Ordinary people all over the Mediterranean Basin are the keepers of extraordinary ecological knowledge. Understanding and supporting this knowledge and the practices that are based on it is absolutely critical at a time when biodiversity and cultural diversity have never been more threatened.
In a bid to do this, the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture was established. A consortium of NGOs (Associacion Trashumancia y Naturaleza, DiversEarth, Yolda Initiative, Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos (Med-INA), Society for Protection of Nature in the Lebanon (SPNL), and WWF, with technical support from IUCN and FFI and financial support of the MAVA Foundation), have joined forces to undertake, as a first step, a project to assess and support ‘cultural conservation practices’ in the Mediterranean Basin. Through the project we aim to reinforce traditional practices, techniques and ways of living harmoniously with nature as well as celebrating the ingenuity of people all across the Mediterranean to protect and manage their lands, waters and resources. We hope that this initial project will contribute to a real revival of such practices so that they remain – or become – robust enough to stand their ground in the 21st century.
Some of the practices considered, for example transhumance and traditional / nomadic pastoralism, occur across the entire region in one form or another, lending themselves to cross-regional learning and support. Others are quite unique and place-specific (e.g. Guettayas in Garh el Milh, Tunisia). Some continue to have the fierce support of the communities practising them (e.g. traditional and spiritually-based forest management of Alewite communities in Turkey); others are struggling to maintain the interest of their youth (e.g. traditional fishing techniques, Kerkennah Island, Tunisia). Some have clearly stood the test of time (e.g. sacred groves of north western Greece); while others still are ancient practices currently being revived (e.g. Hima, Middle East). All of the practices explored here represent an outstanding wealth of traditional ecological knowledge which has until now gone largely unacknowledged by the conservation community – yet which surely holds the key to a more sustainable future in the Mediterranean.