Abandoned terraces adopted to support mountains

The project “Adotta un terrazzamento” [“Adopt a terrace” in English] aims at regulating and expanding mountain farming activities by giving any interested person the opportunity to adopt a terrace and provide direct or long-term support to the mountains of the Brenta Valley, in the Alps region in Italy.

Context and origin of the project

Terraces are created to transform a sloping mountain into a series of shelves to obtain surfaces suitable for cultivation. The walls of the terraced floors are known locally as ‘masiére’ (from Latin ‘maceries’) and are made of dry stone (i.e. without the use of lime or cement as a binder).

After the Second World War, the terraced system collapsed, with the collapse of crops that required too much manpower to manage compared to those using mechanization. As a result, the terraces were abandoned for more than 30 years, being covered by pieces of wood and subject to physical degeneration, threatening their stability. Of the 230 km of dry stone walls across the valley, more than 60% were in ruins, which endangered the safety of the slopes.

Within this context, the initiative “Adotta un terrazzamento” was born.

The project ‘Adopt a Terrace’

The ‘Adopt a terrace’ initiative is a strategic project of the Valstagna Municipality, the Terre Alte Group of the Alpino Italiano Club and of the Department of Geography of the University of Padua. The initiative was conceived following a local, ‘spontaneous adoption’, of terraces. The goal now is to regulate and expand the activity, allowing anyone to adopt a terrace, directly or indirectly restoring these features of the mountain of the Brenta Canal.

How does it work?

The adoption of the terrace is done by registering and choosing the operation to be supported on the terraces, the choice being based on the critical conditions of conservation, the aptitude for productive recovery and landscape valorisation.

It is either possible to adopt a terrace directly and cultivate it, or adopt it indirectly by paying a minimum contribution of 15€. The subscription contributes to supporting the work of a volunteer team which is in charge of recovering abandoned terraces. Contributions are used to cover the reimbursement of expenses for equipment and materials needed for the work. Groups such as schools, businesses, or other civic associations can also adopt a terrace. After 5 years of adoption, a Diploma of “Terracotta Benefactor” will be recognized by the Committee, the Municipality of Valstagna and the Italian Alpine Club. Every year, the adopters are able to visit their terrace and view the restoration efforts.

Positive social and environmental impacts

The innovation has revitalised a historical municipality abandoned by residents. The project has achieved positive impacts, both social and environmental.

  • The initiative is original;
  • The institutional partnership is between academia, local governments and civic associations;
  • The project uses wasteland and shows how to overcome limitations of private ownership (partners had to find the owners of the abandoned land, and convince them to loan the land for the project);
  • The adoption is a means of enhancing a non-profit and multifunctional approach to land use.

The project also demonstrates positive results as, to date, it has allowed the recovery of more than 100 terraces, covering more than 4ha in different parts of the valley, with the involvement of more than 100 people, most of them non-valley residents.

This project is an example of social innovation in marginalised rural areas. You can find it in SIMRA database of examples of social innovation.

For more information on the project, please visit the website:


Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
Stakeholders consultation of WP2 during SITT workshop in Bratislava

Defining and understanding social innovation for marginalised rural areas

The SIMRA Work Package tackling Theoretical and operational approaches to social innovation (WP2) is pleased to share with you the outcomes of Deliverables 2.1 and 2.2.

Social innovation (SI) has rapidly expanded in the debates and agenda of the research and policy communities over the last decade, with considerable expectations of its potential for addressing urgent societal challenges. A key question addressed is why communities in some marginalised rural areas (MRAs) respond to societal problems whereas others collapse?

Stakeholders consultation of WP2 during SITT workshop in Bratislava
Stakeholders consultation of WP2 during SITT workshop in Bratislava

Thanks to the valuable inputs and fruitful discussions across the WP2 team, and in the SIMRA transdisciplinary laboratory, the definition of social innovation in marginalized rural areas was developed and presented in Polman et al., 2017 (Deliverable 2.1) entitled “Classification of Social Innovations for Marginalized Rural Areas”. This deliverable undertook a critical analysis of theoretical approaches to social innovation, with the first involvement of members of the Social Innovation Think Tank (SITT) through an online survey, and a workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia, in October 2016. SIMRA partners contributed through e-communication (emails, video calls) and a roundtable discussion at the full project partner meeting in Barcelona, Spain in May 2017.

The outcome was a definition of social innovation for use in SIMRA of: “The reconfiguring of social practices, in response to societal challenges, which seeks to enhance outcomes on societal well-being and necessarily includes the engagement of civil society actors.” 

