GESTA project: eco-sustainable land management in Abruzzo
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry aims to promote the multifunctionality of the forest and the sustainable use of renewable resources in rural areas. With this in mind, it will finance 27 projects throughout Italy that will implement concrete actions for the proper management of the mountain and inland forestry areas. One of the proposals approved by a committee of experts is the GESTA project, which in Abruzzo has brought together 28 stakeholders including administrations, associations and operators in the primary sector
A few weeks ago, MiPAAF published the ranking list for the "Call for the selection of project proposals for the establishment of associations or consortia for the management of forest areas". This initiative, activated within the framework of the 2014-2020 Development and Cohesion Fund, Operational Plan for Agriculture, Subplan 3 "Multi-functionality of forests and sustainable use of renewable resources in rural areas", send a very important signal to stimulate useful actions to protect the territory in environmental and social terms.
The tender, with a total budget of around 5 million euros, will finance 27 projects nationwide, of which 5 concern areas in the Centre-North and 22 in the South. This distribution of resources reflects the Ministry's desire to give priority to the southern regions (80% of the budget), which are most in need of initiatives geared to the systemic and sustainable management in agro-forestry.
Among the proposals concerning southern Italy, the GESTA project - "Eco-Sustainable Management of the Territory in Abruzzo" - came in very well (fourth place in the list). In line with the recent "Testo Unico in materia di Foreste e Filiere Forestali (TUFF)", the project aims to promote sustainable forms of active management of forests, with particular attention to those belonging to collective properties in a vast mountain area of Abruzzo. With this in mind, it has been necessary to carry out a complex - but very satisfactory - preliminary activity to raise awareness and involve local public and private stakeholders. Therefore, already today the GESTA Project marks a first positive result, given the declarations of interest of 28 deeply motivated stakeholders (18 ASBUC, 4 Municipalities, 6 private companies) to set up an ad hoc Association. Moreover, GESTA will be supported for the technical-scientific aspects by renowned Organisations and Research Bodies such as ITABIA - Italian Biomass Association and ENEA - National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (with the Department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources).
This Association - which will be provided with a specific technical and operational structure - will be a precious opportunity to network by sharing documents, cognitive tools and various planning levels of common interest. In the first two years of activity, the Association will have a database, with thematic maps, specific and precise territorial studies, surveys and field analyses, efficient models of supply chains related to the maximum exploitation of wood resources (including energy). Moreover, in addition to the creation of the above-mentioned database, numerous operational and training activities will be carried out, such as setting up high-tech and innovative educational forestry sites, creating a course on the use of chainsaws, organising workshops and webinars on the most modern techniques for the handling and energy conversion of biomass, and on the sector's regulations and standards for obtaining forestry certifications. The Association's drive towards the circular bio-economy will be strengthened in terms of communication through the use of social media, the production of audiovisual materials, a newsletter, the website, and synergy with other European and international projects.
On the whole, the area involved in the actions of the Project covers a territory that involves the Provinces of L'Aquila and Teramo, covering over 14,000 hectares, of which about 11,600 are woods and 2,400 pastures, many of which recolonised by spontaneous woods.
This area is mainly made up of collectively owned lands belonging to several municipalities and numerous ASBUCs - Amministrazioni Separate di Beni di Uso Civico.
The heritage of collectively owned civic domains constitutes over 3% of the national territory, but almost 20% of that of inland mountain areas, for an estimated surface area of over 1.5 million hectares in Italy. These percentages rise considerably within the municipalities and administrations involved in the GESTA project, where in some cases they exceed 50% of the total surface area owned and/or managed. These zones represent an area of fundamental importance for the conservation of the natural environment and the rural landscape, as well as for the development of sustainable production chains in the circular bio-economy.
Unfortunately, at present, these contexts, which have great potential, are little or not at all exploited due to a series of chronic problems. First of all, the technical management difficulties of the administrations. For example, although municipalities have the obligation and the need to manage (technically and financially) all these areas, they find it difficult - given the state of their technical and tax offices - to add this commitment to the urban planning and social commitments of their staff. In the case of ASBUCs, however, there are not specifically organised technical structures, and the administrative activity, carried out with commitment and dedication (also free of charge), is not always effective and concrete, precisely because of the lack of officials and/or experts.
Precisely for these reasons, the GESTA Project aims to provide a series of tools - technical and managerial - to the communities that, historically, administratively and socially, hold the rights over the territories covered by this initiative, which fits in perfectly with the green aims of the PNRR. Among the many envisaged actions, ITABIA will carry out a preliminary study of a platform for the collection, conditioning and storage of biomass for energy use (residual and non-residual), coming from forestry crops. This action will obviously involve the use of mechanisation typical of the forestry sector to move biomass in an economically and environmentally sustainable way. We must hope that the forestry farms involved in the project will be able to access the funds (500 million euros) with which the National Research Programme intends to promote the modernisation of the fleet of machinery, which is now highly obsolete in Italy.
For this reason, a field demonstration day is also planned for technicians specialising in forest management, maintenance and biomass energy use. This will take place in collaboration with a team of researchers from CNR IBE (Institute for Bioeconomics) and will include a special study of the site to estimate the cost of producing the wood product and transferring the biomass to a possible thermal power plant.
Techniques and technologies will then be defined that can allow a significant reduction in wood production costs, with maximum environmental compatibility of the intervention and to guarantee the ecosystem services.