Biodiversity and agroecosystem stability
The training was started by Dijana Fabjan, who first gave an introduction to the concepts of sustainability and agriculture. This was followed by an overview of the figures of Croatian agriculture. Before the participants went into more detail about organic farming, Dijana clarified the difference between sustainable agriculture and agricultural production. A strong quote from the introduction, "Sustainable agriculture is organic, but not everything organic is sustainable." elicited nods of agreement. It became clear that it is desirable to move from a linear to a circular economy in order to generate sustainable agriculture. This means that farmers in Croatia should be trained and educated as multipliers. Dijana appealed that it is a must to change agriculture. Perhaps tradition in Croatia can be used as innovation and thus offer a chance to rethink agriculture. After Dijana Fabjan's presentation, Bodgan Sujica introduced himself and his garden. The special thing about Bodgan's garden is its diversity. In the midst of a landscape characterised by the monoculture of maize fields, Bogdan has created a biotope in which more than a hundred different plant species can be found. Thanks to Bogdan's meticulous approach and his acquired knowledge, the garden is now virtually self-organising and self-renewing as the plants interact with each other. Bodgan told the MAREA participants about the different plant species, their characteristics and explained which families interact well or not so well with each other. Each plant has different demands on its environment, but also gives back different characteristics accordingly. Bogdan's goal is to harmonise these in the best possible way. Also relevant here is the interaction of water, sun and nutrients for the plants. The relevance of biodiversity first became apparent in words through Bodgan's input. The visit to his garden was particularly impressive. The European partners were not only able to learn about it, but to experience what was said in a holistic way: by seeing, smelling, tasting and touching the plants in his garden - a perfect place to learn!
A podcast by the National Agency Education for Europe focuses on the topic of GreenErasmus in the Erasmus+ funding programme. Three project promoters talk about sustainability in the vocational and adult world in Europe. Nicolas Bosch refers to Bogdan's garden, among other things - it's worth listening in!
Introduction to biodynamic agriculture in theory and practice
On the second MAREA day, the training continued with a presentation by Jasminka Ilicic about biodynamic agriculture. Jasminka and Zeljko Ilicic founded the farm Biomara and are leaving their city life behind bit by bit. Jasminka began by talking about her search for a suitable farm and the appropriate agricultural implementation. An unconventional, biodynamic solution was the first priority for the two. In this case, biodynamic means that composting, for example, is highly relevant in agriculture. In particular, the condition of the soil is considered to be of great importance. A strong statement from Jasminka's lecture was the salutogenetic assumption that it is not curing a disease that solves the problem, but producing health. This goes hand in hand with the question in which areas we are not yet cooperating with nature. Local resources are seen as playing a major role in this.
In the second session of the day, the partners of the MAREA project went together with Jasminka and Zeljko to their farm. They were peppered with questions, showed their work, the organisation and structure of the garden and took their visit to see the plants and the current cultivation. The participants got a taste of biodynamic carrots and were then allowed to help with the work on the farm: Some boxes of garlic bulbs were waiting to be prepared for planting. In the light of the sunset, the participants were able to experience (and smell) for themselves what a possible task on a biodynamic farm feels like.
On the way back, the project partners paid a visit to Lucie Evers. During a cosy reception in her garden with local cheese and raw vegetables, she took the project partners on a mental tour of her garden. Lucie's idea is to create a place where people can stay in tents and live sustainability during their time there, for example by helping out on the Biomara farm.
Sustainable construction and agriculture
After the participants had experienced many local learning places in the last few days, Wednesday started in the morning with a session by the Belgian partner KU Leuven. After an introduction by Stijn Verdoodt on the topic of sustainable buildings with reference to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the participants were given an insight into resilient and sustainable constructions by Leontien Bielen. A summary of the presentations was that old and new knowledge regarding architecture should be brought together in order to build sustainably and resiliently. Furthermore, the different strategies of material efficiency were made visible, such as more intensive use and reuse of materials. Leontien also gave an insight into the impact of natural disasters on buildings and how to counteract them. Through the theme of sustainable construction, the area of rural and urban linkage was also included in the MAREA training in Croatia.
Also part of the Belgian delegation was Andrei, a media student at KU Leuven. Together with him, they brainstormed, collected ideas and discussed in order to come up with a suitable content and visual design for the intro and outro of the video series "Neverending stories". With the collected insights, Andrei created a first pitch, which he presented to the project managers in the meeting. To get a taste of what such a video format could look like, the video of Bogdan's garden was also played to the participants. The subsequent feedback from the participants as well as explicitly from Andrei was very helpful for the further video productions.
Farm and garden design
Day four of the MAREA project in Croatia started with a work session with the Italian partner VeraTerra. Thematically, Pietro Isolan introduced the participants to the combination of agriculture and tourism, rural tourism. This was followed by a practical session with Elenia Penna to discover their own rural talent. In individual and partner work, their own talents were transferred into possible activities within the framework of rural tourism, whereby the participants playfully tried out elements of the curriculum.
This was followed by a lecture by Elia Renzi on the process of landscape architecture. Afterwards, the partners had the opportunity to work on their garden together with Dijana Fabjan from the Croatian partner. The contents of the first three sessions helped the participants and gave the working team an orientation. On a large landscape map of Dijana's garden, ideas were collected, brainstormed and discussed with the background knowledge gained. Many new and old ideas came together, were exchanged and concretised. In the afternoon, some residents of the Faro Centre visited the MAREA partners. They presented the collected results and ideas for Dijana's garden in order to get into an exchange. The aim was to make the concrete idea of the garden on the site transparent and to involve the local people in the process. The potential of this place was recognised and a joint development of the ideas with the local community is planned from now on.
Sustainable construction and architecture
In the last session of the MAREA training, the topic of sustainable construction was taken up again. Together with the local architect Jasma Zmajic, the participants visited houses built traditionally and from natural materials. In addition to the sustainability aspect, the resilience of traditional buildings was the main topic. This became particularly clear during the visit to the epicentre of last year's severe earthquake in the region around Zagreb. While many "modern" buildings suffered major damage or even collapsed, many traditional buildings showed little or no damage.
New momentum for the final project phase
The training in Croatia brought new momentum to the MAREA project once again. Almost one and a half years have passed since the last physical meeting. The training was therefore all the more enjoyable and important. Through the good combination of content work, practical implementation and visits to potential learning sites, many questions were clarified and new insights gained. The project leaders took this momentum with them into the subsequent project meeting and will carry it over into the final project phase. The next project activities will take place in Italy in March, hopefully again in presence.