‘Northern Lights’ – women-led initiatives in inclusive sustainable rural development

Type: Pro-biodiversity business development

Participating countries: Russia, Slovakia

Duration: December 2019 – November 2022

Total budget: 690,000 EUR (of which 90% from an EU grant)

Main aim: Reinforcing the capacity of women-led Russian civil society organizations active in social entrepreneurship and sustainable rural development in less developed, remote areas.


The remote rural areas of Russian North-West are rich in natural resources. The use of these resources in a sustainable and just way in favor of local population would address social and economic disparities, ensure inclusiveness and equality. However, there are few enterprising individuals and groups in these segments due to distance to potential markets and lack of skills and know-how to overcome development challenges.

This new project is designed for social innovation, participatory governance and inclusive policy-making in some of the most naturally pristine and culturally rich parts of European Russia by supporting a sustainable territorial development and job creation based on empowering citizens, in particular women of Russian North who often act as local leaders and social entrepreneurs (symbolically called ‘Northern Lights’ in the project title).

The project focuses on the following key activities:
1. Transfer the best EU experience in rural development to Russian regions, first of all the LEADER approach based on mobilization of various stakeholders into collaborative action networks, build the capacity of the participating entities and develops a bottom-up and area-focused structured governance mechanisms for effective rural development based on local resources and engagement of local residents, in particular women;
2. Sharing small grants, training and consulting for rural entrepreneurial initiatives with a high potential for competiveness and added value, for example: processing of local natural resources into premium authentic natural products (e.g. artisan sea salts, cosmetics from sea algae, processed forest fruit in jams and beverages, conserved fish, felt boots from sheep wool, etc.), provision of complex tourist services (accommodation, gastronomy, guided tours, showing the Northern Lights or whale-watching) and where possible by combing both segments;
3. Development of new market channels, marketing and regional networks of entrepreneurs;
4. Collaboration and active communication  throughout NGO networks

Role of Machaon: Project development and management
Partners: “Agency of rural community development”Autonomous non-profit organization, “Club of Friends of Kenozero National Park” Association, “Silver Taiga” Foundation for Sustainable Development, Kola Biodiversity Conservation Center




Location: Russiа, Archangelsk and Murmansk oblasts, the Komi Republic
Associated partners: National park Gesause (Austria), MAS Straznicko (Czech Republic)
Protected areas involved: National Parks Kenozero, Onega Pomorie, Khibiny, Koygorodskiy                           

Co-funded by the European Union

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