One of the most remarkable features of Lemnos Island is the striking number of traditional mandras, dotting the landscape. The mandra is inseparably linked to the island’s identity and culture and it has its roots deep in the past while adapting to the needs of the present and looking into the future.
Lemnian mandras consist of various structures such as houses, barns, fenced gardens, milking and cheesemaking facilities, threshing floors, along with fields and pastures. They are found all over the island, many of which are still in operation, constituting the centre -spatially, economically, socially and symbolically- of the Lemnian countryside.
In the past, traditional mandras were the epicentre of the agricultural life of ‘kehaghias’, the traditional farmer-stockbreeder of Lemnos, and the locale where the farmers interacted with the natural environment. Mandras allowed them to cultivate their land, breed their animals and produce the necessary food for their survival. There were many types of mandras (agricultural mandras, livestock mandras, mixed and family ones), each serving specific needs. Over time, the way in which mandras were managed and operated was adapted to modern socioeconomic conditions, while they remained an integral part of lemnian culture.
At the mandra several local crop landraces are still being cultivated like the llegume“afkos” (Lathyrus ochrus), “aspromytiko” bean and “Panagias” barley and local breeds of animals are reared, such as the “Orino Lemnou” sheep which was included in the new programme for the conservation of indigenous breeds of the Ministry of Rural Development. Traditional farming practices are still used in mandras. These sustainable practices are part of the protocol of Terra Vita certification system, and some farms on Lemnos have been already certified. Terra Vita aims to preserve the traditional agricultural landscapes and biodiversity of the place over time.
In 2021, the cultural value of traditional mandras was officially recognized, as they were inscribed in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, following long-lasting and coordinated actions by MedINA and the local organization ANEMOESSA. Additionally, in 2022 the book “The mandra system of Lemnos: a cultural narrative” was published, highlighting various aspects of this unique agricultural management system.
MedINA carried on the safeguarding, promotin and valorisation, of the natural and cultural heritage of Lemnos, in the framework of the educational programmes “Let’s go to school!” and “Where is Ypsipyli hidden?”, in an effort to pass on traditional knowledge to students – its natural successors and bearers of this heritage. Through a series of theoretical seminars and field visits, the younger generations of Lemnos got in touch with their roots, the traditions and the cultural wealth of the island, by exploring the history of the agroecosystem of mandra. In addition, in collaboration with the University of the Aegean, the database Lemnoscopio was created, which captures the architectural heritage of the rural landscape of Lemnos and includes many existing mandras.
The mandra system lies at the core of the agricultural and pastoral life of Lemnos and promotes manifold elements of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the island. Every aspect of mandra deserves to be known, safeguarded and properly valorised in order to empower local communities, support biodiversity and conserve the island’s unique landscape.