The inhabitants of Árneshreppur, a municipality in the remote eastern West Fjords Strandir region which only has a population of 49, fear about their future in light of a recent bleak report from the Institute of Regional Development.
The report predicts continued reduction in population in rural Iceland if young residents are not provided with job opportunities matching their ambitions and educational backgrounds.
“It is time to take action. We don’t have many years to improve the situation because this community won’t survive for long if nothing changes,” head of Árneshreppur district council Oddný Thórdardóttir told Morgunbladid.
Thórdardóttir said she doubts her sons will stay in Árneshreppur, pointing out that young people always leave the region for secondary education and rarely return. “Sheep farming is the basis of our community and hopefully we will be able to recruit young people to this profession in the next few years.”
“Fortunately I believe there has been a change in attitude and I increasingly notice that young people are asking about living and working in the municipality,” Thórdardóttir said.
“I envision that people with different educational backgrounds can work here in the north if we can establish an internet connection and improve transport,” Thórdardóttir added. “Everything is about work and we have to help young people who want to move here.”
Local farmer Gudbjörg Thorsteinsdóttir, who has lived in Árneshreppur her entire life, said Icelandic authorities have a deadline of five years to create more job opportunities. “If nothing positive happens in that period, the settlement here will disappear, it is that simple.”
The road to Árneshreppur is often closed in winter and therefore the community depends on receiving supplies with airplanes that land in the tiny village of Gjögur two times a week. One of Iceland’s remotest hotels lies in Djúpavík in Árneshreppur.
You can read more about Árneshreppur in Sara Blask’s feature “Of Sheep and Sovereignty” in the 2008 spring issue of Iceland Review. If you buy a subscription to the magazine this week, you will receive Issues 1 and 2 of this year free of charge.
Click here to watch a video shot by IR’s photographer Palli Stefánsson while driving with Sara to Árneshreppur to write the story.