Mediterranean Workshop on the Cultural and Natural Values of Wetlands

A picture of the participants of the Workshop

 The Mediterranean Workshop on the Natural and Cultural Values of Wetlands: Towards an integrated approach took place in the Greek side of the Prespa Lakes from the 23-27 September 2009. The workshop was organised by the Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (Med-INA) in co-operation with MedWet and the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP). It was organised in the framework of the Med-INA project -Cultural aspects of Mediterranean wetlands-  funded mainly by the MAVA foundation.

The purpose of Med-INA’s work on the “Cultural aspects of Mediterranean wetlands” is to understand, document and strengthen the links between inhabitants and visitors in the Mediterranean wetland sites and to show that the inclusion of cultural aspects in wetland management can increase the social pressure for the conservation of these sites and enhance the interest of visitors on Mediterranean wetlands which in turn will increase the income of local communities. The workshop was part of their mission to disseminate knowledge, monitor and draw future conclusions on cultural actions in Mediterranean wetland sites. 

The workshop was attended by experts in nature conservation and in cultural matters as well as wetland managers and Ramsar/MedWet Focal Points from various Mediterranean countries like Slovenia, Jordan, Morocco, Albania, Lebanon etc. The presentations were divided into five thematic units which were

– the wetland cultural landscapes touched on the current trends and concerns, the perception of wetlands landscapes through the arts presented by Professor Peter Howard and focused on the Prespa landscape by writer Julian Hoffman and the Neretva Delta in Croatia presented by Mr Eugen Draganovic from the Croatian Ministry of Culture.

 – the archaeological sites and historic buildings were presented through case studies like the Butrint case and the Kune-Vaini area in Albania presented by Mr Zamir Dedej and Mr Sajmir Beqiraj from the University of Tirana respectively as well as sites in Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece.

 – the cultural aspects of productive activities was discussed in depth by the participants. It analysed issues of the conservation of Salinas by Professor Theoodora Petanidou from the Aegean university, food and gastronomy presented by Ms Irini Lyrintzaki from the scientific secretariat of med-INA, fisheries, agriculture and stock breeding and others.

– the spiritual and secular aspects of wetlands was discussed in terms of the main religions in the South Mediterranean by Nejib Benessaiah, Acting MedWet Coordinator and the North Mediterranean by Josep-Maria Mallarach from the Silene Association. This theme also included a presentation of ecotourism activities and culture in Jordan by Mr Ma’en Smadi from the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSCN), Slovenia by Ms Vanja Debevec-Gerjevic from the Park Skocjanske jame and Albania from Ms Violeta Zuna from the GEF/UNDP.

– effective management of the natural and cultural heritage was presented by Mr Thymio Papayannis and Mr Dave Pritchard who represented the Ramsar Culture Working Group.

The presentations demonstrated examples of good practice of cultural and natural aspects integration in the management of Mediterranean wetlands, as well as problems that arise in the process. The participants were a mix of academics and professionals in this sector which provided a diversity of information and ultimately an informative and enriching exchange of ideas.

 The MedWet Communication Officer, Lily Mordechai, asked the workshop participants their views o­n the workshop and al of them declared their satisfaction with the thematology and the organisation. Mr Vassilis Spyratos from the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea attributed the success of the workshop to the combination of the people, the place and the theme. He said the workshop gave him an acurate and wide perspective in the integration of cultural and natural heritage, which is an essential aspect for the present and future of Man and Nature, and he greatly enjoyed the quality of participants and presentations. The location in which the workshop was held the Greek side of the Prespa lakes is part of a major transboundary Ramsar site shared with Albania and the FYR of Macedonia with immense natural beauty. The participants were taken on field trips and experienced first hand the combination of natural and cultural environment by visiting traditional villages as well as monuments. Mr Assad Adel Serhal who presented  the tradition of “Hima” as a means of conserving natural environments from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)  said he greatly enjoyed the variety of participants who came from diverse backgrounds like governments, NGO’s, academics and the Arts. He said he attended because he believes culture and nature are the two sides of the same coin and he found the workshop presented this in a holistic manner.

At the end of the workshop MedWet presented their proposal to revive the MedWet Culture Network which will collect and present to the MedWet members, information o­n cultural and natural activities in the Mediterranean. In the near future the proceedings of the workshop will be published in a book and CD ROM by Med-INA.

For more information on the workshops agenda with a full list of presentation and participants please click here.