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Investigating a new environmental project in Italy

With diversification in mind, the Mangrove Foundation recently initiated discussions with MedWet, an association having the objective to protect wetlands around the Mediterranean.

The idea: act on a different kind of environment, beside mangroves, tropical forest and desert. But also exercise an action in Europe as our projects are essentially spread around Asia or Africa, while we have no presence on our home continent.

It is indeed widely recognized that wetlands provide several ecosystem services that contribute to human well-being: fish, water supply, water purification, climate regulation, flood regulation, coastal protection, fiber, and tourism. It is a fact that there is generally insufficient awareness about wetlands values in the Mediterranean region (in particular in respect to their ecosystems) with the exception of a limited number of decision makers and experts.

The current economic crisis in the Mediterranean and declining fish resources in coastal wetlands around the Mediterranean shores have forced wetland communities to consider alternate livelihood measures such as agriculture, livestock, handicrafts, and tourism. However, protecting wetlands to maintain their original state is complicated, especially as population pressures increase. The main effort of MedWet consists in reinforcing, and especially to develop and ensure agile and integrated management of wetlands and to share knowledge and expertise. It supports six such areas in Sardinia.

In the context of its objectives, the Mangrove Foundation is considering supporting this project for the protection and management of wetlands, with a socio-economic dimension, including women empowerment. The original idea is to reinforce the art of weaving in San Vero Milis in Sardinia, a tradition that exists from prehistoric times. Over the years, despite the spreading of plastic and the drop in the weaved objects market, the tradition has been kept alive by women artisans though at a much-reduced scale. This meant that new generations were not formed, generally not attracted by activities considered obsolete and generating little revenues. However, this technique makes a wide use of plants specifically growing in wetlands (asphodel, rush...).

It is planned to expand the activity, organize workshops, create jobs, set up a distribution network, reviving a city where unemployment exceeds 30% and recreate the weaving center of excellence it has been over the past centuries. This can be perfectly combined with the wetlands conservation, at the same time replanting species and expanding the protected zones, but also managing the natural resources in a durable way, to guarantee a sustainable supply of raw materials. An ambitious project, for which durability will be backed by a large-scale revenue generating activity while preserving a tradition that would otherwise disappear.

We are hopeful to be able to provide our expertise and support this project, an innovative way to protect an essential and threatened part of our environment, just next door.


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