There is increasing demand for the social land programme; therefore, the increased allocation of HUF 250 million assigned for this purpose will also be available in 2014 or may even increase, Zoltán Kovács, Minister of State of the Ministry of Human Resources stated.

The land programme that forms part of the social care system provides various preferential benefits primarily for disadvantaged families to improve their living and to offer an independent livelihood, Zoltán Kovács said.

As part of the programme, 101 localities were awarded aid last year, while this year 151 localities received funds which local governments distributed in the form of sowing seeds, seedlings and young animals.

The participants of the programme cultivated some 500 hectares of land this year. These landed areas are mostly the given local government’s own or rented areas; however, in a number of localities, the gardens of derelict, unused houses left without owners are also used with the involvement of public works employees, he said.

The social land programme that serves as a model and an example creates job opportunities, the fruit and vegetables produced supply the kitchens of local public institutions and schools with ingredients and some localities set up networks of social stores for the preferential local sale of the produce, the Minister of State added.

Based on the experiences of the mayors of the localities concerned, the model programme is useful for the entire community. People have restored self-esteem in consequence of the valuable work they perform, instead of the collection of benefits, the villages concerned may even seek to achieve self-sufficiency, and the families may obtain extra income. These factors combined also have a favourable impact on the quality of life, and young people are happy to stay in their localities, Zoltán Kovács remarked. 

MTI’s correspondents visited a few localities which operate social land programmes.

In the locality of Fadd in Tolna County, the local government rented the household farms of elderly people who no longer cultivate their properties. In an area of 2.5 hectares, jobless locals grow vegetables for the kitchen of the local elementary school. Mayor János Fülöp (Fidesz-KDNP) said that 15 to 20 public works employees cultivated the plantation during the season and produced peas, runner beans, onions, poppy seed, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.

The municipality also installed a watering system which helped to avoid drought losses. The locally produced, organic, chemical-free vegetables cover almost the entire ingredient needs that are necessary for the school meals of 320 children, he added.

Gabriella Tóth, Mayor of Sóshartyán (independent) informed us that they distributed sowing seeds for the cultivation of small gardens in the locality in Nógrád County and applicants were also given baby chicks. The potato field was cultivated by public works employees. They also purchased two cows from the aid they were awarded, and their stock has since increased to five. The animals are kept in municipality-owned cowsheds refurbished by public works employees and are looked after and milked by public works employees under the guidance of locals with farming skills. The local government even set up a small pasta manufacturing plant from the aid received, and the pasta made here is served on the kindergarten and school tables.

Besenyszög in Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok County is a permanent participant of the social land programme. There is little work in and around the village.

By Mayor Zoltán Balogh’s account (independent), in the first round, 20 families were given two young mangalitsa pigs each and animal feed. They were selected from among local poor families with many children in need of regular social benefits. In the next round, more people applied who were given piglets and chickens. The programme was extended; for instance, they planted 3,300 sea buckthorn seedlings in municipality-owned land with the involvement of public works employees. Families in need are additionally also given sowing seeds. They wish to involve further families in the programme next year, the mayor said.

The Mayor of Homrogd in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County, Imre Juhász (independent) reported that 25 public works employees are currently picking rose-hips and blackthorns. They will make jam from the produce in a cauldron purchased from social land programme aid funds to add variety to the meals of the local children attending kindergarten and school.

Rozsály, a village in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg County with just 800 inhabitants is seeking self-sufficiency, and to achieve this, they may also rely on the social land programme. According to the information of Mayor Zoltán Sztojka (Fidesz-KDNP), the locality is cultivating 90 hectares of land in total. They primarily grow tomatoes, potatoes, onions and peppers; however, they also have walnut and sour cherry plantations. The organisation supplying the village relies on this produce. Seventy local public workers work in the fields.

The social store operated by the locality’s foundation, which offers the products of local producers, is run mostly by local young unemployed. A fruit processing plant, a project worth HUF 67 million, is currently being built which will produce dried fruits, fruit juices and jams for the locality’s own needs as well as for sale.

(Ministry of Human Resources)