In July the International Model Forest Network Secretariat came to visit the Mediterranean Model Forest Network’s area. Mr Patrick Wylie (Senior Policy Analyst and Mediterranean Regional Lead - IMFN Secretariat with Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Forest Service) spent two weeks visiting some of the Model Forests (MF) of our Network, traveling with the MMFN Secretary Toni Ventre in Italy and Greece.
Aim of the visit is to strengthen the relations between the International and Mediterranean networks, meeting with some key stakeholders, such as the Tuscany Regional Government, the Italian Ministry of Forests and Agriculture and FAO, while better understanding the priorities of MFs of the area, especially the ones that are on their way to be official recognized as part of the network (Valle dell’Aterno - Italy - and Western Macedonia - Greece -).
First stop of the visit was the meeting with the Vice-President of Tuscany Regional Government (Regione Toscana) Stefania Saccardi. It was the occasion to present to the IMFN the efforts done by Tuscany as Regional Secretariat (since 2019) of the Mediterranean Model Forest Network. Both sides expressed their willingness to continue on this path in order to carry forward the work begun in recent years to increase the use of Sustainable Forest Management, the awareness of the forest’s role to fight climate change and the involvement of the local communities in these processes.
The day after, the delegation visited the territories of the Montagne Fiorentine Model Forest (MFMF) - the first one in Italy in 2012) - meeting the MFMF associates, the mayors of the municipalities involved, the representative of National Park, the local forest managers, different kind of cultural and environmental association and the Biodiversity Sector of Carabinieri Forestali Vallombrosa. The work done by the thematic commissions of the MF were presented underlining the results achieved and the projects for the future. In true regional spirit, the Istria and Provence MFs were present with their representatives, taking part in the activities and sharing experiences from their territories. Giovan Battista de Dato, Secretary of SylvaMediterranea program of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), also explained the various activities carried out in collaboration between MMFN and the various FAO programs, mainly in the area of restoration.
The meeting was streamed on the MMFN Facebook page to let the other MFs to follow remotely and the recording is still available for who weren’t able to attend-> https://www.facebook.com/medmodelforest/videos/239551432354257
The delegation visited the Rincine Forest, a regional public property managed by Municipalities Union which has double certification (PEFC and FSC for ecosystem services too). Rincine Forest is an example of how is possible to carry on, in effective way, a full multifunctionality of the forest with a Forest Workers Training Center, a management plan addressed to the valorization of biodiversity, wood supply local chains, educational and touristic use, thematic trails, renewable energy center, and so much more.
The afternoon was dedicated to visiting some of the associates. First stop “Fattoria di Lavacchio” that makes wine in special barrels created with wood from the MFMF official trade mark. These barrels were made by another associate that used the chestnut wood of the territory to make it. After the delegation moved to Pomino, a small village where the first biomass (wood chips provided by a MF member who has a certified forest) power plant for district heating was activated in 2010 giving environmental and socioeconomic benefits to the local community. A best practice in the use of local wood as a source of renewable energy.
The visit then travelled south to continue in the Italian region of Abruzzo, to check the progress of the Valle dell’Aterno MF candidate. Here the delegation took part in a "heritage walk", an excursion in the mountain forest with some members of the MF. It was the occasion to discuss pasture and forest management, silvicultural for open areas maintenance and different ways to be environmentalists in a territory mainly managed by the municipalities and with some important protected areas where it is important to find a balance between conservation and sustainable forest management. This was followed by a public meeting with the local community and a panel discussion on wildlife management and reducing damage to agriculture and forests.
The day after was dedicated to official meetings: first the Valle dell’Aterno MF member associations, then the mayors of some member municipalities and finally the Council, secretary, the board and the committees: tourism, agriculture, forestry, culture/associations. This visit was also the occasion for the IMFN/MMFN delegation also to assess the work done by the MF candidate in Abruzzo and check if it is time to move forward with the official recognition as part of the Network.
The delegation then made a stop in Rome to meet Alessandra Stefani, the director of the Forestry Division at the Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forests. During the meeting the main challenges shared by our countries in relation to the role of sustainable forest management in combating climate change and biodiversity loss were addressed and discussed in depth. The work carried out by the IMFN over more than 30 years, in 60 Model Forests in more than 30 countries has seen participatory and shared land management as the main elements of success. All participants expressed their willingness to continue and increase their efforts to maintain this direction in the future. This includes the possibility, in the coming months, of sharing the experiences of the two Italian Model Forests through an institutional event in Rome highlighting the actions implemented to enhance and safeguard our forests and the communities that inhabit them.
The last stop of the two week mission was in Greece, more precisely in the Western Macedonia region where the Model Forest initiative is ready for going on to the accreditation process to be included in the Network. This was an occasion for the IMFN/MMFN delegation representatives to check the state of progress of the MF process activities and required documents, meet the Direction Board and Managers, local authorities and stakeholders while exploring the territories that will soon host this new MF of the Mediterranean area.
The Western Macedonia Model Forest will cover around 1 million hectares with more than 250 thousand inhabitants. This area, despite the presence of natural beauties and important cultural heritage is characterized for one among the lower per-capita income in all Europe following the downturn of coal, with the local communities and administrations seeing the MF as an occasion to reversing this trend and increase the local and regional development by creating new jobs firstly linked to Nature Based Solutions.
The report of the delegation members, clearly expresses satisfaction with these two weeks during which it was possible to verify how the Model Forest approach, also in the Mediterranean area, represents an extremely effective tool in the involvement of local communities to implement the actions necessary both for the challenges posed by climate change. All this also and above all to reverse those phenomena of continuous urbanization of rural populations that have been creating so many problems around the world for many decades.