Integrating cultural aspects into nature conservation


Project description

The INCREAte project aimed to develop and promote an efficient and participatory approach to support the integration of culture and nature for improved conservation results, an aim that’s been central to MedINA’s work since its establishment. In this context, the team created the INCREAte Approach and its toolkit to help guide users to design more effective and adaptive conservation projects, not only by working on issues related to culture but also by addressing stakeholders’ participation and the overlapping objective of human wellbeing. Central to the approach is a Management Standard (MS), founded on a Principles and Criteria hierarchy that can be either followed in its entirety or chosen from selectively, and which provides overall guidance for integrating cultural aspects into nature conservation design.

The INCREAte Approach consists of six steps. At each stage guidance and recommendations are provided to the user, along with a synthesis of existing and newly designed tools. One of the novelties of the Approach is the INCREAte Matrix for Nature-Culture links (IMNC), a web toolkit created by MedINA that enables the user to assess and report on recognised linkages between elements of nature and elements of culture. Since its launch in 2018, the INCREAte Approach has attracted considerable interest in the conservation community and has been implemented by a number of organisations for different projects. 

MedINA implemented the INCREAte Approach on the island of Kythera after it was selected as the project’s pilot site. Following the steps of the Approach, the project team first made a Rapid Assessment of the island’s natural and cultural environment. In addition, a stakeholder participatory workshop was held, with the aim of engaging the local community from the early stages of the project and recording their perceptions and aspirations regarding heritage management and local sustainable development.

Based on the findings of these activities, a series of proposed strategies were formulated by the project team alongside an overall vision. The one selected for implementation was based  on “strengthening the tourist potential of the island, through showcasing the interconnections of nature and culture”. Since then, MedINA has maintained a presence on Kythera by working on the expansion and enhancement of its hiking trail network through its involvement in Kythera Trails.