Special Issue "Sustainable Rural Development: Strategies, Good Practices, and Opportunities Ⅱ"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 21 February 2022.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Ana Nieto Masot
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Art and Territorial Sciences, University of Extremadura, 10071 Cáceres, Spain
Interests: human geography; rural development; demography; geographic information systems
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. José Luis Gurría Gascón
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Human Geography, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, University of Extremadura, 10071 Cáceres, Spain
Interests: human geography; rural development; demography
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent decades, rural areas a global scale have suffered severe demographic losses and are tending to depopulate as a result of a process of structural ageing and emigratory movements (rural–urban) that result in large losses of young populations and increasingly regressive demographic dynamics. In some territories, this has led to the abandonment of numerous villages and the proliferation of territories without economic activities with serious socio-economic and environmental results.

In 2020, a Special Issue entitled "Sustainable Rural Development: Strategies, Good Practices and Opportunities" was launched, in which 16 papers were published. The aim of this monograph was to study this problem with contributions in which different initiatives or projects are presented to reduce the demographic, economic and social imbalances between rural and urban areas. On the other hand, some studies highlighted the weaknesses that certain projects and programmes are having in achieving the same objectives. The papers presented were very diverse and provided cases in a wide variety of territories across European, American and Asian. The different strategies presented focused on achieving rural development through the promotion of activities complementary to agriculture, such as rural tourism, the revaluation of natural heritage, the promotion of agroecological products, the industrial promotion of rural areas, the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Internet to improve their communications and teleworking, the design of sustainable housing for youngers and new settlers, etc.

These were different approaches that allowed us to contribute, from scientific, holistic and multidisciplinary knowledge, new strategies that can help public policy managers with decision making and in equitable planning and management strategies. For this reason, we are launching a second edition of this Special Issue for other initiatives or projects to be submitted that are being carried out. We encourage authors to submit contributions in the following priority areas to this Special Issue of Land:

  • Approaches and models of rural development and their evolution in the world, e.g., European policies and rural development programs and rural development strategies;
  • Integrated forms of urban–rural planning and multilevel governance, e.g., urban partnerships and the role of the city in the development and stability of the rural population;
  • The diversification of activities, employment, and income: agribusiness integration, heritage, and tourism as the basis of rural competitiveness, e.g., occupational transformation and new social actors, innovation and new technologies, value chains and productive networks, rural–urban co-working and networking, and intelligent, inclusive, and sustainable territories;
  • Mobility and new rural dynamics;
  • Depopulation and strategies for the demographic challenge in rural areas;
  • The insertion of SDG 2030 in rural development: the green circular economy.

Prof. Dr. Ana Nieto Masot
Dr. José Luis Gurría Gascón
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • sustainable rural development
  • strategies against depopulation
  • rural–urban partnerships
  • rural development programs and strategies
  • diversification of economic activities
  • Sustainable Development Goal 2030

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

Article
Nature-Based Solutions Benefit the Economic–Ecological Coordination of Pastoral Areas: An Outstanding Herdsman’s Experience in Xilin Gol, China
Land 2022, 11(1), 107; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land11010107 - 09 Jan 2022
Viewed by 78
Abstract
Grassland has always had a difficult economic–ecological relationship, as coordination between its ecological conservation and the sustainable development of animal husbandry is required. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), who make full use of the natural ecosystem services, have successfully solved some economic–ecological issues, but still [...] Read more.
Grassland has always had a difficult economic–ecological relationship, as coordination between its ecological conservation and the sustainable development of animal husbandry is required. Nature-based Solutions (NbS), who make full use of the natural ecosystem services, have successfully solved some economic–ecological issues, but still have unclear implementation prospects for grassland management. The Xilin Gol grassland is one of the most typical pastoral areas in China; there is a village chief named Bateer, who has already used NbS for grassland management. To confirm whether the solutions employed by Bateer have been effective for both increasing economic profits and protecting grassland ecosystem, we interviewed him, and many other herdsmen, using questionnaires about their livelihood. Based on these questionnaires, we calculated and compared their income–cost ratios. Meanwhile, we analyzed the NDVI variations inside their rangelands through high-resolution remote sensing images. The results showed that the herdsmen in Bateer’s village had a much higher disposable income and income–cost ratio than others, and their rangelands also had a higher value and a more obvious increasing trend of NDVI. Bateer’s success proves that the NbS can also play a positive role in grassland management, which can provide a valuable guidance for economic–ecological coordination in pastoral areas. Full article
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Article
How Do Network Embeddedness and Environmental Awareness Affect Farmers’ Participation in Improving Rural Human Settlements?
