Eggiwil, Bern, Switzerland

The municipality Eggiwil is located in the region “Oberes Emmental” right by the UNESCO biosphere reserve “Entlebuch” in Central Switzerland. It is about 15 kilometers away from the district-capital Langnau, about 35 kilometers from Bern. The municipality counts some 2470 inhabitants and spans a total of 6030 hectares. The core settlement area makes up almost 1,5 percent of the municipal territory, in addition to numerous farmsteads as dispersed settlements throughout the Emmental cultural landscape. For the municipality, in collaboration with the cantonal administration, this necessitates the constant maintenance of 150 kilometers of roads that are characteristic for the cultural landscape of the area. The preservation of stream networks and uniquely roofed wooden bridges is also an important element here.

Maintaining the compact core of the village with its well preserved structures as a vital center is another important challenge. It contains not only the municipality administration, but also the health and elderly center, commercial and local supply businesses, charging stations, hospitality and culinary establishments and attractive apartments. In this context, the creation of new business and living spaces in the old mill is particularly noteworthy.

The communal development process in Eggiwil aims to counteract the decrease in population, structural changes in agriculture and a loss of identity and confidence within the population. Finding its place in a balanced urban-rural framework is another challenge faced by the municipality. The focus in the development process is therefore being put on socio-cultural development and revaluation of the economic, societal and infrastructural conditions. The municipality works closely with the “Innovation Emmental-Napf” foundation, which has committed itself to the holistic and sustainable development of Eggiwils and the region, drawing from the Local Agenda 21. As a private entity, the foundation works through short decision-making channels and can make bolder choices, of course only in accord with the municipality.

An obvious lighthouse project is the youth welfare network “Integration”, which also underlines a successful urban-rural partnership. Psychosocially vulnerable youth displaying behavioral problems from urban agglomerations are placed in rural foster families, integrated into the village community (e.g. by attending the local inclusive school) and fid motivation through agriculture. This offers not only new perspectives to 150 children and teenagers in rural areas, but also an additional means of income for the foster families. The project is funded by the cantons from which the participating children originate.

Another exemplary project is the acquisition and refunctioning of the old inn “Bären”, which was transformed into a local and regional community center for social, educational, cultural and touristic activities. With its indoor and outdoor venues, it serves as a meeting space for clubs, a local and regional educational center, an event- and rehearsal venue as well as a culinary establishment. Also worth mentioning are the “Eggiwiler Symposia” that deal with questions concerning urban-rural relationships and partnerships and have been successfully organized for over 20 years. The symposia also highlight the efforts made to develop, improve and (trans)regionally market the so called “Triasol”-beams.

Elderly people are offered a variety of ways to enjoy their retirement in Eggiwil in specifically constructed apartments or at the retirement home directly in the village center. In order to tackle the lack of medical and care facilities in rural areas, the intercommunal project “Health Center Oberes Emmental” was conceived in 2012. It was completed in 2014, in collaboration with three other municipalities in Emmental, the foundation “Innovation”, the elderly center Eggiwil and the regional hospital Langnau. It offers an attractive choice of medical services including a communal practice with three doctors, physical therapy, massage, hearing advice, nursing care and also houses an outpost of the Red Cross Bern-Emmental.

The empowerment of local and regional agriculture and forestry as well as the upgrading of the cultural landscape should also be explicitly underlined. Despite structural changes, the municipality remains characterized largely by agriculture and forestry as well as the immediate processing of products. Private and communal alpine dairies, multiple saw mills and wood processing companies as well as the biomass heating plant providing heat for multiple communal and private buildings are important institutions in the municipality. Other examples are the aforementioned youth network “Integration” or the initiatives surrounding the “Triasol”-beams. In order to proactively diversify and improve the local honey farm, Eggiwil established a bee conservation program several years ago, sensitizing local bee keeprs and providing monetary motivation.

Eggiwil demonstrates in multifaceted ways that improving the quality of life can become a key factor in a continuous development process within an attractive and sustainable village. Many formidable projects and measures also excellently correspond to the competition motto “Local Answers to Global Challenges.”

Evaluated: 2020