More at:

A transdisciplinary framework for use in understanding the emergence and divergence of social innovation in marginalised rural areas has recently been developed (Deliverable 2.2). The principal concern was to determine the conceptual and emergence factors of social innovation, the types of social innovations which are likely to occur in marginalised rural areas, and what can be done to enhance the innovation potential across different types of such areas. Four hypotheses for the most prevalent trajectories of diverging paths of social innovation have been formulated. A transdisciplinary approach has been used to enhance expert and empirical knowledge exchange to shape development trajectories, and to inform those involved in policy design and implementation.

Empirical knowledge from 166 examples of social innovation, available in the SIMRA database (Bryce et al., 2017; D3.2), has formed the basis for the development of the framework and diverging path hypotheses. Members of the SIMRA Social Innovation Think Tank were closely involved in the process through: i) the development of an initial set of SI variables through an online survey and stakeholder workshop in Bratislava, Slovakia; ii) consulting a checklist for defining SI and ranking a final list of variables used to formulate hypotheses of diverging paths. This resulted in co-production of (theoretical – empirical – expert) understanding of social innovation in marginalised rural areas addressing societally relevant problems.

More at:

Kluvánková, T., Gežik, V., Špaček, M., Brnkaláková, S., Valero, D., Bryce, R., Slee, W., Alkhaled, D., Secco, L., Burlando, C., Kozova, M., Miller, D., Nijnik, M., Perlik, M., Pisani, E., Polman, N., Price, M., Sarkii, S. and Weiss, G. 2017. Transdisciplinary understanding of SI in MRAs, Deliverable 2.2, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA). pp. 58.

Polman, N., Slee, W., Kluvánková, T., Dijkshoorn, M., Nijnik, M., Gezik, V. and Soma, K. 2017. Classification of Social Innovations for Marginalized Rural Areas, Deliverable 2.1, Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas (SIMRA). pp. 32.


Tatiana Kluvankova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)
Stanislava Brnkalakova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)
Stanislava Brnkalakova (CE SPECTRA, IFE SAS)

The mountain leaders: rural women are

Wherever you go, whatever you produce, whatever you believe in, Women of the mountains are determined to lead their societies for survival.

Rural Women

When you reach the edge of the road leading to the Bekaa Plain, you lay over the road looking for a place to grab a coffee. Turning around would lead you to Angèle. Angèle knows everything, Angèle cooks very well. Angele can help you.

With its 60 years of hardship, well drawn on her wrinkled face, Angele welcomes you in her own territory surrounded by mountains of boxes where the smell of the apricot jam takes you to the other rooms. A strong determined and smiling woman thriving to achieve in her community.

Being a woman of Education in a rural society, having decided to invest in her community and teach others how to become productive, Angele has invested in herself and her skills to build a woman based legacy for her community and her friends.

Transforming cooking from a daily burden to a source of economic return is what makes Angele a leader of the community. Having mastered the kebbeh, the Harissa and the tabbouleh, she is the reference in organizing events at the village.

Angele contributed to sharing her experience and know how with other women in the world, teaching them the art of cooking and preserving fresh products. she contributed to creating and redesigning leaders of her own image in every rural village she visited.

There are thousands of Angèle

Our Mountains are flourishing and sustained because of thousands Angèle. Every women serving her family, every women helping her family in the field, every women preparing food for her family, every woman contributing to the welfare of her community is a successful version of Angèle.

In every rural family a new Angèle rises, keeping the family warm, helping everyone get along with life issues and surviving the mountains. overcoming the strong weather, the hard conditions and the traditions and cultures.

Leaders are not made, they are born leaders and every single woman is a genetically designed leader but a rural woman in the mountains is an even greater version of leaders.

A tribute to every Angele, a tribute to every rural woman leading her fellows to creating empowered versions of community members.


Patricia Sfeir (Seeds-Int)
Patricia Sfeir (Seeds-Int)

How to be a rural woman and live to tell the tale!

It’s 5 o’clock and the alarm goes off. She has breakfast and, with the radio in the background, she gets dressed for work. Milking starts at 6, but before that she needs to take the cows to the milking parlour. They aren’t many, but with the old facilities they find it hard to get in. Once she’s done, she goes back home, wakes up the children, gives them breakfast, gets them dressed, and takes them to school. Then she goes back to the farm… and resumes her work day. She does so until noon, when she cooks lunch, picks up her children, then takes them back to school, does the afternoon milking, and afterwards she brings the children back home and stays with them until they are tired and drop off to sleep. Sometimes she wishes she had a different life, a different job that didn’t enslave her and allowed her to be more in control.

The heroine of this story doesn’t have a name: she has many. Because this is not the routine of a single woman, but rather of many women who work in the fields like their partners, but who, unlike their male companions, do not enjoy the same opportunities. In spite of the relevance of women’s work in farms, the owners of 67.31% of those farms in Spain are men. In contrast, women appear as wives and are classified as “family support” in those documents, which proves the existing inequality.

