The Office for Rural Programmes of the Co-operation Fund started preparations - within the Agrolinia Programme, to actively engage the Polish rural community in the LEADER+ Programme as early as in 2002 being guided by the conviction that integration with the European Union would take place in 2004 and that Poland would inevitably become covered by that initiative, in addition to many other actions. Agrolinia's team began its work from the preparation of a cadre of trainers who were to start implementing the Leader Programme immediately after Poland's accession to EU. Efforts were also launched to integrate circles and persons that had a similar statutory goal: sustainable development of rural areas. In this way a Forum for the Stimulation of Activity in Rural Areas (FAOW) was established as the first national platform for organizations acting in favour of the rural community. The first action launched by Agrolinia in co-operation with FAOW was the selection of candidates for trainers and organization of instruction for this group of persons. Efforts undertaken by various government agencies, in particular by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the formulation of the Sector Operation Programme, including the project Restructuring and Modernisation of the Food Sector and Development of Rural Areas, made it possible to implement a LEADER + Pilot Programme. As from the end of September 2004 information meetings were being organized within actions undertaken by Agrolinia, which dealt with the LEADER+ Pilot Programme. These meetings, conducted by trainers, were attended by representatives of local governments, non-governmental organisations acting in favour of the development of rural areas and representatives of the business sector. Information meetings were organised also for co-operative banks and representatives of the local media. A film dealing with opportunities and chances offered by the LEADER programme was produced and distributed in 2,000 copies. An Internet page has been created, which functions as a forum for discussions of partner groups. The Agrolinia Programme, in close co-operation with FAOW, organized training courses for animators of local partnerships. It also was the initiator and sponsor of study trips for animators of partner groups, which served the purpose of establishing contacts with partners from the old 15 EU countries experienced in the implementation of the LEADER type programmes. Work carried out by Agrolinia's team with the aim of introducing the LEADER programme in Poland was crowned in 2005 with the first national meeting of the LEADER initiatives and groups. This meeting was held during a conference organized under the slogan LEADER Programme for the Future of Polish Rural Community in mid-November. The Agrolinia Programme will continue to be active in supporting in every way initiatives launched by rural communities in order to make them dynamically seize the chance for sustainable development of rural areas offered by the LEADER Programme.
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