Yes, this is the end of our project. Behind us are several years of adventures and multiple encounters with the Ponidzie nature.
When we trying to remind, we can see the visits in National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, first consultations, when we awaited for the acceptance of the project, successful negotiations and the question – can we do it.
It wasn`t an easy project.
Staff has changed, we had to learn a lot, we made mistakes, but .. we did it.
Behind us are meetings with the farmers, overcoming distrust, negotiations with local government authorities, building of touristic infrastructure, international conferences, meetings with people of Ponidzie and, as the project progresses, a sense of satisfaction.
In addition to cooperation with local farmers, the one of the main advantages were communication and dissemination activities including: educational workshops, horse patrols, ecological carnivales which made the project better perceived and certainly contributed to its positive reception.
Over time we asked ourselves a question: what should we do to make our „mowers” fit permanently into the Ponidzie landscape? What to do to make our hard-recovered calcareous grasslands not dissappear from ecosystem? It seems that our ideas to create a fashion for healthy food, which, certainly, is a lamb meet, the most important role is farming economy.
It has to pay off! Therefore our actions promoting the consumption of lamb and sheep meet and attemps to create the brand „Lamb meet from Ponidzie” must be successful.
We would like to thank all of you, with whom we had a pleasure to cooperate within the project We would like to thank institutions, local governments, farmers, educators, scientists and NGOs for their help, patience, advice and kindness.
We would like to thank to the European Commision and the Executive Agencies of the LIFE+ Program, the local government of Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship and the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.
And because the nature of Ponidzie awaits … let`s meet at the new LIFE project.
On November 15-16, 2018, the V Platform Meeting of LIFE projects took place in Busko-Zdrój. The two-day conference in the „open space” formule was an opportunity to exchange experiences and discuss the difficulties related to the implementation of individual activities. The meeting was attended by over 30 people – employees of various institutions implementing polish LIFE projects. Issues related to the ongoing implementation of projects and their reporting in formal and financial terms were discussed. A separate problem that was considered was the durability of projects and the operation of „After LIFE” – including the ways of such an draft agreement with the beneficiaries and persons implementing projects to continue the protection activities that are no longer financed by the European Commission. For our part, we were able to boast of the introduction of the brand „Jagnięcina z Ponidzia” to the market, which will be conducive to the profitability of sheep breeding after the end of the project. The ride on the „Ciuchcia Ponidzie” (local narrow-gauge railway) from Pińczów to Umianowice was not only an opportunity to show off one of our tourist attractions, but we could also familiarize participants with the area where we will be implementing our next LIFE project.
Networking with other LIFE projects is an action that the European Commission has identified as mandatory. Inter-institutional cooperation, exchange of experience and information is aimed at gaining valuable substantive and practical knowledge, helping Beneficiaries to effectively implement planned activities. Networking concerns not only domestic but also foreign projects. In connection with the above, between 07-10 November 2018 we took part in a work trip to Belgium, where the effects of the LIFE Pays Mosan project implementation were discussed (07/11/2018) and in the Kick-off Meeting conference (08/9/11/2018) inaugurating LIFE projects that this year received funding for implementation, including the project LIFE17 NAT/PL/000018 pn. Renaturalisation of the inland delta of the Nida River.
The main assumption of the LIFE Pays Mosan project is to restore natural and semi-natural grasslands in the Meuse River basin and its tributaries, by grazing sheep and goats. Project covers a vast area of over 25,000 hectares extending from the Marche-en-Famenne all the way to Maastricht (Flanders-Wallonia-Netherlands). The coordinating beneficiary is the NGO Natagora. However, the meeting was conducted by the Co-beneficiary – Naaturpunt responsible for the part lying on the border between Flanders, Wallonia and the Netherlands.
The purpose of the visit was to familiarize with the implementation of the LIFE Pays Mosan project and the exchange of know-how. The meeting started in the Vroenhoven, at the border with Maastricht. The program of the visit included: presentation of the assumptions of the LIFE Pays Mosan project, visits to grazing areas in Flanders, Wallonia and the Netherlands and a meeting with a local farmer, whose duty is to sustain a balanced pasturage of sheep and goats.
