IMPACT Interreg Europe kick-off meeting takes place

IMPACT Interreg project partners

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The European project IMPACT Interreg Europe has started with the celebration of a three day kick off meeting organized by the Andalusian Regional Council, which took place between Seville and the Nature Park Sierra de Grazalema, Spain. EUROPARC Federation, as the communication advisor partner of the project, was present in this meeting.

An interregional initiative to balance the use and preservation of protected areas

Together with the Spanish representatives and leaders of the project, members from Germany, France, Italy, Lithuania and Romania have addressed the action lines of IMPACT (Innovative Models for Protected Areas: ExChange and Transfer). Its ultimate goal is to introduce a new approach to protected area planning in order to meet current challenges in conservation together with sustainable development.

The Conference was inaugurated by Javier Soto, Director of the project and from the Andalusia Regional Council, and counted with the participation of professionals from the local protected area management institution and relevant politicians.

Jose Manuel Quero & Javier Soto IMPACT project

Jose Manuel Quero, Director of Grazalema Natural Park (left) and Javier Soto, Head of Socioeconomic Dynamization Service, Andalusian Regional Council (right) during the IMPACT kick-off meeting.

More than ever, planners and managers of natural are challenged with the need of combining the sustainable use of natural resources to promote socio-economic development and the preservation of biodiversity. Natural protected areas are undoubtedly a potential source of green jobs and economic development, as illustrated by the companies established in this territory, which the meeting participants had the opportunity to discover. The meeting was followed by a set of visits to some of the companies located inside the Cadiz province region of Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

Andalusia region has been an excellent example for the promotion of socio-economic activities in protected areas.

Learning from local companies

The visits started with the Ethnological Museum Molino de Abajo, an ancestral mill propelled by the water of the river Majaceite. This museum is located at El Bosque village and in it is possible to see an ancient mill recovered from the family tradition by Francisco Javier González, and through which he produces wheat flour and a local rounded bread, or Mollete, for the whole region. Afterwards, a visit to El Bosqueño took place. This company produces cheese from autochthonous sheep and goat breeds, and has been granted with an international award for the quality of their cheese. Last, it is worth to mention the visit to the Enrique Calvillo Rural Hotel, an accommodation recognized with the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in protected areas (ECST) promoted by EUROPARC. All of them are good examples of economic activities developed inside a protected area such as the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park.

El Molino de Abajo, El Bosque, Cadiz.

Visit to El Molino de Abajo, where Francisco Javier Gonzalez explained the production process to IMPACT project partners.

On the other hand, at the other side of the Natural Park belonging to Malaga province, the participants were able to taste the ecological comfitures of Al Jaque jam factory. This factory uses local and natural products to produce its marmalades and is fully committed with the conquest of the vegan market. The visit ended at the olive oil production factory Oleum Viride, which is located at the foot of Zahara de la Sierra municipality, and where the attendees were able to learn about the process through which olive oil is produced.

Andalusia region as an example of economic development in protected areas

All these companies have been able to produce handcrafted goods, disseminate their production techniques through didactic workshops, and promote eco-tourism through exhibitions and guided tours inside a protected area without compromising nature conservation. For this reason, Andalusia has been an excellent example for the promotion of socio-economic activities in protected areas through the implementation of Sustainable Development Plans that undoubtedly will inspire other European partners.

Follow IMPACT Interreg project updates on the project website.