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Networking activities with LIFE OREKA Mendian project (Basque Country)

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”.