Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land

Protecting the citizens and the land by protecting the soil and safeguarding the environment while caring for the health and safety of workers.” These are the words with which the North Tuscany Consortium No. 1 was introduced by its chair.

What characterizes this territorial consortium? Involvement of farmers, or rather farmworkers, in the conservation of the land. It is already the consortium’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the land and to this end it carries out hydraulic and maintenance work. But protection of the land cannot be separated from the direct participation of those who live on it, especially in rural areas.

Let’s take a step back.

Italy has signed up to the EU’s territorial cohesion programme and has an Agency whose mandate is to promote “economic development and social cohesion, facilitating cooperation between institutions and the establishment of strategic partnerships among those involved in order to bridge the territorial gap within the country and strengthen the administrative capacity of local and regional government”.

The Agency organized “A strategy for Internal Areas in Italy” with the aim of preserving the  more  remote  rural  areas,  which have  historically  been deprived  of  many  public services (healthcare, schools, transport…),  and experienced  a  lengthy  and  steady  period  of  abandonment  in  favour  of  urban  areas,  with  high  social  costs  in  terms  of  hydro-geological  instability,  decay  and  soil  consumption. Continua a leggere “Recognizing the importance of farmworkers in protecting the land”

Collaborative tools and environmental conflicts

In previous newsletters we have dealt with the topic of democratic control. An interesting conference was held in Milan on 22 November last year on the subject of “Developing collaboration in environmental and urban conflicts“. We asked one of the speakers, Veronica Dini, who is a lawyer, to tell us why and how we should develop collaborative tools in the area of environmental conflicts. She kindly sent us the following.

“The first reason lies in the fact that, as the news shows, it is impossible not to be concerned with and about the environment: there are too many urgent matters to be dealt with and too many significant challenges to be faced. The second reason is that the management and protection of the environment are related to basic goods and interests that, at the very least, are seen as being mutually opposed; in this area, therefore, conflict is unavoidable and destined to worsen as available resources are exhausted.

Having clarified why this matter is so important, in the legal, social and political debate, we need to take on board the fact that conflict can be prevented and managed through a number of institutions and strategies: by having recourse to judicial authority or by using  collaborative tools. In the former case, to put it extremely briefly, the solution to the problem is delegated to a third party that filters it through the lens of the law and assigns rights and wrongs to the case. Continua a leggere “Collaborative tools and environmental conflicts”

The Gardens of Pomona

It’s no accident that Adam and Eve are shown in many images as “covering” themselves with fig leaves. The fig is an ancient plant: remains have been found of plants that lived around 23,000 years ago! Furthermore, humans have always prized the fruit of the fig tree. Today it is gaining renewed attention, because every part of the fig tree can be used: leaves, sap, bark, shoots, and of course the fruit, both fresh and dried.

In the municipality of Cisternino (province of Brindisi), in the centre of Valley of Itria (best known as the home of the unique Puglian houses known as “trulli”), can be found the “Gardens of Pomona”. This botanical garden combines the conservation of biodiversity with research and scientific education programmes aimed at schools of every type and level, as well as professionals, amateurs and tourists.  This living genetic bank was born out of the desire and duty to pass on to future generations the precious inheritance selected over millennia by countless generations of farmers. In pursuit of this aim, the existing drystone walls, terraces and water tanks, as well as the buildings, have been restored in keeping with local  building traditions, and the place has been transformed into a park-garden, which is open to the public all year round. Continua a leggere “The Gardens of Pomona”

Our forests, forest fires and climate change

The media is full of stories about the woods in the summer, then forgets about them for the rest of the year. In reality woodland and forest fires are destructive events that have recently assumed catastrophic proportions. In 2017, 65 people died in Portugal; in 2018 it was the turn of California and Greece, with hundreds of deaths and many properties destroyed. Italy too has seen huge fires that fortunately have not resulted in deaths: in one night in September 2018 more than 1200 hectares of woods and olive groves burned on Monte Pisano (PI) with the destruction of 12 houses; in 2017, 273 hectares of pinewood burned in Marina di Grosseto, along with 26 cars, right next to campsites and houses.

