TERRA LEMNIA Project launch: Traditional extensive Agro-pastoral practices in the Aegean island of Lemnos

TERRA LEMNIA Project launch: Traditional extensive Agro-pastoral practices in the Aegean island of Lemnos

The Terra Lemnia project, which started in September 2017 and will run for a three year period, has been approved under the Outcome M6 MAVA Mediterranean Strategy that deals with the ‘loss of biodiversity by abandonment of cultural practices’.  Four pilot sites have been selected as representative for this Outcome, the island of Lemnos in Greece which will be led by MedINA, as an example of an island landscape, the High Atlas in Morocco and the Shouf Mountain in Lebanon as examples of mountainous landscapes and Dehesa/Montado sites in Iberia as examples of lowland agrosilvo-pastoral landscape. The overall aim of this Outcome is to contribute to halting the loss of beneficial traditional land use practices in the selected landscapes and to demonstrate their valuable role supporting both biodiversity conservation and modern day green development.

Lemnos was selected because the high ecological value landscapes of the island, which have been shaped through millennia of continuous human habitation and agro-pastoral activity but are nowadays threatened by their gradual replacement by intensive activities. The island’s traditional, extensive agro-pastoral practices are mainly characterised by and organised around the element of ‘mandra’ which is a multifunctional area fenced with a dry stone wall, inside which there is an animal shed, a farmer’s / shepherd’s hut and a barn, whereas a stone threshing floor, small creamery or bread oven and a small vegetable garden can occasionally be found. On the periphery of the mandra extend the pastures and/or arable land with cereal crops destined for fodder and leguminous crops for human consumption, creating a cultural landscape of high ecological and cultural value. The abandonment of the, once self-sustaining, traditional agro-pastoral mandra system, and its gradual replacement by intensive activities, threatens local biodiversity and natural resources.

The Terra Lemnia project aims to build a common vision for sustainable development of Lemnos based on the restoration of the traditional agro-pastoral mandra system, attempting to support the extensive practices, which favour local biodiversity and re-establish the broken links between arable farming, stockbreeding and apiculture. The key to build such a vision is to actively engage practitioners, the local community and stakeholders and raise awareness at all levels, showcasing that the agro-pastoral practices of the traditional mandra system not only have positive effects on the environment and natural resources, but they can also trigger opportunities for local economic development.

MedINA has designed a set strategies and related activities so as to achieve this ambitious goal which will be implemented by a wide local, national and Mediterranean partnership. The Agricultural University of Athens is a major partner in this project and will lead the hands-on agronomic activities; other partners are the University of Aegean and Anemoessa, a local NGO, the Society for the Protection of Prespa and the Hellenic Ornithological Society as well as the Tour du Valat and the Region of North Aegean.

The first step of the project is setting the baseline by building the knowledge base for the agro-pastoral practices of the traditional mandra system and documenting their impacts on biodiversity and local welfare. Regarding biodiversity monitoring, a Biodiversity Core Group will be established from the onset of the project to ensure proper coordination. Focusing on the practitioner community, targeted capacity building and knowhow exchange activities will be carried out and an informal network of ‘land stewards’ will be created.

On-the-ground actions are planned to be implemented in collaboration with interested practitioners, such as in situ conservation and/or reintroduction of crop landraces, rehabilitation of selected rangelands by introducing perennial sown pastures to support sustainable grazing, and others. In addition, measures to mitigate direct threats for biodiversity and land degradation such as rabbit overpopulation will be taken.  Finally, actions to improve the economic viability of the practices will be undertaken, such as actions to increase the market value of local products, including the certification of selected high quality products, and the creation of cross-sectoral synergies.

The Terra Lemnia project is innovative in nature and will allow partners to test new approaches and to involve the local community and young people in innovative activities that can support biodiversity, sustainable development and local livelihoods.