Land 2021, 10(10), 1095; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10101095 - 16 Oct 2021
Viewed by 375
Abstract
Based on social embeddedness theory, this paper aims to explore the influence mechanism of network embeddedness and environmental awareness on farmers’ participation in improving rural human settlements (IRHS). This research applies the Logit model and the Bootstrap method, using survey data from 495 [...] Read more.
Based on social embeddedness theory, this paper aims to explore the influence mechanism of network embeddedness and environmental awareness on farmers’ participation in improving rural human settlements (IRHS). This research applies the Logit model and the Bootstrap method, using survey data from 495 farmers in Hubei Province, China. The results show that: (1) relational embeddedness has a significant negative impact on the centralized treatment of farmers’ domestic sewage, implying that strengthening the relationship between farmers and households helps to provide them with centralized treatment for domestic sewage; (2) environmental awareness has a significant positive impact on the centralized treatment of farmers’ domestic sewage, implying that the enhancement of farmers’ environmental awareness increases the promotion centralized treatment for domestic sewage; and (3) structural embeddedness can further affects farmers’ environmental awareness and then affects their participation in the centralized treatment of domestic sewage, implying that environmental awareness has a mediating effect between structural embeddedness and the centralized treatment of farmers’ domestic sewage. Overall, it is necessary not only to encourage the establishment of extension and discussion networks for farmers (relational embeddedness) to participate in IRHS but also to improve environmental education for farmers, especially by increasing their access to environmental knowledge and information (environmental awareness in mountainous areas, and, finally to support farmers. The relationship between the members and the village cadres (structural embeddedness) can further improve farmers’ awareness of participation in IRHS to better guide them in the centralized treatment of domestic waste and domestic sewage. Full article
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Article
Territorial Analysis of the Survival of European Aid to Rural Tourism (Leader Method in SW Spain)
Land 2021, 10(10), 1030; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10101030 - 30 Sep 2021
Viewed by 367
Abstract
Due to the problems of the European rural environment, the European Union introduced territorial development strategies called the Leader Method (LEADER Initiatives and the now extinct PRODER Operational Programs implemented only in Spanish territory). The objective was to activate the economic development of [...] Read more.
Due to the problems of the European rural environment, the European Union introduced territorial development strategies called the Leader Method (LEADER Initiatives and the now extinct PRODER Operational Programs implemented only in Spanish territory). The objective was to activate the economic development of these areas, to maintain the population and to slow down the migration and aging processes. During the last 25 years, these initiatives have been implemented in European rural areas, and more particularly in Extremadura, establishing new activities such as rural tourism, which has become the economic backbone of many families, complementing agricultural incomes. The development of rural tourism has led to the implementation of accommodation and catering services throughout Extremadura, adapting to the new tourist demands. However, after 25 years, its sustainability has been very different, with contextual variables that have conditioned its success. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze the economic sustainability of the tourism offer financed by Leader and the extinct Proder in order to identify the factors that have determined its success in a territory with very diverse characteristics. For this purpose, a methodology based on two statistical analysis techniques (principal component analysis and cluster analysis) has been designed to establish behavioral patterns through the different context variables used. The results obtained have shown that factors such as investment, location, the presence of protected resources and accessibility are determining factors for the survival of the tourism offer. Full article
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Article
Counterbalancing the Development Territorial Disparities in the Implementation of the Community-Led Local Development EU Approach in Romania
Land 2021, 10(9), 970; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10090970 - 15 Sep 2021
Viewed by 580
Abstract
LEADER is a rural development method based on a participative approach, which was tailored in 1991 as a complement to the traditional common agricultural policy (CAP) measures. One of its most important objectives is to reduce the differences between rural and urban areas [...] Read more.
