In a peripheral rural area like the Pyrenees, it is necessary to promote local resources, which can be converted in value-added activities with comparative advantages in relation with other areas. The Comparative Advantage Theory and Second-Best Option (SBO) methodology are presented here. Each local territory can develop activities or services, even though there are other places that may be more suitable for them, when these are the best specialization option for this territory. The idea of SBO methodology means engaging in activities that make it possible to achieve a comparative advantage. Four cases are discussed: a) transformation of dairy products into competitive value-added commodities; b) promotion of extensive cattle farming based on local natural grass feed; c) development of value-added tourist activities linked to local landscape; and d) planning value-added cultural activities related with cultural heritage.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) open up new possibilities for development in rural and mountain areas. ICTs are analysed as a factor attracting business and enabling a dispersion of economic activity that is usually concentrated in metropolitan areas. Rural and mountain areas have benefited from the increasing incorporation of ICT in companies because development strategies are now made viable, thus bringing local territories into global markets and vice versa. Competitiveness and the added value of local development companies are incorporated into the product through the value given to local identity factors. Other competitive localisation factors of these zones are lower localisation costs and spatial loyalty among companies in the cluster. On the other hand, there may be an a priori shortage of available skilled workers in these particular areas but this deficit could be balanced out by the small size of companies established in these zones. This paper describes several case studies of specific companies in the Catalan Pyrenees where parts of the productive process with the highest added value—like design, organisation, etc—are carried out, while manufacturing occurs in other countries. It also analyses activities and services offered by smart farms and in smart rural areas. ICTs are important for the educational and informative levels of the population and also for the establishment of new companies and services in rural and mountain areas.
In Europe, Social Farming (SF) and agritourism are multifunctional agriculture activities that arise when agricultural land is abandoned in rural and peri-urban areas; it is difficult to develop commercial agriculture if it is not intensive. In our research, we studied SF in Catalonia, carrying out a census and classification of 161 initiatives and a more in-depth analysis of 10 projects (or 9 in some cases), identifying their viability and the economic, social, and environmental return on investment (SROI) for the resources used in each case. The methodology included questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and Canvas and SROI analyses. Although SF has developed in many European countries, it is incipient in the Iberian Peninsula. The projects in Catalonia combine agrarian activity, socio-health care and social policies, with the aim of offering innovative solutions to the needs of different groups at risk of social exclusion.