The Spanish Shared Ownership Act (Ley de Titularidad Compartida) was passed in 2011 in order to tackle this situation. The aim of this law is to give more visibility to women’s labour in the fields and to enhance their participation in different organizations. Furthermore, shared ownership means that the administration, representation and organization of the farm is shared between both owners. It also implies that income is equally distributed, that both owners are regarded as direct beneficiaries of any aid or subsidy the farm receives, and that both are liable to social security contributions. However, according to the figures of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, by the 25th of June of 2015 only 136 farms were registered under shared ownership.

Women account for 48% of the rural population and they are vital for the sustainable development of rural areas. However, women are forced to leave rural communities and move to the cities to look for better living conditions due to their lack of opportunities and their unequal access to land ownership, jobs or decision-making positions. It is women who fix population in rural areas and who ensure their continuity. But if they leave… who stays?

Therefore, it is not enough to draft laws which favour women’s visibility: new tools need to be developed for those laws to be successfully implemented. It is essential to involve local actors in the development of activities which make rural societies realise that without women there is no life in towns. We need to understand that the inequality suffered by rural women is also a form of gender violence.

Article originally published in Spanish in El Cantabria.

Translated by:
Miriam Baeza Tomás (IAMZ-CIHEAM) and Beatriz Ezquerra López (IAMZ-CIHEAM)


Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Lucía López Marco (IAMZ-CIHEAM)
Fig. 2 A stop at Drongen on the excursion route from Ghent to the port city of Temeuzen (The Netherlands). Excursion was oriented to landscape reflecting new features and challenges and was led by prof. Veerle van Eetvelde of the University of Gente. (Photo: Mária Kozová)

Presentation of the output of SIMRA project at the IALE 2017 European Congress

On September 12-15, 2017 the IALE 2017 “European Landscape Ecology Congress: From Pattern and Process to People and Action“ was held in Belgium in the beautiful historic city of Gent. The IALE 2017 European Congress was hosted by the Landscape research Unit of the Department of Geography of Ghent University and European Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE-Europe). University of Ghent is one of the top 100 world-class universities. The main objective of the IALE 2017 European Congress was to present new challenges facing landscape ecology, reflecting current societal, political and global challenges.

Fig. 1 Prof. Maria Kozová presented in the 7th section of the congress a lecture: Social Innovation for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Rural Areas: UNESCO Site Vlkolínec in Slovakia (Photo: Jana Sadovská)
Fig. 1 Prof. Maria Kozová presented in the 7th section of the congress a lecture: Social Innovation for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in Rural Areas: UNESCO Site Vlkolínec in Slovakia (Photo: Jana Sadovská)

In the thematic group “Cultural Landscapes as a meeting point” professor Maria Kozova presented a lecture: Social Innovations for Maintaining the Biocultural Heritage in Rural Areas: UNESCO Vlkolinec site in Slovakia (Fig. 1). The lecture was prepared together with the co-authors Dr. Eva Pauditsova (Comenius University in Bratislava), professor Tatiana Kluvankova and Dr. Stanislava Brnkalakova (Institute of Ecology of Forest SAS, SPECTRA Center of Excellence). The lecture is the output of the Horizon 2020 project no. 677622: “Social Innovation in Marginalized Rural Areas (SIMRA)” and VEGA Project no. 2/0038/14 Ecosystem Services to Support Landscape Protection in the Condition of Global Change. During the congress Maria Kozova also presented the goals and achievement of the SIMRA project in informal discussions with colleagues from UK, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy and Czech Republic.

Fig. 2 A stop at Drongen on the excursion route from Ghent to the port city of Temeuzen (The Netherlands). Excursion was oriented to landscape reflecting new features and challenges and was led by prof. Veerle van Eetvelde of the University of Gente. (Photo: Mária Kozová)
Fig. 2 A stop at Drongen on the excursion route from Ghent to the port city of Temeuzen (The Netherlands). Excursion was oriented to landscape reflecting new features and challenges and was led by prof. Veerle van Eetvelde of the University of Gente. (Photo: Mária Kozová)

The program of the IALE 2017 European Congress has completed by the excursions focusing on three main themes: (a) Landscape interacting with borders and frontiers; (b) Landscape: where heritage and nature meet; and (c) Landscapes reflecting new features and challenges (Fig. 2). During the congress, Maria Kozova participated in a meeting of members of the IALE Working Group “Biocultural Landscape,” in which Professor Gloria Pungetti of the University of Cambridge presented its main tasks, a plan of activities for this group for the near future, and the possibility of publishing the outputs of the members. Maria Kozova also gave to members of the working group a bulletin about the SIMRA project.

Maria Kozova (SITT member, Catholic University in Ruzomberok, Slovakia)