LEADER is a rural development method based on a participative approach, which was tailored in 1991 as a complement to the traditional common agricultural policy (CAP) measures. One of its most important objectives is to reduce the differences between rural and urban areas by building on local knowledge and potential. The aim of the present paper is to identify what are the most important characteristics of the LAGs that can counterbalance the existing economic disparities in the rural regions. The research was conducted in the northwest development region of Romania (2014–2020 programming period), using the principal component analysis and the hierarchical cluster analysis. Two types of data were collected: indicators of performance, such as the number of projects contracted and jobs created, were used to assess the success of the method, while the territorial and LAG characteristics were used to explain these results. The findings confirm the presence of an unequal distribution of LEADER support in favor of the most urbanized and developed areas. However, the results also show that the experience and economic and administrative capacity of LAGs could help counterbalance the influence of the territorial features previously mentioned, and therefore to reduce the gap between them and the more developed groups. Full article
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Article
Impact of Grain Subsidy Reform on the Land Use of Smallholder Farms: Evidence from Huang-Huai-Hai Plain in China
Land 2021, 10(9), 929; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10090929 - 03 Sep 2021
Viewed by 517
Abstract
Smallholder farms have played an essential role in agricultural production and food security. In order to increase farm size, the Chinese government announced a reform of the grain subsidy program in 2015. Under the reform, 20% of the aggregate input subsidy, as well [...] Read more.
Smallholder farms have played an essential role in agricultural production and food security. In order to increase farm size, the Chinese government announced a reform of the grain subsidy program in 2015. Under the reform, 20% of the aggregate input subsidy, as well as the pilot subsidy to large-scale farmers and the incremental part of the agricultural support and protection subsidy budget, were used to support increasing farm size. This study evaluated the impact of China’s grain subsidy reform on the land use of smallholder farms to investigate whether the reform achieved its goal. Based on 2063 samples obtained from the 2013–2015 Survey for Agriculture and Village Economy data in Huang-Huai-Hai Plain, we conducted a difference-in-difference model to solve the problem of missing counterfactual states in policy evaluation. Farms from Henan and Shandong were assigned to the treatment group, and farms from Hebei were assigned to the control group. The results revealed that the average treatment effect on the treated of the impact of the grain subsidy reform on the wheat-sown area was −25% (0.10 ha). Furthermore, there was heterogeneity in regard to the subsidy reform effects in different sown-area groups. The reform had the most significant impact on the smallest farmers. We also found that China’s grain subsidy reform had a significant and positive effect on the amount of outflow land area, while the impact of subsidy reform on land tenure was insignificant. Our findings suggest that while encouraging large-scale farms, it is necessary to take into account farmers’ small-scale operations and gradually promote the transformation of small-scale operations to large-scale operations. The Chinese government should strengthen the supervision of land use to achieve the goal of ensuring food security. Full article
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Article
Tourism-Related Facility Development in Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) National Park and Buffer Zone, Nepal Himalaya
Land 2021, 10(9), 925; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10090925 - 02 Sep 2021
Viewed by 663
Abstract
The increase in the number of tourists to mountain regions poses both opportunities and challenges for sustainable mountain development. In order to achieve sustainable development, it is essential to examine societal, landscape, and population transformation in mountain regions. This study explores transformation in [...] Read more.
The increase in the number of tourists to mountain regions poses both opportunities and challenges for sustainable mountain development. In order to achieve sustainable development, it is essential to examine societal, landscape, and population transformation in mountain regions. This study explores transformation in the context of the tourism-related facility in Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (SNPBZ) of Nepal as an example of the Himalayan region. Questionnaire surveys targeting the owners and managers of tourism-related facilities and interview surveys with various community leaders, officials, and school principals were conducted in the park in 2017–2019. Both surveys show that the types, ownership, distribution, and capacity of facilities in the park have been transformed. Growth of tourist numbers, improvement of porters’ accommodation conditions, and migrant labor are the main factors driving the transformation. Tourism has also induced imbalanced development and unequal benefits among the villages in the park. The findings suggest that diversification of trekking routes and facility and service quality improvement could help to mitigate imbalanced development and unequal benefits. The in-depth examination of the transformation of tourism-related facilities augments the knowledge of the dynamic changes of facilities in mountain regions, which is vital for sustainable mountain development. Full article
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Article
Driving Forces for the Spatial Reconstruction of Rural Settlements in Mountainous Areas Based on Structural Equation Models: A Case Study in Western China
Land 2021, 10(9), 913; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10090913 - 29 Aug 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 536
Abstract
Rural settlement development in mountainous areas is the key to eliminating global hunger and poverty. The spatial reconstruction of rural settlements in mountainous areas can promote rural development in mountainous areas. In this study, the Panxi area—a typical mountainous area in China—was chosen [...] Read more.
