Ikea has a plan to fight rural depopulation, and women and drones are the key

Almost four million Spanish women live in the countryside. Of them, only three out of four are active population willing to work. And 12.9% lack paid employment. All of this places Spain at the bottom of Europe in the incorporation of female talent in the rural labor market.

Spanish rural women also face double inequality. The first is associated with the place where they live, where they do not find job opportunities, accessible basic services or physical and digital connectivity. And the second, the simple fact of being a woman, with higher rates of job insecurity, underrepresentation in decision-making bodies and a clear imbalance in conciliation tasks. Because the handicap of being a woman is added to being one in the field.

«In 2020, just after the pandemic, we asked ourselves what legacy derived from our corporate purpose we wanted to leave as a company in Spain and towards the Spanish people – explains Laura Durán, general director of Business Development and Sustainability at IKEA in Spain. And taking the common element of all our furniture, the Allen wrench, and inspired by the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, we thought about four large areas where we could impact: the circular economy, entrepreneurship, planet conservation and equality, especially of women in rural areas.

Endowed with ten million euros and valid until 2025, this is how the IKEA Allen Plan was born in Spain, one of the companies integrated into Líderes con Propósito, the community of companies led by Vocento that are governed by corporate purpose and in which they also There are Havas Media Network España, HM Hospitales, Iberostar, L’Oréal, Mahou San Miguel, Novartis, Puy du Fou, Salesforce, Santander, Telefónica and Tendam.

Laura Durán, general director of Business Development and Sustainability of IKEA in Spain, and Teresa López (right), president of Fademur

Laura Durán, general director of Business Development and Sustainability of IKEA in Spain, and Teresa López (right), president of Fademur


One of the four axes of IKEA’s Allen Plan, the Allen Key for Equality, aims to respond to the demands of women in rural areas, especially in the field of family farming. The objective of this project, developed in collaboration with the Federation of Rural Women’s Associations (Fademur), is to improve their conditions, introducing them into the labor market for the first time or providing them with support that allows them to develop their business, thus generating a positive effect. in its geographical and social environment.

María Jesús Yuste was born 25 years ago in Obejo (Córdoba), into a family that has dedicated its entire life to olive groves and extensive livestock farming. “I have stayed here because of the family and the tradition of the countryside,” he says, “but the conditions are not the best: there is no daycare, there is no ATM, there are only 20 children at school and when we have an emergency, the The nearest doctor is 12 kilometers away.

Thanks to aid to young farmers from the European Union, he began renting an olive grove in 2019 and another shortly after. From them he gets the olives that he sells to the San Antonio Abad Cooperative. They are two large extensions that are not easy to work on. “Obejo is in the foothills of Sierra Morena – he explains – and the work in the olive grove here is harder than in the countryside, because we cannot put in so much machinery and we need a lot of people to work.”

In addition to the help she receives from the EU as a young farmer, Yuste also has other support: advice from the Federation of Rural Women’s Associations (Fademur).

“They have been advising me since March and providing me with all kinds of information: about the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (CAP), about aid, about phytosanitary courses…”, says Yuste. The last notice she received was a little over a month ago: a free drone piloting course organized by Fademur within the IKEA Allen Key for Equality program. “Now almost everything is done with drones: from the control of olive groves to the surveillance of livestock,” he says. “They offered me the opportunity to get the title and I was encouraged.”

Fademur drone piloting course within the IKEA Allen Key for Equality project

Fademur drone piloting course within the IKEA Allen Key for Equality project


María Jesús has been in classes for just over a week, but she is delighted. “As we learn, we take exams and to finish off the course we will have a few days of flight practice in Córdoba,” she explains. When she finishes, she will join the 185 women who have already completed this training, of which 108 have achieved their official qualification as drone pilots.

“When IKEA contacted us, at Fademur we felt tremendously honored, because we are an organization that was born from women who live and work in the rural world and who want to continue doing so,” explains Teresa López, its president. For 18 years, our idea has always been to identify the challenges we have to address so that women stay in the villages, because if women leave, the villages die. And from that identification, develop projects that respond to their needs, that generate impact and encourage them to stay.”

The problem that associations that work on the ground have is, almost always, the lack of money to launch the projects. But in this case Fademur have counted on 2.5 million from IKEA to launch this challenge that has already reached ten autonomous communities.

“All our projects are focused in terms of sustainability and technology, because they are the two determining areas for closing the rural gap and also the gap between women and men,” says Teresa López, who uses data to demonstrate it.

«The owners of agricultural and livestock farms in Spain are mostly men: there are two for every woman. When they are in female hands, the farms are, on average, 40% smaller and have 45% less profitability, because in addition to working on them, women have to take care of the house and their families,” he exemplifies. López, who considers technology an essential help to make these farms more profitable.

«Drones make farm management much easier: they allow us to know, for example, how the crop is developing or if a pest has started. And they are also very useful in extensive livestock farming, as they serve to control where the animals are or if there is wildlife nearby,” explains the president of Fademur. And now they have also begun to be used for the control and inspections of both wind turbines and solar panels. “And that,” says Teresa López, “increases employment prospects.”

Seeing all these advantages, Fademur launched in 2020 to give the first drone piloting courses for women. The same ones that today are the basis of the project in which IKEA collaborates. «Even then we knew that there was demand, but now we have it overwhelmed. In each course there are 20-25 places and double or triple the number of women always sign up – says López –. To select them, we take into account their dedication to agricultural or livestock tasks, whether they are employed or unemployed and the size of the municipality, because we prioritize the smallest ones.

And why did IKEA choose Fademur and not any other organization? «One of the IKEA values ​​is to co-create and collaborate, because we know that in this way we will go further and with more quality in the initiatives – explains Laura Durán. Going alone is not practical; In today’s society, what works is to collaborate, look each other in the eyes, learn from each other and put your ingredient to achieve the perfect recipe. Taking into account the four pillars that we wanted to move, we did scouting and looked for associations with values ​​aligned with ours, that we shared a purpose and a way of doing things and, above all, a commitment to meet the objective.

And they matched with Fademur in their project for women’s equality in rural areas. Exactly as they fell in love with Cotec to carry out their circular economy projects, Ashoka to seek pioneering solutions in entrepreneurship or WWF to restore and manage a key place in Spain such as Doñana.

But they are not isolated projects. «At IKEA we are trying to find synergies between the four ‘keys’ of the Allen Plan. And a good example is that Fademur is collaborating with WWF to see how piloting drones can impact and generate a source of income for women who, through this technology, collaborate in the control of the fauna, ecosystems or aquifers of the Park. National of Doñana –says Laura Durán–. “It’s about creating a collaborative environment where everything flows.”

At the moment, María Jesús Yuste, like 75 other women at this moment, is finishing her drone piloting course, for which she sees future possibilities. «Obviously, to monitor the olive groves – she points out –, but also to monitor my parents’ cows without them having to go up every day to see them, which represents a great saving on diesel; or also to take high-level photographs of the plots.

Even so, the perspective that Obejo sees is not very promising: «I have a four-year-old girl and here we lack many services, especially educational, so I don’t see myself living here in the future, but in Córdoba, which is 45 minutes by car. What he does see is continuing with his olive trees, coming and going to Obejo and taking care of them from the caliphal city. Just as in a short time a drone piloted by her will monitor them from above.

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