Jul 24, 2023

MedArtSal: enhancing sustainability through an International Network for the Mediterranean Artisanal Salinas

The Mediterranean Region enjoys a wide variety of natural and cultural resources that stimulate and support the economic prosperity of its population. However, the region is facing key challenges that affect the long-term sustainability of such resources and people’s livelihoods, as well as the environment and the agriculture sector.  

Imad Malek – Malek salinas – Anfeh – Lebanon

These threats are particularly tangible in Artisanal Salinas, as they are currently confronted with significant environmental and socio-economic challenges, including climate change, attracting tourism investments and competing against the lower production costs offered by industrial salt and global trade. Small-scale producers, whose primary livelihoods depend on these activities, struggle to adapt and ensure economic viability. For them, the number of options is restricted to industrializing their business model, shifting towards sustainable tourism models or – if no solution is found – ending operations.

Sleiman salinas – Anfeh – Lebanon

To respond to these challenges, the MedArtSal project has supported small artisanal producers of 15 salinas in four countries (Italy, Spain, Lebanon and Tunisia), by providing tools and sharing knowledge, and fostering sustainable practices and services in the management of their salinas. In a relatively neglected sector, where the main stakeholders receive feeble support and the high value of salt product is insufficiently recognized, the project has maximized the positive impacts of artisanal salt production, both economic and environmental, in the involved areas, by promoting sustainable management tools and the building of focused SMEs clusters in each country and facilitating the sharing of experiences ad knowledge among the involved salinas.

Salina Roqueta y Preciosa – Marambay – Spain

Looking into the future, the partnership intends to capitalize on the results and learnings by means of different tools and instruments, including:

  • A Sustainable Management Model for the Mediterranean Artisanal Salinas.
  • SMEs clusters in the four project partners countries.
  • A variety of channels allowing members to maintain regular communications, share experiences and exchange knowledge to achieve common goals.
  • An International Network for Mediterranean Artisanal Salinas.

The launch of the process of formation of the International Network for Mediterranean Artisanal Salinas was driven by the will and commitment of MedArtSal project partners to continue working on the development and promotion of the Mediterranean Artisanal Salinas, to ensure that the work done to preserve and sustain the artisanal salt production in the Mediterranean can continue. In this sense, the Network will act by directly linking all the organizations involved in the project in an informal structure, to jointly pursue the sustainable development of artisanal salinas, and facing the sector’s numerous challenges ecological, economical, or policy related.

Indeed, these challenges require more time to be solved and more combined efforts from different organizations, institutions, and individuals, especially since they are common to the whole Mediterranean region. In this sense, the Network will work to build on the results achieved by the project with large impact on the sector and the involved local communities.

SEI – Saline Ettore e Infersa – Marsala (Trapani), Italy

The ultimate goal of this process is to create long-term impact on the sector while facilitating greater collaboration among the relevant actors. The starting point for the process is the vision: view of the future, how the network will evolve in the future and what it plans to achieve. Although the partners come from different countries and backgrounds, they share very similar view of the future of network. In this sense, the vision set for the network is to “Preserve and Promote Salt Production Heritage, fostering the MedArtSal pillars for environmental and economic sustainability in the Mediterranean Region“.

Fulfilling the vision of sustainability requires thorough collaboration and partnerships between different stakeholders, at a variety of levels, which range from policymaking to salt production. The new MedArtSal Network will allow to bring more Mediterranean members on board to preserve and promote salt production and salinas heritage in the Mediterranean region, as well as to ultimately improve the quality of life for the regions surrounding the salinas from an environmental and economical point of view.

Parco della Salina di Cervia – Italy

Through different meetings and brainstorming sessions, the network founding partners started laying its foundation, mainly in terms of objectives, and themes of focuses, to then plan and develop the activities accordingly.

The main idea is to have the MedArtSal Model at heart of all the network’s building blocks:

  • Fostering mutual cooperation.
  • Preserving salt cultural heritage.
  • Protecting the surrounding ecosystem.
  • Supporting the development of new products or markets.

Fostering mutual cooperation and exchange of expertise is important to support producers in modernizing their production processes, whether by integrating new sustainable technology, developing new products or incorporating new production techniques.

Preserving salt heritage in our days strongly depends on the links with sustainable tourism industry, besides promoting this sector as means for preserving cultural heritage. Likewise, awareness raising and promotion of culture and traditions related to salt works play an important role.

Protecting the ecosystems that surround salinas depends on the survival of artisanal salt production, but also on the diversification of products and services, as well as environmental and biodiversity enhancement.

Supporting access to markets requires helping the producers to understand the market trends, improve their visual identity, identify new niche markets to target – whether physically or through e-commerce – and becoming compliant with the quality requirements of these markets.

The umbrella for all those ‘actions’ is the advocacy at policy level across the Mediterranean: lobbying for law enforcement and for new regulations, addressing legal constraints, all of which help in providing a more favorable environment for the development of the sector.

All these ideas and themes require coordinated efforts and resources, but also the involvement of more organizations and individuals, as well as from both public and private sector. Therefore, there is a need to increase visibility and promote the network in the different Mediterranean countries, in order to invite interested parties to join.

MedArtSal partners visiting Salina San Vicente – Spain

The MedArtSal Final Event and 2nd International Salt Fair, even awarded as an official EU Green Week partner event, was the perfect occasion to launch the network. The three days event, which included two-days fair in Beirut and a one-day visit to the pilot actions salinas in Anfeh, as well as a variety of different talks and presentations, highlighted the common vision and mission of the Network, as well as the importance of contributing to the environmental and economic sustainability of the salt production sector in the Mediterranean.

MedArtSal Final Event and 2nd International Salt Fair – Save the Date

The result was the remarkable interest and commitment of more institutions and enterprises to join the Network and work together to fulfill its mission: 29 organizations and companies from Spain, Italy, Tunisia and Lebanon signed an official Memorandum of Understanding, expressing willingness and commitment to joining and working for the Network’s success.

MedArtSal Memorandum of Understanding document

But the work doesn’t end here. As now the next steps will be to further build the network, attracting more members and working on its governance to have good management and division of roles. This is Just the Beginning..

Article written by the MedArtSal project partner ADR with the support of IUCN and CUEIM.

Find more about MedArtSal, a project funded by the ENI CBC MED Programme, on our dedicated page and on the official website.

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