Rural settlement development in mountainous areas is the key to eliminating global hunger and poverty. The spatial reconstruction of rural settlements in mountainous areas can promote rural development in mountainous areas. In this study, the Panxi area—a typical mountainous area in China—was chosen as the study area. The driving forces for the spatial reconstruction of rural settlements in mountainous areas were explored from the perspective of peasant households by combining participatory rural appraisal (PRA) with structural equation modeling (SEM). Results showed that: (1) 62.03% of the 266 peasant households included were willing to have spatial reconstruction, indicating that most peasant households in mountainous areas have a very strong intention towards the spatial reconstruction of rural settlements. (2) Infrastructure, medical conditions, living environment, farming culture, and dietary habits significantly influenced the reconstruction intention of peasant households. In contrast, development opportunities, place attachment, language, and living mode each had a slight influence. (3) Geological disasters were the main driving force for the spatial reconstruction of rural settlements in mountainous areas, whilst the driving force of living cohesion was the smallest. This study provides insights for future planning and construction of rural settlements in the Panxi area and spatial reconstruction practices. It has important practical significance for overcoming poverty and realizing rural revitalization in mountainous areas. Full article
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Article
Farmland Rental Participation, Agricultural Productivity, and Household Income: Evidence from Rural China
Land 2021, 10(9), 899; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10090899 - 26 Aug 2021
Viewed by 525
Abstract
The rural land rental market is playing an increasingly important role in the agricultural transformation period for developing countries, including China, where rural farmland rental is highly context-specific with the implementation of the collective-owned rural land system; thus, in turn, the access to [...] Read more.
The rural land rental market is playing an increasingly important role in the agricultural transformation period for developing countries, including China, where rural farmland rental is highly context-specific with the implementation of the collective-owned rural land system; thus, in turn, the access to farmland rental markets for rural households has profoundly influenced their livelihood strategies and income earnings. This paper investigates the income impact differences caused by rural households’ farmland rental participation activities and explores such impact mechanisms by further evaluating the income impacts caused by rental area and household agricultural productivity. Data from the Chinese national household survey were used for estimating the empirical models. Our results show that farmland renting has positively affected households’ on-farm and total income, but there is no significant effect upon off-farm income. According to income differences across quantiles, we find households with high on-farm income are more sensitive about enlarging their farm size by renting farmland, and households with middle and upper-middle off-income may benefit more from renting out their farmland. Furthermore, the joint effects of renting area and household agricultural productivity on lessee households’ farm income is significantly positive. For lessor households, our results indicate that renting out farmland did not improve their off-farm and total income as it may have a limited effect on farm household labor distribution. Our findings suggest that engaging in farmland rental activity can enhance farming productivity efficiency and poverty alleviation among rural households. Under the collective-owned rural land system, it is urgent and necessary to initiate and design incentive policies to encourage highly efficient large farms to expand the farm size and provide smallholders with equal opportunities to engage in farmland rental activities. Full article
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Article
Calculation of Ecological Compensation Standards for Arable Land Based on the Value Flow of Support Services
Land 2021, 10(7), 719; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10070719 - 08 Jul 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 733
Abstract
Food production is the basis for ensuring human survival. Ecological compensation for arable land is important to ensure the sustainable use of arable land and food production. However, how is it possible to set the standard of ecological compensation and how to achieve [...] Read more.
Food production is the basis for ensuring human survival. Ecological compensation for arable land is important to ensure the sustainable use of arable land and food production. However, how is it possible to set the standard of ecological compensation and how to achieve it scientifically? In this paper, we take China as the study area and link the ecological compensation of arable land with the production, circulation and consumption of three staple foods. The amount of food is converted into the area of arable land needed to produce that food. After calculating the value of ecosystem services that support food production on arable land, the ecological compensation standard is obtained, and the realization mode between regions is constructed. The results show that: (1) the flow of staple foods in China is mainly from north to south and the value of arable land support services provided by northern provinces is greater than that of southern provinces; (2) the province that needs to pay the most ecological compensation for cultivated land is Guangdong Province, with an amount of ¥16.082 billion RMB, and the province that receives the most compensation is Heilongjiang Province, with an amount of ¥21.547 billion RMB; (3) in order to coordinate the collection and distribution of ecological compensation in each province, it is necessary to establish an ecological compensation fund for arable land in the central government. Protecting the ecological status of arable land and ensuring sustainable food production is in the overall interest of the country. Full article
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Article
Exploring the Spatio-Temporal Dynamics of Development of Specialized Agricultural Villages in the Underdeveloped Region of China
Land 2021, 10(7), 698; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10070698 - 02 Jul 2021
Viewed by 621
Abstract
The development of specialized agricultural villages (DSAVs) is essential for rural revitalization. However, most current studies focus on the formation of specialized agricultural villages (SAVs), while the interpretation of DSAVs from the perspective of the geographical factors is still missing. In this study, [...] Read more.
