With the aim of identifying problems and sustainable solutions for the restoration of Agro-ecosystems for the Mediterranean, a workshop was successfully held on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 in Agros village by researchers from the water and ecosystems division of the Energy Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC) of The Cyprus Institute.
The workshop is the first in a series of meetings on land restoration and sustainable soil and water management solutions and their impacts on Mediterranean agro-food ecosystems. At the workshop, participatory techniques facilitated the exchange of information and mutual learning between producers of the Troodos region, officials of the Department of Agriculture, researchers and other stakeholders in preventing and remediating land degradation.
The primary focus of the workshop was on soil erosion, a major cause of land degradation in the Mediterranean region. Indicatively, the region loses half a ton of fertile soil per hectare annually, and by 2050 it is predicted that over 10% of its productive agricultural land will be lost due to soil erosion. Dr. Christos Zoumides, researcher of the Cyprus Institute who facilitated the workshop, noted that research in the Troodos mountains shows that soil loss in abandoned sloping lands is nearly four times greater than in agricultural plots with well-maintained terraces and drystone walls.
The workshop was attended by a diverse group of participants, including farmers and wine agronomists from the Troodos region, officers from the Department of Agriculture, the Administrative Authority of the Rural Development Program, and researchers from the Agricultural Research Institute and the Cyprus Institute.
The active discussion of problems related to land degradation revealed issues such as the gradual land abandonment in mountainous areas, poor terrace maintenance, as well as uncontrolled use of heavy machinery to create new or restructure existing terraces. All the participants gave their own perspective and highlighted local issues and peculiarities. Among the solutions discussed were drystone terrace maintenance, the need to establish guidelines for the use of agricultural excavators, as well as the use of compost, shredded pruning materials and green manuring. Some of these solutions are included in the agri-environmental measures of the new Rural Development Program 2023-2027, and the discussion focused on whether these measures are attractive to farmers and feasible to implement successfully in the Troodos area.
The workshop was organized in the framework of the PRIMA REACT4MED project entitled “Inclusive Outscaling of Agro-ecosystem Restoration ACTions of the Mediterranean", and took place in in 7 other Mediterranean countries that face similar land and water management issues (Greece, Italy, Israel, Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt). Through this process, scientific knowledge, good farming practices and their application in policy measures will be harmonized with the social and economic development of each region so that benefits from restorations are fairly distributed, especially to vulnerable areas and social groups. The REACT4MED project is funded by the PRIMA Program with the support of Horizon Europe, and consists of 11 partners (universities, research institutes, as well as an SME) across the PRIMA cooperating countries. In the course of the project, which will last until 2025, the partners will work systematically for the widespread implementation of measures to strengthen the sustainable management of soils and water and support the agro-food productivity of the Mediterranean regions, as well as the acceleration and dissemination of the relevant technological innovations.