Forest fires are an ecological factor, especially in the Mediterranean (where 95% of fires in Europe occur) whose vegetation has developed adaptations that help it recover more quickly after the event. The depopulation of mountain areas in the last 50 years has led to an abandonment of woodland management, with accumulations of wood and, above all, ever decreasing maintenance of the land, and especially of open spaces. In 5 years the wooded area of Mediterranean countries has increased by 1.8 million hectares (for further information here) replacing pastures, meadows and cultivated areas. Fires with natural causes (not much more than 1% in Italy) are vastly outnumbered by those with human causes, including those that are started deliberately. The increased frequency of fires leads to lower capacity to recover (resilience) on the part of the woodlands. To this worrying picture we must add climate change (see here): the increase in temperatures, the changes in rainfall and in the direction and strength of the winds lead to more frequent and more intense fires which are increasingly difficult to control. Continua a leggere “Our forests, forest fires and climate change”

Why do Italian ministries not reply?

On 28 February the SIP Forum sent an official letter – via certified electronic post – to the Minister for the Environment and for the Protection of the Land and Sea, Sergio Costa, and to the Minister for Agricultural, Food, Forest and Tourism Policy, Gian Marco Centinaio, asking for Italy to formally sign up to the 4per1000 initiative.

We have not received a reply.

This is the kind of thing that leads Italian citizens to consider themselves “abandoned” by a government that ignores us and does not take account of what we think.

Our politicians often blame Brussels and its officials for almost all Italy’s current problems. They give them the insulting label of “eurocrats”. Few reflect on the fact that “Brussels” is not some abstract entity, but a set of institutions created to allow the 500 million citizens of its member states to live together, respecting their different cultures, languages and identities. Brussels as a single unified and centralized institution does not exist. What do exist are the community institutions whose tasks and obligations are determined by the member states. These institutions have no real autonomy, because everything is discussed, negotiated and decided by representatives of the Member States. This is true of the Parliament, the Council, the Commission, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, to name but a few of the most representative bodies. Continua a leggere “Why do Italian ministries not reply?”

ELASA – European Landscape Architecture Student Association (Matera)

ELASA is a European organization with more than 2000 members across Europe, all of whom are  students of Landscape Architecture. It meets every year for an Annual Meeting and for a Mini Meeting organized by the ELASA students themselves. 2019’s Mini Meeting was held in Matera from 2 to 8 May to coincide with “Matera 2019 – European Capital of Culture”. 25 young people from many different European states took part, and were thus able to experience an area– Matera and Basilicata – whose origins date back more than 9000 years. A leap into the past in order to return to the present, hence the title of the Mini Meeting: Ascending and Descending Landscapes. Continua a leggere “ELASA – European Landscape Architecture Student Association (Matera)”

Organic Cities Network Europe and IFOAM

The conference that launched the network of European cities committed to organic farming, the Organic Cities Network Europe, was held in January 2018 in Paris. Many cities have signed up to this important initiative: Nuremberg and Lauf (Germany), Milan (Italy), Vienna and Seeham (Austria), Paris and Correns (France), Porec (Croatia), Växjö (Sweden) and others.

The Organic Cities Network Europe and IFOAM EU signed a Memorandum of Understanding to give a strong foundation to their collaboration to work together towards a fair, environmentally conscious, healthy and caring food and farming system. The Organic Cities Network Europe and IFOAM EU will cooperate on the future of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), regional and local food supply chains, Green Public Procurement (GPP) policies, research and innovation, the true cost of food, increasing the transparency of supply chains, and access to land for new organic farmers.

To make the European organic movement’s shared ‘Organic Vision for Europe to 2030’ a reality, IFOAM EU published a roadmap to sustainable food and farming systems in Europe  – including a publication and website with inspiring initiatives. The roadmap is accompanied by a website – – featuring initiatives leading the way. Continua a leggere “Organic Cities Network Europe and IFOAM”

Report on the state of forests and the forestry sector in Italy

It is often stated and widely believed that public bodies in Italy are parasites, incapable of spending their funds correctly. The opposite is true. Many public employees, despite the lack of funds and the numerous bureaucratic problems, are more than capable of doing their jobs and indeed of excelling at the European and international level. We are therefore delighted to be able to point our readers to a recent report on the state of forests and the forestry sector, “RaFITALIA 2017-2018 Rapporto sullo stato delle foreste e del settore forestale in Italia“.

In this comprehensive account deals with all aspects regarding the forests – both directly and indirectly – and subjects them to critical analysis. In almost 300 pages the report describes the work of thirty coordinators and over 200 team members. The project is the work of the Forestry Directorate of the Ministry for Food, farming, forestry and tourism, with support from the research body Centro di ricerca Politiche e Bioeconomia del Consiglio per la Ricerca in agricoltura and analysis from Economia Agraria and the Compagnia delle Foreste. Continua a leggere “Report on the state of forests and the forestry sector in Italy”