With a BSc in Environment, Economics and Ecology, Sarah has long been fascinated with the challenge of balancing human needs and environmental protection.
Fundatia ADEPT, one of Fauna & Flora International’s partners in Romania, is hoping to win funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association for an exciting ecotourism project in the beautiful Târnava Mare region of south-east Transylvania.
The team is hoping to secure €25,000 (£21,300/US$32,200) to create a 15 km mountain bike trail, linking three villages and involving 70 green tourism providers, five schools and 10,000 small-scale farming families.
A pilot project created a 7 km cycle track that passes through flower meadows, forests and orchards. Credit: Fundatia ADEPT.
From 14-28 March 2013, the public is invited to vote for their favourite project, with the winner to be announced in mid-July. Show your support by voting for Fundatia ADEPT’s project (‘Discover Târnava Mare, Romania’) today.
Târnava Mare is one of Europe’s last great lowland landscapes. The traditional farming systems used by its small-scale farmers are not only responsible for maintaining the history and culture of the region, but have also helped to create semi-natural ecosystems that support an extraordinary diversity of fauna and flora.
Nodding sage. Credit: Cassie Bradley/FFI.
The area is home to one of the largest populations of wolf and bear still surviving in lowland Europe as well as many important bird species such as lesser spotted eagle and corncrake, and six threatened butterfly species. The region’s flora meanwhile includes more than 10 threatened species.
But more important than any of these individual species, is the fact that entire habitats and ecosystems that have been lost in other parts of Europe are still in good health here.
The preservation of this biodiverse landscape depends, however, on the survival of the small-scale farming communities who created it and who manage it today.
Although 85,000 hectares have been declared as an EU Natura 2000 site, the region is still under great pressure from significant land-use change being driven by poverty and land abandonment, with the lack of economic prospects driving many young people away to the cities in search of work.
Against this backdrop, Fundatia ADEPT carried out a pilot project in 2011 to demonstrate how a mountain bike network could benefit the local economy as well as the surrounding landscape by attracting visitors to the area.
“The idea came from one of our team members who is a mountain bike enthusiast,” says Ben Mehedin, Project Manager at Fundatia ADEPT. “He wanted to build the best mountain bike trail in Romania to link villages, foster ecotourism, and encourage the local authorities to ban motorised off-road recreation by showing them the benefits of bike trails.”
The stunning Transylvanian landscape. Credit: Fundatia ADEPT.
The existing 7 km route links two villages, passing through flowery meadows, forests and orchards. In its first year alone, more than 3,000 visitors came to use the trail and stayed in the area. It has generated income not only for the 50 people who were involved in building it, but for the wider community through demand for local guest house accommodation.
The track, which is signposted with nature interpretation panels, is also very popular with schools and has helped to demonstrate to local people just how important their area is.
As Ben Mehedin says: “Two of the core concepts at the heart of ADEPT’s work are giving local people better incomes that are linked to nature, and raising awareness about the unique value of the area. The beauty of the mountain bike trail is that it does both these things.”
Readers can show their support for this valuable work by voting for Fundatia ADEPT’s project (‘Discover Târnava Mare, Romania’) before 28 March 2013.
To find out more about travelling to the region, visit www.discovertarnavamare.org.