On next days, ie 08-09 November 2018, in Brussels, we took part in the Kick-off Meeting conference inaugurating new LIFE projects. The main purpose of the meeting was to briefly present projects that this year received funding from the European Commission. The program of the meeting included lectures of representatives of the European Commission, which discussed, among others, changes in LIFE projects, the role of external project monitors. It was also possible to get to know the project supervisor from the EC. In the second part of the meeting, the participants were divided into five thematic groups, within which project presentations and discussions took place. The policy of continuation, replication and transfer of knowledge obtained as part of the implementation of project activities within the panel was discussed.
The subject of the last day of the conference concerned, in particular, the arrangements contained in the agreement with the European Commission (so-called Common Provisions), requirements for reporting the course of the project implementation and the discussion panel.
On 27-30 October 2018, the LIFE project employees took part in a networking trip to Spain (Basque Country), where the effects of OREKA Mendian project were examined. Its main assumption is to develop a management strategy for mountain pastures occurring in fifteen Natura 2000 sites in Euskadi and eight in Iparralde by balancing the need to protect valuable natural areas and their socio-economic use.
The coordinating beneficiary and the host of the visit was HAZI – a governmental organization whose aim is to increase the competitiveness and sustainability of the food sector and the sustainable development of the rural and coastal environment. In addition, the organization certifies and promotes Basque Euskolabel quality products.
The co-beneficiary of the project is the IHOBE organization operating in the field of environmental protection and management. Its mission is to support the Department of Environment, Spatial Planning, Agriculture and Fisheries of the Basque Government in developing environmental policy and disseminating the idea of sustainable development in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (Spain).
The purpose of the visit was to familiarize with the progress of the implementation of the mentioned project and to exchange experiences. The meeting took place on an experimental farm in Iturrieta village. The program of the visit included: discussion of the LIFE OREKA Mendian project and the „Protection of valuable natural habitats in Ponidzie” project, visit to the implementation area in the Natura 2000 Special Protection Zone of the Entzia SAC, where it was planned to visit grazing areas and the Legaire village, where there are major problems with soil erosion . The first part of the meeting included the exchange of experiences and ideas. The subject of the project as well as the know-how of the hosts turned out to be helpful in planning further activities, in particular regarding the AFTER Life program. The Basque attempt to balance the interest of nature conservation with the local socio-economic conditions (sheep grazing in naturally valuable areas, cheese production, product promotion, certification and further sale) was in line with the LIFE Ponidzie project assumptions. The presented communication activities between various stakeholder groups – public administration, scientists, farmers, landowners, public opinion, non-governmental organizations, tourist and sports organizations, and hunting were extremely valuable and will certainly contribute to better implementation of the planned activities and the future LIFE4Delta project.
The second part of the meeting included a field trip to the areas covered by the project. Unfortunately, due to very bad weather conditions (snowstorm), only a few of the planned places have been visited, i.e. grazing areas around the farm along with solutions for spatial fences and water reservoirs as well as surfaces not yet cleaned of trees and shrubs. The meeting ended with neolithic dolmen Sorginetxe, known in the local tradition as a „witch’s house”.
On 19 and 26 October there were preventive patrols on Garb Pińczowski. They were attended by the youth from Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Hugona Kołłątaja w Pińczowie, Gimnazjum nr 2 w Pińczowie and Ośrodek Wychowawczy w Podzamczu Chęcińskim. They began with a lecture on nature conservation delivered by Cezary Jastrzębski, Ph.D. from the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce. Police and fire brigade officers also delivered lectures about safety issues. Despite bad forecasts, the weather was fine, which was important for the main task that the youth had to perform, which was to boost the population of plants typical for calcareous grasslands. On nine appropriately prepared sites, the flax, carlina thistle, cornflower and catnip seeds were sown. The youth participating in patrols will be able to check the effects of their work in a few months, as it is still fall, not spring – even though the snowdrop anemone has bloomed.
We have summarized the four-year long efforts undertaken as part of our project. The two-day meeting in Busko Zdrój was an opportunity to talk about the effects of our actions and to discuss the future of sheep farming in Ponidzie. Several dozens of participants, including people working under LIFE projects in Greece, Belgium and Hungary, learned about the course of our project and its effects.
