Akrotiri Marsh (also known as Fassouri marsh/reedbed) is part of the unique Akrotiri wetland complex on the Akrotiri Peninsula in Limassol district. The marsh is a Ramsar Site, an Important Bird Area (IBA), and a Special Protection Area (SPA). It covers an area of around 150 hectares and draws from the Akrotiri aquifer, thus remaining green throughout summer.
The area is important for rare bird species, amphibians, invertebrates and plants. The connection between the marsh and humans dates back centuries as the area supplied the raw materials for the traditional activity of basketry and grazing for the animals of the residents of Akrotiri village.
Basketry: a traditional art in Akrotiri
The abundant production of self-sown reeds along the Akrotiri Marsh resulted in the systematic engagement, professionally, of the local population with basketry, which is one of the oldest fields of handcrafting by local population. It is an ancient art, which the local people have inherited from their ancestors.
The raw material used for the making of baskets mainly included plants found in wetlands, and the constant need for this raw material has contributed to the conservation of the wetlands of Akrotiri to this day by local population. In fact, ten different kinds of plants have been used for the making of the baskets.
The basket was once a basic type of knitting art in many parts of the village, and was once used in cheese making and for olive pressing. They were also used to transport fruits or vegetables from the field, in fishing as well as in many other daily human activities.
The multisecular perpetuation of this activity is not due to chance. Besides, love, passion and the particular technique of the villagers has made some of them stand out, leaving their personal stamp on what they were creating. Unfortunately, today, this art, and the traditional way of life of residents, is endangered due to dwindling trade and the introduction of plastic in the contemporary era with all its harmful components. This traditional craft is at risk of disappearing because few villagers still practice this profession because it is no longer profitable.
Efforts to preserve the ecological and cultural importance of the marsh
The Akrotiri Environmental Education Center has long contributed to the preservation of this activity by promoting the conservation of marsh plants, running basketry courses and organizing visits of groups to basketmakers, where people can both admire and buy baskets. In addition, cultural trails have been created – while walking along these trails; strollers are given the opportunity to walk past all the houses whose inhabitants continue to make baskets.
This important wetland has been suffering from a lack of management during the past few decades, but important restoration works have been carried out lately by the Darwin-funded project “Akrotiri Marsh Restoration: a flagship wetland in the Cyprus SBAs”. The project included conservation and management actions in combination with public awareness raising efforts intended to preserve the habitat and the salt lake, as well as to enhance the activities of the residents from surrounding communities such as the promotion of basketry, which secures the natural balance in the area. The project was implemented by BirdLife Cyprus, the Akrotiri Environmental Education Centre, and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).
To know more about Akrotiri Marsh and the project please go to the project’s website on www.akrotirimarsh.org.
See the state of Akrotiri Marsh after the restoration works