to promote outstanding ideas and groundbreaking solutions for current and future challenges in rural regions. These must be tried and tested, promoted, systematically evaluated and made public. The aim is to present outstanding examples to people in other regions in order to provide them with an impetus and the necessary knowledge for a successful implementation of these solutions. In this way, rural areas become laboratories experimenting to create the society of tomorrow.

Research promotion and knowledge transfer

Besides the promotion of innovative approaches in villages and small towns, research and knowledge transfer play a major role in the Federal Scheme. In order to gain insights into central topics of rural development from a scientific viewpoint, we initiate calls for research funding. In this way, we lay application-oriented foundations.

In addition to this, all support activities are monitored and evaluated by experts. We process the findings and publish them for the general public. With this dovetailing of field work and technical knowledge, we aim to ensure that good ideas can have a supra-regional impact. The technical analysis also leads to insights about what might need to be adjusted. These results are integrated into policies for rural regions.

To date, more than 1,700 projects have been supported and implemented nationwide with funding from the Federal Rural Development Scheme.

Many measures with a single vision

We try out new things, we bring partners together, we pay tribute to bright ideas and we create knowledge.

The Federal Scheme is already promoting numerous measures in the following subject areas. Please visit www.ble.de/komle to find out what future calls for funding can be applied for.

Model projects

Innovative solutions are intended to help improve peoples’ mobility in rural regions. This aid scheme was launched in 2019 and is due to run until 2022; it is designed to support different stakeholders and initiatives that enable the elderly, youth or people interested in culture to make better use of services and participate in social life. These include both leisure activities and shopping or doctor’s visits.


The BMEL’s “Land.Digital: opportunities provided by digitisation for rural areas” programme is due to run from 2017 to 2022 and is designed to promote projects that aim to use modern information technology to solve practical problems faced by rural regions. The programme supports exemplary measures that show how digital applications can improve living and working in rural areas.


The BMEL’s “Landkultur” programme is due to run from 2018 to 2022 and supports outstanding projects that strengthen cultural activities in rural areas, thereby providing new impetus for cultural life. This involves, in particular, new projects such as musical events, theatre festivals or exhibitions.

500 Land Initiatives

From 2017 to the end of 2018, the BMEL provided targeted support to volunteer work in rural areas via its “500 Land Initiatives” programme. The programme focused on initiatives promoting the integration of refugees. Major purchases or necessary expenses were funded with up to 10,000 euro.

Multi-functional buildings and regionality

Multi-functional buildings combine, for instance, a village store, a doctor’s examination room, an association’s meeting room, a library, a local authority, a café, a post office and a bank under one roof. They provide local shopping facilities and often help to market regional products, in addition to being a meeting place. From 2016 to 2019, the BMEL supported initiatives in constructing model multi-functional buildings. Since 2017, multi-functional buildings have been eligible for funding under the Joint Task for the Improvement of Agricultural Structures and Coastal Protection (GAK).

Social Village Development

The active participation of the local community in associations and organisations is indispensable for the successful social development of villages. The BMEL supported projects that maintained the rural way of life and the character of rural municipalities under the “Social Village Development” call for project proposals. This scheme ran mainly from 2016 to 2019.

Model regions

Paid work strengthens voluntary work

Since the beginning of 2020, the collaborative project entitled “Paid work strengthens voluntary work” launched by the Association of German rural districts (Deutscher Landkreistag) and the BMEL has been implemented in 18 rural districts; the project will continue until 2022. This project tests how to establish and sustainably improve structures at rural district level that strengthen voluntary work. The cooperation project is being implemented under the “Action alliance for rural life”.

Smarte LandRegionen

Under the “Smarte LandRegionen” project (smart rural regions), the BMEL has been supporting up to seven rural districts in developing and implementing digital solutions in rural regions. This project will run until 2024. By participating in the project, it is intended that these districts should become smart rural regions in areas such as e-mobility, e-learning and education, telemedicine or anyplace working solutions. The Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering (IESE) is accompanying the regions and the project on behalf of the BMEL with the development of a central digital services platform.


From 2015 to 2019, the BMEL supported a total of 13 selected rural districts in structurally disadvantaged rural areas with a model project entitled “Land(auf)Schwung” (rural upswing). Supported by a regional budget, the regions were able to independently pursue objectives previously agreed with the federal government. From 2015 until the end of 2019, they implemented about 500 regional projects under this model project, enabling local actors to actively counter demographic change, increase regional added value and secure employment in rural areas. Findings from the scientifically monitored model project will be published in 2020.

Promoting Research

Rural areas in the digital age

From 2020 to 2022, the BMEL will promote a total of 11 research projects focusing on the digital transformation in rural regions under the title “Rural areas in the digital age”. Current economic, social and spatial changes in conjunction with the digital transformation in rural regions will take centre stage in this programme. For instance, the researchers will address digital participatory models, digital working environments or changes in location factors due to digitalisation.


Our village has a future

With the “Our village has a future” contest, which takes place every three years, the BMEL honours citizens’ involvement in ensuring that rural areas remain attractive places to live. Since 1961, the contest (which used to be called “Making our village more beautiful”) has been under the patronage of the Federal President. Since 1993, the participating villages of the old and new federal states have been evaluated together.


International Green Week

Only by working together can we achieve dynamic villages and equal living conditions in Germany. For this reason, the BMEL seeks an exchange both with experts of rural development and with interested citizens. Every year, the BMELshowcases at its exhibition stands at the International Green Week how it supports attractive living conditions in the countryside. With the “Future Forum for Rural Development”, the BMEL has created a platform where experts discuss current issues of rural development.

Knowledge transfer

Valuable insights

The main objective of the Federal Scheme is to disseminate the knowledge about successful approaches to rural development gained in various model projects. The Federal Scheme aims to give committed people access to experience and best practice examples gained elsewhere in order to advance their region. For this reason, all measures of the Federal Scheme are evaluated and the results published in a practical format. The Thünen Institute has prepared interactive figures in the “LandAtlas”; based on this, the BMEL is keeping an eye on the current living conditions of all districts at the same time. www.landatlas.de

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