PONT provides much of the financing for the Society for the Protection of Prespa’s (SPP) 5-year strategic framework (2018-2022), a selection of highlights of which for 2021 are mentioned below.
Long-term wetland management in Lesser Prespa
Passing the milestone of the 30th anniversary of its founding, 2021 found the SPP reflecting on its three decades of effort for the wetlands of Lesser Prespa Lake and looking towards the future. The highly successful LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project completed its five-year duration in the autumn, celebrating positive results for biodiversity, with the stability of its target waterbird populations sustained. The project also saw significant socio-economic benefits through its actions, particularly for stockbreeders, with increased provision of fodder and grazing land, as well as good prospects for the agricultural use of reed biomass in the future.
LIFE Prespa Waterbirds successfully employed ecosystem-scale wetland management to achieve its aims, in close collaboration with the Management Body for the Prespa Park (MBPNP) and local stakeholders, realising the early vision of the SPP when it was established in 1991. At the close of the project, a set of five-year guidelines for continuing this management was approved by the multi-participatory local decision-making body, the Wetland Management Committee, and the board of the MBPNP, securing the ecologically sound management of the wetlands for the next half a decade, to the benefit of both nature and people.
Making connections for wildlife and biodiversity
The SPP’s conservation strengths are underlain by the multiple collaborations it shares with its many partners, amongst which is the Pelecanus network, joining pelican scientists and managers from countries all over the region. The network responded during an outbreak of Avian flu early in 2021, when the SPP followed protocols laid down in the ‘Plan for Co-ordinated Action’ under the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds project, monitoring the situation closely, activating local authorities and veterinary services and co-ordinating with its transboundary partners in order to address the outbreak.
A conservation neighbourhood
Collaboration is also high on the agenda at a more local level, in our transboundary partnerships for the protection of the lakes basin. The Prespa Water Forum, a network of water scientists from the three littoral countries, met for their 4th workshop in 2021, and also finalised their concept proposal for joint transboundary water monitoring, a vital ingredient in regional water protection. Likewise, the Transboundary Wetland Management Technical Group (TWMTG) also held its 4th meeting in 2021, bringing together Prespa’s environmental NGOs and protected area authorities to pool their knowledge and expertise on wetland management issues.
In addition, 2021 saw the conclusion of the PrespaNet NGOs’ work on mapping and assessing important wetland habitats around the lakes basin, with an integrated report that has taken the crucial transboundary aspect into account for the first time. The report looks at the pressures and threats wetland habitats are under and makes recommendations for protecting this natural heritage across all three countries. This blueprint will form a basis for future work together and with the management authorities for protected areas, and forms a valuable lobbying tool for habitat conservation in the region.
A historic occasion
The inaugural meeting of the High-Level Segment (HLS) under the Prespa Park Agreement was truly a historic occasion for Prespa, signalling the long-awaited operation of the joint institutions of the Prespa Park. A significant milestone of the SPP’s institutional work and coming after many years of concerted effort from all parties concerned, the HLS was the first of the foreseen biannual meetings between the ministers of environment of the three littoral countries, together with a representative from the European Commission, and signalled the operationalisation of the joint institutions of the Prespa Park, 11 years after the quadrilateral agreement was signed.
Investing in our local community
In support of farmers growing the beans for which Prespa is famous, the SPP has worked with local producers to have the beans listed amongst Greek PDO and PGI products, helping farmers to promote their beans in the wider market. In similar support for the primary sector in Greek Prespa, the SPP has worked with the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens to deliver results on the special attributes of the area’s bee-keeping products and medicinal plants, as well as supporting training opportunities. These activities have taken place under the PoliPrespa project, which is funded by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and co-funded by PONT. The project works to sustainably develop the Prespa model, using conservation as a vehicle, and has seen the establishment of a Local Action Group, a multi-stakeholder governance mechanism that is innovative for the area and local decision making.
Creativity, knowledge and sharing experience
The young people of Prespa were on a creative wave in 2021, with the LIFE Prespa Waterbirds group, Presplorers, making a short film called “People and naiads – myths and facts”, documenting water and biodiversity issues in the area, as reflected in local oral history and the views of wetland scientists. The Presplorers team also participated in the WWF Panda Youth Awards, co-organised by WWF Greece and WWF Turkey, and excelled in the categories of “effectiveness” and “duration and continuity”. Meanwhile the SPP also supported the public library in a programme for children and youngsters, including workshops on the acceptance of diversity and inclusion, and the promotion of reading.
A third summer school on wetland management and monitoring, targeting site managers in the transboundary Prespa basin, was implemented in 2021, as a series of four targeted webinars. The webinars were promoted through the Transboundary Wetland Management Technical Group (TWMTG), attracting participants from several organisations working throughout the Prespa basin, who rated the webinars very positively in a subsequent assessment.
PONT would like to congratulate the SPP for the work it has carried out in 2021 and is looking forward to seeing what developments 2022 will bring.