During the thirteenth session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (13.COM), that took place in Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius, from Monday 26 November to Saturday 1 December 2018, a joint proposal on the “Art of dry stone walling, knowledge and techniques” submitted by Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, and Switzerland was accepted by UNESCO to be inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Cyprus Institute was one of the 21 organizations who supported Cyprus' participation in the proposal.
The construction of drystone walls is a millennium-long tradition for many mountain communities in Cyprus and other Mediterranean countries. Apart from sustaining mountain agricultural and rural livelihoods, drystone terraces are vital for water retention and soil erosion control in sloping hillsides, as well as an important habitat for biodiversity. These man-made structures are an integral part of cultural landscapes and their construction and maintenance relies on indigenous knowledge.
Despite their importance in terms of agro-ecological provision and cultural heritage, mountain terrace landscapes in the Mediterranean region are gradually abandoned as a result of socio economic changes. The abandonment of these cultural landscapes implies land degradation as well as detachment of the young generation from traditional land management practices and loss of indigenous knowledge. For the past five years, researchers from EEWRC’s Water Division have been working closely with the mountain communities and local stakeholders of Alona, Platanistasa and Polystipos, in the framework of the EU-funded RECARE Project, in a joint effort to revitalize the art of drystone construction and maintenance.
The Cyprus Institute is committed to promoting sustainable land management practices through integrated research initiatives, and strongly believes that the registration of drystone art in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity will facilitate the transfer of indigenous knowledge to the next generation, and will motivate local communities to better preserve these cultural landscape features.
You can read the related article on UNESCO’s website here: https://ich.unesco.org/en/RL/art-of-dry-stone-walling-knowledge-and-techniques-01393