The development of specialized agricultural villages (DSAVs) is essential for rural revitalization. However, most current studies focus on the formation of specialized agricultural villages (SAVs), while the interpretation of DSAVs from the perspective of the geographical factors is still missing. In this study, we firstly employed the kernel density estimation to analyze the spatial pattern of DSAVs and then utilized the Geographic Detectors to explore which geographical factor(s) affected the SAVs of Henan, China in the formation (in 2010), steady (2011–2014), and rapid development (2015–2019) period of SAVs. The DSAVs were measured by gross product (GP), the employment rate (ER), and farmers’ income (FI) of SAVs. Eleven indicators described the geographic factors in five categories: terrains, resources, locations, markets, and economy. The results showed that the spatial pattern of DSAVs was from relatively uneven in the early formation to significantly clustering in the development period of SAVs. Specialized shiitake and Chinese herbal villages clustered in the mountain–plain transition zone. The aggregation of specialized coarse cereals villages was in the hill–plain transition zone. Specialized fruit and livestock villages gathered in the plain region. Further analyses were in these regions; compared with SAVs’ formation’s critical factors, the importance of terrain and location factors to DSAVs was decreasing, while market and economic factors were increasing in the development period of SAVs. The strongest changing was the development of specialized shiitake villages in the mountain–plain transition zone. These findings could provide guidance for the direction of DSAVs in underdeveloped areas. Full article
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Article
Stakeholders’ Participation in Sustainable Tourism Planning for a Rural Region: Extremadura Case Study (Spain)
Land 2021, 10(6), 553; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10060553 - 24 May 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 621
Abstract
The objective of this research is to obtain and analyze discursive information on the problems and solutions of the tourism sector in an eminently rural region, such as Extremadura, based on the opinions of stakeholders, in order to incorporate them into the evaluation [...] Read more.
The objective of this research is to obtain and analyze discursive information on the problems and solutions of the tourism sector in an eminently rural region, such as Extremadura, based on the opinions of stakeholders, in order to incorporate them into the evaluation and tourism planning of the region. More specifically, on the situation of the sector, perceptions on profitability and return on investment, the problem of overnight stays, and coordination between tourism agents and training demands, in order to make a sustainable tourism sector in a rural region. The research starts from the following premise: for tourism to be sustainable, stakeholders must participate in the strategic decision-making process. This paper aims, on the one hand, to clarify sufficiently the state of the art regarding the validity of focus groups and their analysis as a research methodology, explaining how to address the main challenges implied by this technique by reviewing a selection of research works that we consider relevant in this field. On the other hand, an analysis of the tourism sector in Extremadura is carried out based on these group dynamics. The main result, after analyzing the discourse of six focus groups, is that the different opinions of their members reveal, despite everything, that the training of human capital in the tourism sector in rural environments is a pending issue. Full article
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Article
China: A New Trajectory Prioritizing Rural Rather Than Urban Development?
Land 2021, 10(5), 514; https://0-doi-org.brum.beds.ac.uk/10.3390/land10050514 - 12 May 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1324
Abstract
The adverse effects of rapid urbanization are of global concern. Careful planning for and accommodation of accelerating urbanization and citizenization (i.e., migrants gaining official urban residency) may be the best approach to limit some of the worst impacts. However, we find that another [...] Read more.
The adverse effects of rapid urbanization are of global concern. Careful planning for and accommodation of accelerating urbanization and citizenization (i.e., migrants gaining official urban residency) may be the best approach to limit some of the worst impacts. However, we find that another trajectory may be possible: one linked to the rural development plan adopted in the latest Chinese national development strategy. This plan aims to build rural areas as attractive areas for settlement by 2050 rather than to further urbanize with more people in cities. We assess the political motivations and challenges behind this choice to develop rural areas based on a literature review and empirical case analysis. After assessing the rural and urban policy subsystem, we find five socio-political drivers behind China’s rural development strategy, namely ensuring food security, promoting culture and heritage, addressing overcapacity, emphasizing environmental protection and eradicating poverty. To develop rural areas, China needs to effectively resolve three dilemmas: (1) implementing decentralized policies under central supervision; (2) deploying limited resources efficiently to achieve targets; and (3) addressing competing narratives in current policies. Involving more rural community voices, adopting multiple forms of local governance, and identifying and mitigating negative project impacts can be the starting points to manage these dilemmas. Full article
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