During the conference the following reports were presented:
“A summary of the results of the LIFE13 NAT/PL/000038 project” – Wojciech Sołtysiak, ZŚiNPK (Complex of Świętokrzyskie and the Nida River Landscape Parks) in Kielce,
“Results of nature monitoring conducted under the LIFE project” – Mariusz Simka, OBiKŚ (Ośrodek Badań i Kontroli Środowiska Sp. z o.o.) Katowice,
“Active protection – a recipe for the preservation of biodiversity” – prof. Małgorzata Jankowska-Błaszczuk from the Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce,
“Protection of Ponidzie’s natural habitats and the process of social and economic development of rural areas” – Professor Czesław Nowak from the University of Agriculture in Kraków
““Eco Service – need or necessity?” and “Small ruminants in natural environment and in culture” – Professor Andrzej Junkuszew from the University of Life Sciences in Lublin
“Biodiversity business as a tool in nature conservation” – Professor Tadeusz Zając from the Institute of Nature Conservation of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Participants discussed the social effects of restoring sheep farming in Ponidzie and methods of increasing its economic profitability
On the second day of the conference, a field trip was organized. Although there were no more sheep among the glowing oak trees in Młodzawy, the guests could still see Konik ponies lured by apples , and on the Serpentines the same interest as the sheep was aroused by the llamas grazing together with them – curious and guarding their sheep herds.
This Sunday’s picnic on the Pińczów meadows was really a grazing. The aim of our project was to promote ecological sheep farming related to the protection of xerothermic grasslands. This is the last grazing season under the project, but the sheep are already well settled in Ponidzie, the herd is growing and the grazing will be continued over the next few years for the benefit of protected grasslands and breeders.
We invited entire families and the entire families came. It was worth it, because there were attractions for everyone. The biggest one, of course, was the opportunity to admire the efficient work of sheep shearers. The weather was good, so the youngest children formed a long queue to the inflatable slide. Children could also enjoy face painting and playing with blocks. The stand of the Complex of Świętokrzyskie and the Nida River Landscape Parks (ZŚiNPK) was probably the most popular one. Here you could check your knowledge about the nature of Ponidzie, do the puzzle showing a map of landscape parks, or color a picture – for example of a stag beetle. Two song and dance ensembles: Honaj from Dursztyn-Spisz and Furmani from Bodzentyn, alternately, gave performances on the stage for four hours.
Apart from that, you could taste specialties prepared by the Farmer’s Wives Association from Kopernia, delicious cheeses from the Łukasiks' farm or lamb stew served by the “Zamek Dersława” restaurant from Busko Zdrój.
Those of you who didn’t manage to be with us yesterday can watch a short footage: sheep shearing and performances of the ensembles, but it’s a pity that you could not try the delicious stew.
Polish ponies (also known as Koniks or Konik polski) are a primitive breed of small horses, whose wild ancestors were the tarpans once living in Polish and Lithuanian forests. In the Białowieża Forest they survived until the 18th century. The last wild herd was then caught. Initially, they were a natural attraction, and their regular breeding has been practiced in Poland since 1923.
Our Polish ponies feel good among the bright oak trees in Młodzawy and bravely support the herd of sheep by biting bush and undergrowth. Two stallions and three mares that came to us from the landscape parks in the zone of Pilica River have already got used to the sheep and goats that are constantly around them. The horses like to steal hay from sheep feeders. Their delicacy, however, is dry bread, and they would eat sugar cubes from one’s hand.
TVP3 Kielce footage:
Farmers complain about the hot and dry spring, but such conditions are appropriate for the plants growing on our plantation. Not surprisingly, they are steppe plants and thermophilic plants. The carlinas form flowers. The Linum hirsutum blooms beautifully in blue and the Yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) is extremely impressive. The Serratula lycopifolia had started to shed blossom, so we begun collecting their seeds. The Dictamnus albus also shed blossom, and because it „shoots” its seeds to a distance of even a few meters, in order to collect them, we wrapped the seed bags in gauze.
Serratula lycopifolia can be found in Poland only in two places in Ponidzie: in the Skorocice reserve and in Górki. It is a unique plant, which is under strict protection. After obtaining appropriate permits, we reinforced the population of Serratula lycopifolia in Skorocice within the framework of active protection. We collected the seeds last year on our plantation. Despite the drought, several dozen of individuals bravely cope on the gypsum slope in Skorocice. It can therefore be optimistically assumed that the site of this extremely rare plant will be preserved.