Terra Lemnia

Supporting traditional agro-pastoral practices in Lemnos island

Terra Lemnia

Project description

The Terra Lemnia project aims to contribute to the sustainable development of Lemnos Island through the conservation and re-introduction of practices from the traditional agro-pastoral mandra system and the celebration of its products and practitioners as part of the island’s living heritage. The mandra system is a mixed crop and livestock land-use system where pastures and arable land exist around the traditional mandra construction. An emblematic example of vernacular architecture, the mandra is a multifunctional space fenced with a drystone wall, inside of which can be found an animal shed, the farmer’s or shepherd’s hut (known as ‘kehagias’ by the local community), and a barn, along with a stone threshing floor, a small creamery or bread oven, and occasionally a small vegetable garden.

The first phase of the project (2018–2020) focused on research and fieldwork to record and evaluate the current status of the island’s primary sector, biodiversity and landscape and their  connections with the traditional practices of the mandra system. Through these linkages we were able to translate research into concrete conservation actions. Important steps have been made towards the design of a long-term monitoring system based on selected bio-indicator species through a comprehensive assessment of the interactions between agro-pastoral practices, biodiversity and soils. The Terra Lemnia team of scientists developed a ‘Standard of Good Practices’ for landscape and biodiversity that will form the basis for the establishment of a voluntary network of farmers – the Land Stewards’ Network – that will be central to the project’s next phase.

A series of farm-based conservation actions have been implemented in collaboration with more than 30 local farmers and stockbreeders on Lemnos. These include in situ conservation of local seed varieties and the support of semi-extensive pastoral farming based on locally adapted breeds of sheep and the cultivation of fodder and forage crops, combined with wild-rabbit control measures. At the same time, several capacity-building actions have been organised, including workshops on the island and field visits to other case study sites in Greece, which have helped foster collaboration, networking and the exchange of knowledge.

On the issue of cultural heritage, a detailed record of traditional mandra constructions in four study areas was undertaken and will be promoted through an online, open webGIS platform. Significant documentary work, including audio-visual recordings, was also carried out and submitted to the Ministry of Culture for the inclusion of traditional mandras and local melichloro/melipasto cheese in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As a result of this work, ‘The art of melichloro/melipasto cheese making’ was added to the inventory in August 2020. Regarding the rural landscape of Lemnos, a pilot landscape assessment study was carried out in the area of Fakos, which combined land cover change analysis using satellite imagery from 1960 to 2002 alongside testimonies from local producers and experts to determine the scale and factors of change.

  • Terra Lemnia

Significant progress has been achieved regarding economic issues on the island, both in terms of mobilising a network of local stakeholders and supporting a series of activities, including a market analysis, which aim to increase the visibility and market potential of selected traditional products of Lemnos.

In parallel, the Terra Lemnia team has been providing technical assistance to the local authorities and stakeholders to include the distinct seed varieties of Lemnos, including aspromytiko bean, lafyri (a local variety of fava), barley, sesame and others, on the National Register of the Ministry of Agriculture. Other advocacy actions include the submission of a policy brief regarding the implementation of measures for the monitoring and control of wild-rabbit populations, the preparation of a community-based policy recommendation or the conservation of the island’s rural landscape and traditional mandras, as well as the submission of proposals for establishing locally-adapted agri environmental measures in light of the new CAP programme period (2021 -2027) based on the project’s ‘Standard of Good Practices’.

Furthermore, engagement with the island’s communities is crucial to the project, through the organisation of public awareness events, stakeholder workshops and educational activities in local schools, including a short story competition, digital competitions and field excursions with Terra Lemnia scientists.

The second phase of the project (2020-2022) will build on the results and successes of the first phase by focusing its activities on land stewardship and multi-level collaboration towards sustainable local development through the promotion of quality traditional products and the celebration of local heritage. The establishment of the Land Stewards Network, which will operate under the aegis of the ‘Standard of Good Practices’, will link the primary, secondary and tertiary sector of Lemnos through the high-quality local products of this voluntary network. The operation of the network will be supervised by an appointed agronomist and supported by a tailor-made precision farming system which will enable the monitoring of practices. A certification system based on the ‘Standard of Good Practices’ will be developed and an environmental/landscape label will be created to promote the certified products of the network in the marketplace. The operations for the establishment of the Land Stewards Network are funded by a Green Fund project. In parallel, positive changes to the policy framework will be actively pursued at national level by building on the scientific results and advocacy actions of the first phase, as a means to support island-wide, long-term application of sustainable practices, such as the use of local seed varieties and locally adapted animal breeds. Along with an interactive online WebGIS platform to further raise awareness of local heritage internationally, the second phase will also involve increased measures on Kythera Island, where MedINA has worked since 2016. In collaboration with the Kytherian Foundation for Culture and Development (KIPA), the aim is the establishment of a local certification system for olive oil producers based on local sustainable practices, transferring the experienced gained on Lemnos to our efforts there.

All activities are designed to ensure their transferability to the local community; this is why we emphasise the creation of networks where participants collaborate on a voluntary basis, with each bringing their own expertise and sharing in the ownership of the overall results, with the aim being to contribute to the sustainable development of a culture of cooperation, responsibility and accountability that continues beyond the end of the current project in 2022.