Top EU prize for Portuguese project
Conservation project 'Mourela Plateau' in the Peneda Gerês National Park is one of the proud winners in the prestigious EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2016.
Twenty-eight projects received awards out of 187 applications. EU Culture Commissioner, Tibor Navracsics, and renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra, Plácido Domingo, will present the awards during the European Heritage Awards Ceremony on 24 May. Around 1 000 people are expected to attend the event which will take place in the Zarzuela Theatre in Madrid.
The €500 000 in EEA Grants funding for this biodiversity project was pivotal in turning around the tide of decline threatening the very unique landscape in this part of Portugal. It helped to address the migration of local farmers and to make the area more attractive for young people: 400 farmers and young people received skills training in traditional farming to help revitalise and safeguard the area’s natural heritage.
These achievements were recognised in the report from the Europa Nostra jury which noted that the project "aimed to encourage people to return to live in remote rural areas as a precondition for successful preservation and conservation". The jury also underlined its importance in "reviving traditional skills to help preserve these rural assets".
The project is spread across an area that includes eight small villages with potential for eco-tourism. Five new tourist itineraries have been developed through the park. This has brought new opportunities for local communities and generated new job opportunities. This in turn has benefited the local economy. A former forester’s house has been turned into a Visitor Centre, which is now used for school visits and other educational and awareness-raising activities.
The organisation ADERE – Peneda Gerês managed the project in partnership with four other organisations, one of which was the University of Bergen.
“The support for this project has made it possible to revitalise agricultural traditions such as grazing to protect the important cultural and natural heritage on the Mourela Plateau. The area is now providing a new livelihood to people - some of which are young farmers and shepherds. This project continues to raise awareness about sustainable environmental management," said project manager, Rita Ferreiro.
Peter Kaland of Bergen University emphasised the mutual value of sharing experience:
"This project has helped us to break through national barriers and exchange knowledge and experience on the long-term protection of vital landscapes. Such exchanges are crucial. They help us to learn from each other and get the to core issues quickly without losing valuable resources re-inventing the wheel."
About the project: The heathlands conservation (Urzais) and the sustainable development of Mourela Plateau project received support in the previous EEA Grants funding round 2004-2009 under the environment and sustainable development sector. Project summary
About the prize: The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards is Europe’s most prestigious prize in the heritage field. Every year, it honours the most outstanding heritage achievements from across Europe. The award is split into four categories: conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising.