Terraviva: economic and environmental restoration of terraced landscapes in Antrona Valley

Environmental sustainability, Governance

TERRAVIVA tackles the widespread problem of fragmentation of land properties. It focuses on terraced slopes in the Antrona Valley, once cultivated by the local population and then neglected since the early 60s of the past century. Today many of the landowners have emigrated from the valley, terraced slopes remain abandoned and, in many cases, people are not even aware of the consistence and localization of their belongings.
Abandonment leads to losses of biodiversity, hydrogeological stability, cultural and social identity, opportunities of integrated development at a local scale (e.g. tourism, local products, short supply chains). TERRAVIVA proposes an innovative form of association which engages landowners as well as local public authorities (Borgomezzavalle Municipality, Ossola Protected Area Management Body), in order to: gather small, abandoned and fragmented properties together and make them available for farmers and other stakeholders; directly engage the civil society in taking good care of the territory, fostering a collective approach which relies on recogntion of mutual rights and duties; promote a sharing economy initiative, in order to give new life to abandoned terraces.
The TERRAVIVA association makes the land available at no cost. The TERRAVIVA experiment is putting a focus back on an “evergreen” – but never solved – issue: that of the abandonment of lands in mountainous areas. The project proposes a participative approach via public-private partnerships. Citizens and landowners feel that the local public administrations are deeply engaged in the initiative rather than being just external observers or promoters. This leads to a widely perceived legitimacy of the process. Some participants also look at the landowners association as a “way of return” to their valley: the association brings back an ancient spirit of community which is part of the local heritage. Nonetheless, the TERRAVIVA project is investigating the environmental benefits deriving from the restoration of terraced landscapes and promotes a monitoring programme based on ex-ante (abandonment) and ex-post (cultivation phase) evaluation.

Networking, Public Participation
Borgomezzavalle Municipality, Ossola Protected Areas Management Body, “Il Sogno” Social Cooperative

The landowners association was set up in July 2017. So far, various inhabitants and emigrants have become conscious of being part of the challenge, and nearly 30 landowners have joined the association (it has to be pointed out that Boromezzavalle municipality counts 317 inhabitants).
Since its constitution, the TERRAVIVA association has been gathering together about 1 hectare of fragmented terraced properties, but there are other expressions of interest and the manageable surface is likely to increase in the near future.
The next steps are: enlargement of the association, in terms of both participants and surfaces; a forthcoming launch of a public call for pilot projects related to sustainable agriculture, innovation in terms of short supply chains (linking local productions with tourism and receptivity), involvement of young farmers as well as social cooperatives and firms.

“Impacts on the community: the Association has spread beyond the Municipality of Borgomezzavalle and has involved other landowners throughout the valley as well as the Municipality of Villadossola. To date, the TERRAVIVA Association is gathering about 3,5 hectares of neglected terraced lands. The experience launched by TERRAVIVA is raising the interest of a growing number of residents and public officers/administrators; moreover, the partners are pursuing further developments of the initiative, especially in the fields of social farming (being the Social Cooperative “Il Sogno” one of the partners of the project) and sustainable tourism/agri-tourism.
Impacts on the local economy: The first public call for access to land has delivered two lots of land to two local farmers (unexpectedly the land demand by farmers had been higher than initial availability). Farmers secure compliance to agroecology rules set by the TERRAVIVA Association. Berries, fruits and saffron will grow upon the terraces of the TERRAVIVA initiative. By cultivating the land made available farmers increase their yields and incomes, promote their local and highly environmentally sustainable products, become part of a network which brings together consumers, producers, landowners.
Impacts on the environment: ongoing monitoring gathers scientific data about the beneficial effects of restoration and cultivation of terraced landscapes on local habitats, flora and fauna.”

(Photo credtis: Marco Tessaro)

* Information at the level of NUTS 3 or local regions.