Members of the working groups of Model forest “River Mirna basin” in Istria have gathered 17th of March 2014 to finalise a list of their strategic objectives and to define all the activities for achieving a common vision.
This was a fifth gathering of the working groups of the MF “River Mirna basin”. Meetings for strategic planning were taking place continuously since October 2013 and main problems, challenges and aims were discussed in the fields of five working group or strategic priorities:
- Forestry, hunting and renewable energy resources;
- Education, information and nature protection;
- Agriculture, breeding and sustainable development;
- Non wood forest products valorisation and habitats protection;
- Rural tourism
At the meeting, president of each working group was presenting main identified objectives that respond to their strategic priorities with a purpose of bringing MF strategic plan for 2014-2018.
Let’s go back in the beginnings. Preparatory work for the creation of the RMB has started during EU project from the MED programme titled “Model forest – a new tool for the territorial governance” from 2009 till 2012. Istrian County was the partner in the project together with partners from Italy, France, Spain and Greece. During these years model forest site in Istria was selected and local partnership identified. Numerous meetings with local partnership were held and a model forest concept was presented in order to motivate local stakeholders to join the process.
Main cooperation in the process of creation of the MF was obtained among Istrian County (Department for agriculture and forestry), Croatian forest research institute and Croatian forests L.t.d. With the support of Mediterranean and International model forest network secretariat (IMFNS) a “Diagnostic mission” was organized in Istria in 2010. Delegation of IMFNS and Mediterranean Model Forest Network secretariat (MMFNS), in a three days tour, has visited around 70 stakeholders from various sectors in their own towns, associations, companies and farms wile spreading idea of the model forest.
To the potential stakeholders, all the benefits they can get by networking in such association were presented. Stakeholders were also asked what they can bring to the model forest.
The most interested stakeholders, 30 of them, were participating in the first Strategic workshop with the guidance of IMFNS representatives. Participants have built a basis of strategic priorities and afterwards the same stakeholders are founders of the association MF RMB.
Organizational committee for the model forest creation was founded in 2011 out of the most interested representatives of the territory. After ceremonial signing of “Letter of intent for creation of the MF” in June 2011, by the members of the organizational committee, more intensive preparation for MF foundation have started.
During 2012 five working groups are created with representatives from public, civil and private sector but are also age and gender balanced. With their mutual efforts, working groups of the MF will in the next year and a half bring a Strategic plan of the MF “River Mirna basin”.
After a long struggle with bureaucracy MF association was founded in 18th April 2013 with 38 constitutive members. Residence of the association is decided to be in Motovun, in the heart of truffle habitats and vineyard hills of northern Istria.
Strategic directions already identified during several meetings were: valorisation of truffles and other non wood forest product habitats, local economy built on eco-agricultural production, linking tourism with agriculture and rural areas, protection of endangered river Mirna flow, sustainable forestry and new valorisation of natural and traditional heritage of the area.
With mentioned starting points working groups have continued to develop objectives for sustainable development of the area through their five workshops.
Area of the MF is extremely rich in natural resources as water, forest, wildlife, non wood forest products and has potential in rural tourism and food production. Area is a world famous habitat of the white truffle whose market is yet not well organized. Mountain area of Cicarija has lost 90 % of the inhabitants in last 50 years. All this values and problems would need an integral programme for the landscape governance that will improve living standards of local communities. Common programme will help exchange ideas and knowledge among sectors and initiate support of local producers with new funds and will bring new development projects.
At the final workshop of the working groups in March 2014 stakeholders were focusing on implementation strategy. The need for environmental education of youth and children at the territory of the MF was emphasized. Several associations as speleologist, mountaineer, mushroom association and Croatian forest research institute would like to carry out this kind of activities.
About agricultural local products, members of the working groups have proposed branding them with a label MF “River Mirna basin” to prove an origin.
In the strategic priority Rural tourism, most activities identified were dealing with bringing „Tours of the MF” that will encompass natural, cultural and gastronomic heritage. There is an intention to connect local food producers and farm houses with visitors who can taste, work and enjoy Istria environment at the whole.
Promotion of the local food producers will be supported through the website of the MF and the Traceability system. MF RMB is entering into the Traceability system thanks to knowledge sharing and financial support from Mediterranean model forest network secretariat.
Traceability was proposed to local producer as a toll for advertising their products that are marked with codes. When consumer enter a code into the Traceability web site he can follow from where the raw material comes from or was grown, where and how was produced and then packed and where is sold.
Mountaineering infrastructure and houses, educative panels in forest and viewpoints will be of the great importance for the association. This way abandoned and remote mountain area of “Cicarija” would get recognition and will be valorised.
About truffle habitats in the model forest, collectors were pointing out problems of destruction of habitats with irregular harvesting. There is a need to establish legal market of truffles commerce. There is a high interest in cultivation of abandoned agricultural land with truffle trees.
Working group for forestry and renewable energy resources was pointing out a need of education of private forest owners about public funds and about the sustainable management of forest. Small properties and great number of forest owners is an obstacle for creation of one stronger forest owners association.
Members of the working groups agreed on a mission of the MF River Mirna basin that is: The activities of the Model Forest are based on an open and responsible cooperation between partners whose interests and needs are different, but they are united with a wish to contribute to economic, social and environmental well-being of the area where they live and work.