Agriculture and terraced Landscape in Cembra Valley (Trentino, Italy): A case study of reciprocal promotion


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Agriculture and terraced Landscape in Cembra Valley (Trentino, Italy): A case study of reciprocal promotion

  1. 1. Contribution type: case study describing an example of terraced system in the Italian Alps Theme: Land management and social organization Author: Damiano Zanotelli Institution: Comunità Valle di Cembra, piazza S. Rocco 9, 38034 Cembra, (Trento) Italy Contribution: Agriculture and terraced Landscape in Cembra Valley (Trentino, Italy) A case study of reciprocal promotion Abstract Cembra Valley (Trentino – Italy) is a representative situation of several alpine valleys in which agriculture is maintained only on those terraces where viticulture is feasible, while other fields were abandoned during the second half of the last century. The istitution “Comunità della Valle di Cembra” developed a project for the sustainable development of the Valley that is divided in three sub action: 1) reinforcing the contacts between food and wine producers and other economic/touristic activities of the valley to develop a short distribution chain and to highlight the value of the terraced landscape; 2) Promoting a course on agro-biodiversity and organic agriculture to form, involve and bring together those persons who started (or want to start) to farm back in our abandoned terraced fields; 3) Promoting different initiative regarding traditional knowledge and contemporary values of terraced landscape in close collaboration with ITLA-Italy ( Italian section of the International Alliance for Terraces Landscape). While
  2. 2. it is hard to state the successfulness of these initiatives, what we can certify so far is the great involvement of the local community. Due to the high costs of cultivating on terraces there is a need of a cultural maturation of the whole community, which should understand all the benefits of a well maintained landscape and consider the option of sustain the system either by a fair trade or by public contributions Introduction: This contribution is intended to present the present situation and possible future development of the Cembra Valley (Trentino, Italy), an alpine terraced area well representing the current socio-economic dynamics of the so called “marginal” territory (figure 1). Despite its steep slopes, this valley has been cultivated since the pre-roman era mainly for wine production but also with any kind of other agricultural products (cereals, vegetables, fruits, etc) necessary for a subsidence economy. During this long period, which lasted for centuries, an intricate and capillary system of terraces has been built to keep the fertile soil on the slope available for farming, transforming the valley into a characteristic terraced landscape. When the industrial boom arrived at our latitudes, approximately a decade after the end of the second world war, the most marginal field started to be abandoned, and this process continued throughout the ´70 and ´80 in all those lands not suited to host the viticulture, because they were not providing a sufficient economic income to support the new life style. The present situation sees the Valley divided in two main settings: the first where the land is well maintained for high quality wine production, which faces problems linked with modern and intensive agriculture; the second, involving mostly the upper part and the less favorable oriented side of the valley, where terraced land has been abandoned but where there is an increasing interest among the people on re-starting producing organic and traditional food. Starting from this situation, our istitution “Comunità della Valle di Cembra” developed a project, divided in three sub actions, for the sustainable development of the Valley: • To reinforce the contacts between food and wine producers and other economic/touristic activities aiming to develop a short distribution chain and to highlight the value of the terraced landscape. • To promote a “non traditional” course on agro-biodiversity and organic agriculture to form, involve and bring together those persons who started (or wants to start) to farm back in our abandoned terraced fields. • To promote of different initiatives regarding the traditional knowledge and the contemporary values of terraced landscape in close collaboration with ITLA-Italy ( Italian section of the International Alliance for Terraces Landscape)
  3. 3. Figure 1. Localization of the Cembra Valley within the European map. Promotion and conservation of terraced viticulture The first action was aimed to promote the products of our terraced viticulture and other food products by reinforcing the relations between producers and economic operators dealing directly with consumers (local or tourist) in the Cembra valley and in the closest territories to install a collaboration based on the concept of the short distribution chain. This project has been facilitated by the presence of the consortium “Cembrani DOC”, an association of 8 private producers of high quality wines and grappa who want to promote together not only their products but the whole Valley as a unique landscape for shapes, environment and tradition (figure 2). Cembra valley was indeed being inserted in the book “Historical rural landscape” edited by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture for the 150th Anniversary of the Italian State in 2011. This project allowed us to promote the agricultural products among local economic operators, to increase the awareness about the importance of consuming local food and to diffuse among them the importance of preserving the quality of the environment and the landscape. This last concept is crucial since, especially due to economic crisis and the needs of mechanization, there is a tendency of adopting growing systems and solutions which trivialize the landscape often enhancing soil erosion processes.
