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    Water, agricolture and wetlands: in Arborea Maristanis organizes a conference and presents four projects to tackle climate change

    The reduction of water resources is the main element through which the incidence of climate change becomes visible. In recent years the amount of precipitation in Italy has recorded an average drop of around 20%, and some areas of Sardinia are at the top of the list of the territories characterized by more "dry days", that is with rainfalls equal to or less than 1mm. The Gulf of Oristano is identified by numerous studies as an area of ​​the Mediterranean basin where the consequences of climate change are likely to strike more virulently.

    The conference "Water, agriculture and wetlands" organized in Arborea on 26 July by the MEDSEA Foundation, joins the numerous debates promoted within the Maristanis project, always careful to articulate the protection and sustainable development of the six Ramsar sites of the Oristano gulf according to a perspective that integrates the great environmental challenges and the specificities of the territory. Intertwining water resources, agriculture and wetlands, allowed a coherent and strategic discussion in the voices that intervened at the Horse Country of Arborea.

    "The situation is quite worrying. In the last sixty years there has been an important increase in temperatures and a parallel reduction in rainfall" explains Andrea Motroni, researcher at the ARPAS (the regional agency for environmental protection) Weather and Climate Department. "Models tell us that temperatures are destined to increase. The availability of water resources will change, not so much in quantity as in quality. There will be fewer events, but much more intense. A danger from the point of view of hydro-geological instability, the risk of floods, and the availability of water in agriculture".

    In a context of ever decreasing resources, the management of the balance between work and the environment must be addressed, Antonio Trabucco, a scholar of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, explained: "We must try to achieve compatibility between the different sectors, being able to keep productivity intact and at the same time protecting the wetlands, which is fundamental for the territory of Oristano. Climate change has and will continue to have an impact, but we can face it by adapting, gathering information and tools. Above all we must understand that cooperation between the different sectors is vital to guarantee a future for the generations to come”.

    For this reason the MEDSEA Foundation has decided to include among the numerous interventions of the Maristanis Project four pilot initiatives of precision irrigation in Arborea, Oristano and Cabras. Three of these will be carried out with the collaboration with Confagricoltura Oristano and NETAFIM, a multinational company engaged in the development of sub-irrigation techniques and technologies. "In the coming decades we will forced to face situations where available water resources will be very limited. We can no longer rely on the regularity or predictability of rainfall. For this reason it is necessary to progressively switch to precision irrigation strategies that supply water and fertilizers straight at the root”, explained in his speech Alberto Puggioni, expert NETAFIM and UN consultant, showing the extraordinary successes achieved all over the world by drip irrigation systems .

    "Synergy is fundamental. The agricultural world has long been aware of the need to work according to the principles of eco-sustainability, in line with the directives of the European Community ", explains Elisabetta Falchi, vice-president of Confagricoltura. "A quality product needs to grow in a healthy environment", she  continues. “Working with MEDSEA within the Maristanis Project for us farmers means improving our knowledge. Precision irrigation is one of these opportunities. Some of our associates will test the NETAFIM micro irrigation systems, and will adopt the principles of precision-farming for the fertilization and distribution of chemical products. Our wetlands are among the most important in Europe. An enormous value, which can also be sold through agricultural products".

    At the same time Maristanis will also collaborate with the Arborea Producers Cooperative, supporting a micro-irrigation initiative and some innovative measures carried out by the cooperative along with the 3A Cooperative and the Faculty of Agriculture of the University of Sassari, aimed at reducing the impacts of agricultural activities, in particular the testing of alternatives to chemical pesticides. "The economic contribution of the Maristanis project will be very important for the implementation of the new strategies, not only for the rationalization of the use of water resources, but also for phyto-sanitary defense measures and the use of zoo technical wastewater. It is necessary to improve the fertility of Arborea soils, naturally sandy, poor in organic matter, and further challenged by decades of exploitation”, confirms Gianfranco Siddu, president of the Arborea Producers Cooperative.

    Greater attention to the environment also comes with the operations of weeding, told at the conference by Eugenio Cavalli of HerbeeSide, a project carried out with the EDIZERO supply chains: “Our system is based on the thermal shock and on the development of an additive developed around different citrus extracts and scraps obtained from cleaning the beehives, local products that have improved the duration and quality of the weeding”.

    Luca Melis, environmental engineer of the MEDSEA foundation, has shown the principles of the “Coast Contract”, the participatory process through which Maristanis want to establish a virtuous operational process starting from the privileged look of those who live in the territories, all the bodies responsible for the protection and development of the environmental resources. "The issue of water is of great importance. Wetlands are the terminal of essential river basins. The coast contract is based on the awareness of this relationship, and on the synergy of all the stakeholders, those who are upstream as well as those who live at close range with the wetlands. Our coast contract has some counterparts in the area of ​​the Po delta and in the Ionian coast of Calabria. However, no one has yet followed such an organic and inclusive approach. It will be a novelty at the national level, and will undoubtedly improve the management of water resources, in terms of quantity and quality".

     "This conference was the first of a series of meetings that will address the issues of efficient use of water resources and the relationship with agricultural activities and wetlands. It was very important for us to be able to involve such important actors not only for the area of ​​Oristano and for the whole region: the actors involved are of national and international relevance. We were very happy with the interest and support we drew with this first appointment: it was a spur for the future" explains Vania Statzu, vice president of the MEDSEA foundation, closing the conference. 

    One of the many paths created and traveled by the Maristanis project is the relationship between agriculture, wetlands and climate change. The answer is always choral. For this reason, announces Statzu, "In the next meetings we will closely follow the development of the pilot projects and we will continue to address all the relevant issues, involving experts at regional, national and international level. In Sardinia and Oristano, new institutional and private actors dealing with water and agriculture will be involved in further initiatives, always in support of small and sustainable agriculture”.

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