Season’s Greetings and a short review of Med-INA’s activities in 2018

Season’s Greetings and a short review of Med-INA’s activities in 2018

As the end of the year is fast approaching and the holiday season is upon us, the Med-INA team would like to take note of its major activities and achievements during 2018 and take the opportunity to wish all its partners a Happy New Year 2019.

MedINA’s major project this year is the Terra Lemnia project which aims to showcase and restore traditional agro-pastoral practices on the island of Lemnos, focusing on the traditional “mandra” system. The project was launched in September 2017 and is funded by the MAVA Foundation under its Mediterranean Strategy on Cultural Landscapes. This year the project team was very active on many fronts. Fieldwork at the farm level was carried out during the first half of 2018 by the Agricultural University of Athens and MedINA team, to record the current status of several agro-pastoral practices and to assess the role of traditional mandras today. In parallel, the Biodiversity Core Group (BCG), a multidisciplinary team of experts, carried out field recordings during April and May 2018 recording the status of biodiversity and soils and assessing their links with the recorded agro-pastoral practices on Lemnos Island. The BCG also held two in-person meetings, in Lemnos in January, planning the work of 2018, and in Athens in November, to plan the field recording for 2019, which will be sponsored by IUCN-Med. In October 2018 a capacity building workshop took place on sustainable stockbreeding and artisanal cheese making led by AUA, which brought the practitioner community together. In November the AUA team began on-farm conservation actions with interested farmers implementing measures for rangeland rehabilitation, which will be continued and monitored throughout 2019. The Terra Lemnia team was very active in public awareness events on the island by holding an educational planting activity with local crops in a special school in spring, participating in the island’s largest gastronomic event in July and organising an open event on Agri-food heritage and local development in August. In September MedINA and an interested Lemnian farmer, supported by the IUCN, went to the Salone Del Gusto in Torino to get inspired by the Slow Food movement and meet likeminded people. Likewise, in October the Terra Lemnia project and first year findings from field recording of flora were presented in the 2nd Mediterranean Plant Conservation Week in Malta and in December the work on traditional mandras was presented in a Technical workshop on the “Protection and promotion of island heritage” in Cannes. 2019 will also be a very active year for the Terra Lemnia team, by extending on-farm conservation actions and by introducing aspects of marketing and inter-sectoral cooperation on the island among many other things.

MedINA also participates in a number of smaller projects within the MAVA Mediterranean programme with notable progress in a number of them. As coordinators of the Landscape Approach along with WWF North Africa, the project team established a Mediterranean team of three landscape experts tasked with providing a framework that will enhance the capacity of partners working on cultural landscapes to perceive, document and map the links between cultural practices, biodiversity and resulting landscape patterns. The experts and coordinators have set the foundations for this and will proceed in 2019 to support its implementation in the pilot sites of Outcome M6 of the MAVA Mediterranean programme, namely Lemnos, the Shouf Mountain in Lebanon, High Atlas in Morocco and Montado areas in Portugal. MedINA also coordinates the Overarching Initiative on Communications for MAVA’s cultural landscapes project in which 2018 was a crucial year where the campaign name, target audience, main messages and branding was completed with the collaboration of five partner organisations and communications experts. 2019 will see the launch of the “Rooted Everyday” campaign as well as its first Mediterranean activity; a creative writing competition for adults and children. MedINA also participated in the communications team for “Off your Map” campaign on coastal wetlands and 2019 will see the creation of an animated video on wetland cultural values.

As a partner in the “Saving Europe’s last free flowing wild river – Vjosa/Aoos”, MedINA participated in the project kick off meeting which took place in Konitsa, Greece. After that, MedINA has designed and commenced its field research through interviews with local stakeholders on the social impact of megaprojects and specifically dams, in collaboration with INHERIT. In May, MedINA and INHERIT co-organised a knowledge café in the International Conference ‘Communities, Conservation and Livelihoods’ in Canada on the topic of “When conservation goes wrong. Is conservation always compatible with human rights?”. Using examples from the Aoos area and Vjosa/Aoos project, an open and creative conversation ensued.

Continuing its long time involvement in the Pindos area, MedINA also attended in March 2018 the International Congress on Mountains where it presented the example of Pindos in a Roundtable facilitated by IUCN-Med on the “Cultural practices and biodiversity in the Mediterranean Mountains – A necessary alliance”. In July, the “On the Move” exhibition on mobile pastoralists was exhibited in the festival of Vovousa in Northern Pindos, this time with a twist in its concept, focusing just on portraits and including pictures of transhumant shepherds from South as well as from North Pindos.

For WWD2018 MedINA and the Management Body of the Messolonghi – Aitlolikon lagoon organized a screening of the ethnographic documentary “Alima”. In addition, MedINA has been actively involved in supporting local institutions in the area in preparing and submitting a folder for the candidacy of lagoon fishing in the intangible cultural heritage list of Greece. On the same topic, continuing its long standing involvement in the cultural values of wetlands, MedINA, in 2018, launched a publication on the gastronomic heritage of Mediterranean wetlands and participated in the Ramsar COP13 in Dubai where it co-organised a side event on the “Cultural approaches to wise use of wetlands – past, present and future”. In addition, MedINA was also invited to participate in the expert workshop on “The cultural and spiritual significance of wetlands”, co-organised by the Ramsar Culture Network (RCN) and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Moreover, MedINA during 2018 continued to coordinate the preparation of the proceedings of the 4th Workshop of the Delos Initiative “Sacred Natural Sites with a primary focus on Islam”, which took place in Malta in 2017. The proceedings will be published in 2019.

2018 also saw the official launch of the INCREAte approach that aims to support and enrich the protection and management of the natural environment, by focusing not only on environmental but also on cultural aspects and on the involvement of local communities and stakeholders. The IMNC tool, an innovative online application created as part of the INCREAte Approach, was designed to allow users to describe and evaluate the links between the elements of nature and the elements of culture. The tool is already being applied with positive feedback in the Terra Lemnia project by the Biodiversity Core Group. The INCREAte Approach and MedINA’s work in the pilot site, Kythera, was presented in two national and two international meetings/confereces, in Olympus and on the occasion of the International Day of Forests and the World Trails Conference and the ECHOPOLIS 2018.

Regarding, MedINA’s project in Kythera island, 2018 was the year that the project, originally designed through the INCREAte Approach, took a life of its own. Having as its main goal the conservation and promotion of the natural environment and its interconnections with culture as a key component of the tourist product of Kythera, the project primarily aims at strengthening of Kythera’s traditional trail network. With wide local participation and having signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with three key local stakeholders, the project team began expanding the old trails of the network (from 30 to almost 100 km), recording natural and cultural points of interest in all of them and taking interviews from elderly locals that remember these trails when they were still the main connecting routes of the island. This material is currently being processed and will become available to hikers in the near future. At the same time, aiming at the sustainability of the endeavor, MedINA organised two heritage interpretation seminars on the island aimed at building the capacities of young Kytherians. 2019 will see our continued involvement in showcasing the trails and the interesting stories behind them.

Leaving 2018 behind us, we hope that the New Year will be as active and as fruitful as its predecessor and that it will bring our international community one step closer to creating a greener, fairer and more compassionate world!