  4. 4. Figure 2. winter picture of the terraced viticulture of the Cembra Valley with its traditional villages. Agro-biodiversity and organic agriculture The second task of the “Sustainable development project” aimed to recover knowledge and biological material of those varieties of vegetables, fruits and cereals that were cultivated for centuries on the terraced slopes of the valley and to stimulate a return in the farming sector by promoting those organic cultivations that could provide also interesting economic incomes if proposed in the proper place (like farmer markets, ethical purchasing groups etc). We started last fall (November 2013) with a course to draw the basis of organic agriculture, the concepts of agro-biodiversity, the importance of soil and the role of terraces for keeping the proper ecological equilibrium. During the winter 2014 several meeting occurred to verify the interest among the people and to deep the knowledge on those agricultural sectors that could provide fair economic benefits to the farmers. Five themes were analyzed in likewise meetings: organic beekeeping, organic horticulture, small size organic animal farming; mountain cereals production, and organic viticulture. The meetings were organized in different villages of the valley and included a technical speech and an experience of a local grower. The course will finish in spring 2014 with a practical phase where some small terraces will be followed by the participants. The project is still ongoing so it is not yet possible to draw a balance. What I can say for sure is that there is an increasing interest in these theme confirmed by the numerous and lively attendance so far. A success will be to see some terraces effectively and durably recovered after this initiative. Preserving traditional knowledge and supporting the contemporary values of terraced landscape (in collaboration with ITLA) Beside the two previously described projects, other initiatives have been carried out within the Cembra Valley in agreement with the mission of the International Alliance for Terraced Landscapes (ITLA) and in close collaboration with its Italian section. In particular, thanks to the work of the association “Imperial
  5. 5. Wines”, a survey on the traditional knowledge about the agricultural practices that risk to be forgotten but also about the perception of the new generation about the terraced landscapes has been carried throughout the Valley. The interviews have been collected in a small publication named “Working the Landscape”. This publication has been presented during the European meeting of ITLA, hosted by our community during the first weekend of May 2013. The survey was the base for a second similar work but done in a video format. This documentary project called “Talking Stones”, will collect experiences and memories from old farmers, but also thoughts and hopes of the new generation who wants to live on this territory. From the preliminary results one thing that emerges always from the old men is the enormous exertion required to build the drywalls and in general to work the fields, exertions often considered useless when seen with the today´s eyes. Another worry that often comes out regards the intensive level reached by modern agriculture with adaptations and simplification (both structural and biological) that risk to level off those peculiarity differences that distinguish in positive way the mountain agriculture. “Talking stones” will become a social website which will collect all the audio and video clips as well as publications and comments from the subscribers. Another initiative was directed to the stone worker craftsmen to avoid the loss of ability to build drywalls. The idea, carried out with other territories, was to form normal people and artisans through a theoretical and practical course to have qualified people to maintain and rebuild the traditional terraces (Figure 3). This project, still partially ongoing, allowed so far to keep high the attention on the importance of the terraced landscape for both historical and ecological reasons, and to transmit this concept also to the new generations of “landscape workers”.
  6. 6. Figure 3. Front-page of the theoretical and practical course for proper building of drywalls carried out in Cembra Valley in the autumn 2013 with all the association and institution involved. General Conclusions To conclude this contribution the general indications that can be drawn from these experiences are: • There is a general recognition of the value of the landscape itself among the farmers but there is also a great concern about its maintenance mainly because of the cost of building drywalls. The “Landscape commission”, which is operating in our territory analyzing all the main interventions on the landscape and releasing the required authorizations, is often seen as an obstacle by the farmers who would tend nowadays to renovate their field adopting less labor intensive solutions with respect to drywalls with often the consequence to cause other types of problems such as soil erosion.
  7. 7. • There is a general increasing interest on the agricultural sector made of people who want to live in a closer contact with the nature and the land. There is anyway the need to begin an activity that is also economic sustainable to make any restoration project durable for years. • There is a need for a cultural maturation in the perception of terraced landscape by the citizens of our community. The farmers, or landscape workers, should realize that part of the value of their products is derived from its association to a healthy environment and to a well maintained landscape, in a way which is also economically quantifiable. For these reasons it is important to keep high the debate about the contemporary value of the terraces and the work done by ITLA in this field is particularly remarkable