Climate change has turned the EU to look closely at the Arctic areas. According to Luke scientists, the decision makers should dig deeper in the possibilities of sustainable Arctic bioeconomy.
One-third of Finland’s area lies north of the Polar Circle, the geographical definition of the Arctic. The county of Lapland covers more than 100 000 square kilometres of sparsely populated land.
Sustainability in the Arctic
When Research Professor Sirpa Kurppa from Luke talks about the Arctic bioeconomy, she talks about livelihoods and future in Lapland, but adds a wider perspective. Kurppa describes her view as a set of know-how and possibilities, in local and global scale.
“We should make use of the Arctic know-how in the whole Finland. Icebreakers and other systems functioning in cold conditions can be developed and manufactured in the whole country”, Kurppa points out.
To promote research-based knowledge about the Arctic, Kurppa and her research group published a policy brief for decision makers. Kurppa has an established career in agroecology and the focus of the Arctic bioeconomy brief is in the sustainable use of the northern nature.
The time for the research-based brief is suitable, as Finland is holding the chair of the Arctic Council until 2019.
“Finland took the chair in 2017 and since then, the focus has been on the technological issues concerning the Arctic seaway and oil and gas resources. That is why we should bring up the special natural circumstances and how to use them in a sustainable way in the future bio-economy”, Kurppa says.
Tourism belongs to bioeconomy
Recently, Lapland and other Arctic areas have experienced a vast growth of tourism. According to the researchers, the future of tourism is now closely watched in all the countries of the Arctic region.
“Tourists are attracted here by the well-functioning society, the services, nature and a secure environment, even the darkness. These we should cherish”, Kurppa says.
Therefore, tourism is included in the bioeconomy, as it is also based on the extreme natural conditions. Researchers have clarified how vulnerable nature can be used at different times of the year. The aim is to promote sustainable tourism and to maintain traditional land use.
“Tourism grows fast and Finns should now consider how to manage it in our own hands. There is a great danger that tourism will move into the hands of the global players. With mass tourism, the northern uniqueness can be ruined in an instant”, Kurppa warns.
Arctic food goes global?
As tourists are attracted by the Arctic Lapland, Lapland should seek its own way to the global market, scientists say. One of the aims of the policy brief is to export more Finnish products.
“Finland is the northernmost country where farming is practised in a large scale. Many companies already use Arctic in their brands and marketing. Our strengths are cleanliness, food safety and production where only small amounts of antibiotics are used. However, these same arguments are used by other countries”, says Researcher Jaana Kotro of Luke.
To access the global market with the Arctic brand, Luke scientists suggest cooperation of the whole Barents region, go-ahead innovations and, most importantly, knowledge about customers’ needs.
For this path, Luke scientists offer their practical help for decision makers as well as entrepreneurs in their out-reaching bioeconomy projects. Kotro’s project “Arctic Food in Finland” is well on the way and offers free, research based material that companies can use in their marketing efforts.
Text: Marjatta sihvonen
Reindeer entrepreneur Riikka Kenttälä: Future is for those who adapt
Riikka Kenttälä, 27, is taking over her family business in Levi, Lapland. I love to work with people and reindeer, says the young entrepreneur, who combines traditional reindeer husbandry with tourism.
Riikka Kenttälä’s winters pass with tourists. Together with her brother and parents, she takes both Finnish and international customers to trips with reindeer sledges.
“We also tell our guests about reindeer herding. In the future, I would like to take them reindeer round-ups, so they see what real life and work is like here”, Kenttälä says.
Tourists come to Kenttälä’s home farm, Sammuntupa, from all over the world. Regular visitors come from Central and Eastern Europe and Russia, growing numbers from Canada and USA, even from Australia and Singapore.
Kenttälä says she has not made any big marketing efforts, as the pressure of growing tourism is so strong.
“We have our facebook site and internet pages and a network of travel agencies in Finland, Switzerland and France. Many visitors love our old farm milieu and us just being ourselves. That is what our marketing mainly is.”
Sustainability questions are familiar to Kenttälä, especially in terms of space. In Levi area, the number of cottages and other free time facilities grows fast.
“All people do not like reindeer roaming free. I kind of understand that. We try to arrange our work so that the environment is not used excessively. But there is also Kittilä mine here, cottage owners, skiers, hikers. We all need space.”
In the future, Kenttälä is planning to sell her own reindeer meat at the farm.
“I have never thought about selling meat to Asia, because the demand is local. The problem is, there is no governmental financing instrument that would allow me to build premises for cutting meat.”
The biggest obstacle to Arctic entrepreneurs is how to get educated, skilful staff.
“We have had to take workers without any training in travel business and train them ourselves.”
It is autumn in Lapland and Kenttälä prepares for the busiest season of the year, Christmas. She hopes scientists and decision makers could help to solve the problem of summer season, as there would also be lots to see but less demand. However, the future looks good now.
“The demand for travel services has been so strong that it forces our business to grow and develop”, Kenttälä says.
Text: Marjatta sihvonen