The History and Activities of the Kishantos Rural Development Centre

The Kishantosi Vidékfejlesztési Központ /Kishantos Rural Development Centre/ is located in the heart of Hungary in the Mezőföld area, which is ideally suited for agriculture, 3 kms from Hantos village.

The objective of the work carried out here is to teach and demonstrate sustainable rural development and organic farming. Known and acknowledged both in Hungary and abroad the Kishantos Rural Development Centre is in many ways an extraordinary institution. It is extraordinary because it is based on a truly civilian initiative growing from below and rooted in the local community. Since the time the idea was born (1991) it was through continuous, consistent hard work and enduring battles that we managed to create the rural development centre. The initiative grew from our belief that the intelligentsia are responsible for the community they belong to, therefore we dreamt of a centre which serves the rise of the local society, and helps people with up-to-date knowledge.

The beginning

The idea is built upon the Danish Folk High School experiences of Ferenc Bolye, agricultural technician, and the environmental engineering and organic farming studies of Mrs. Éva Ács, agricultural engineer. In 1992, based on Ferenc Bolye’s Danish connections a twinning relationship was brought about between Hantos and the Danish Velling. In 1992, together with local people who had been to Denmark and who understood the significance of the folk high school we established the Mezőföld Folk High School Association, which transformed the so-called Kishantos Manor from an imposing hunting lodge into an adult education centre, a folk high school, which applies the principles of Danish folk high schools, and since 1995 has been operating it as an independent establishment.

Folk High School

To date more than 200 Hungarian young people have participated in one of our most significant programs - running since 1994 – we provided them with a Danish folk high school scholarship for several months to study Danish examples of sustainable development and democracy. The Kishantos Folk High School organises programs on the topics of sustainable development, rural development and organic farming for the most varied of Hungarian and foreign groups (for farmers, local residents, rural development experts, secondary school and university groups and for the unemployed).

Model organic farm

Also in 1992 the Organic Agriculture Foundation was established to implement an organic farming project within the frame of cooperation between the German and Hungarian ministries. The organisation from the German ministry specified that a dependant organisation should represent the supported project. Within the frame of the professional assistance provision project running between 1994 and 1996 the plans for the Kishantos model organic farm were drawn up for the plough lands embracing the manor and the beautiful park – together with the cooperation of the German professional team of 3 people and experts from the Environmental- and Landscape Farming Institute at the Gödöllő University of Agricultural Sciences (today’s St. Stephan’s University). On the basis of these plans negotiations began to transform the state owned areas to an independent organic model farm. The initiating NGOs were not suitable for running the farm in respect of their legal form, so in February 1998 the initiating NGOs formed a public service association – under the name of Kishantosi Vidékfejlesztési Központ Kht. /Kishantos Rural Development Centre Public Service Association/, which has been operating since February 2009 as a Non-profit Limited Liability Company as set out in the law on economic associations. In November 1998 Kishantosi Kht signed a land usage rental contract with the Állami Vagyonkezelő /State Property Management/ for the 452 hectares of plough lands belonging to the model farm. The farm plans were drawn up with what was considered revolutionary new American geographic information system software, also used by NASA and WWF at the time. The German plans counted a total of 524 hectares based on the principle that an organic farmer has to look after nature, the wetland habitats, the roads and also the ditches – i.e. everything which falls within the area of the farm. Unfortunately so far we have been unable to achieve this idea in the Hungarian circumstances. Using the latest methods and implements we growned winter and spring wheat, spelt wheat, sunflowers, maize, peas, vetch, flax, lucerne and vegetables. At the folk high school the students could learn about the theory of sustainable rural development and organic farming and we could afterwards take a walk on the model farm where they can get to know it in practice.

International programs

Assisted by widespread international relationships we organised several international programs within the frame of which we have been able to organise German and Danish study tours for Hungarian groups. We also participated in international educational programs – in 2008 our experts ran a course in Lisbon for European experts on sustainable development. International recognition is demonstrated by the fact that experts from 6 embassies of European countries have studied the work carried out at Kishantos, which in its complexity is unique in Europe. The Environmental Committee of the Bundestag has paid a visit to Kishantos, as have experts from Asian countries.

Mission

Everyone visiting Kishantos is shown the ecological and system theory knowledge on the basis of which they are able to find their way in the world with great certainty, they can understand where and how mankind harms nature and himself and they can find the way to sustainable development. This knowledge must reach every living person today but especially the decision makers, because today’s decisions have far reaching effects and in order to avoid the ecological catastrophe good decisions must be brought today and acted upon. In respect of agriculture this means that we farm in such a way which fits as well as possible into the given ecosystem and we do not use any agents or methods which are harmful or dangerous.

Contacts

In addition to the advertised events the Kishantos Rural Development Centre operates as an open establishment. We welcome anyone – groups and individuals alike - by prior arrangement and inform them according to their needs and enquiries and show them the farm.

Our contacts:
Mrs. Éva Ács: ++ 36 30/3850-379
Zsuzsa Virág: ++ 36 30/514-5274
Office: Tel: ++ 36 25/506-020, Fax: ++ 36 25/506-021
Internet: kishantos@datatrans.hu

       

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