In November 2016, SocialForest’s founder Joachim Englert attended the EFIMED WEEK 2016 in Calabria, Italy titled "Smart Mediterranean forestry, bioeconomy and social integration". The organiser was the European Forest Institute EFI.
It was a unique and very motivating experience: For the very first time the forestry sector discussed the question of how the forest can contribute to social inclusion. This is especially interesting as the social sector has already been using the woods for many years as a close ally in its fight against social exclusion and injustice.
During the three days, participants presented initiatives, projects and ideas. They discussed the latest news and current events with experts and deputies of important institutions in the sector, such as the FAO, as well as with representatives of governments, universities, scientific centres and companies in the private sector.
Global changes that also affect the Mediterranean area make finding common solutions necessary. Smart Forestry is meant to help with this issue. This approach constitutes of a sustainable process to mitigate climate change effects. This new proposal enables the creation of synergies between the main players in the forestry sector. In one of the sessions, they explained the importance of Mediterranean forests on the basis of practical examples for this new green oriented economy.
The second day included a session with the topic “Forestry and Social Integration”. Here you can see the presentation Joachim gave.
The European society is confronted more and more with social challenges. This includes, among other things, migration, vulnerability of certain social groups that are at risk of exclusion and the growing inequality between the rich and poor. These reasons make structural changes in the governmental and institutional bodies necessary to galvanise the sector and mitigate these problems. We should not remain at the ideas and suggestions stage, we must get to the “We do…”, “We started…” type of statements. There is an increasing demand for social inclusion and the Mediterranean forests play a decisive role in this matter. Their social function as creator of jobs with the ability to empower people is an elementary and very promising tool.
Knowledge and consciousness are further aspects of importance. That is why we have to establish and maintain a direct connection and flow between universities, scientific centres and private companies. The speakers in this session “From knowledge to action” stressed the importance of research and application of knowledge going hand in hand.
On the third day of the conference, the participants visited a silver fir forest area of Calabria. Afterwards, the tour took them to a traditional forestry company which had succeeded in combining tradition and innovation: They have been running a sawmill for generations that generates energy from the production residues in the form of biomass.
After three very successful days we returned to Barcelona with our bags full of motivation, new possibilities of collaboration and the confirmation that what we are doing at SocialForest is really important for woods, young people and society.
We would like to thank EFIMED for this amazing conference and the chance to contribute to the social forestry community. We are thrilled with the new synergies that were a result of this event. We consider this first step of setting goals as highly important in order to create opportunities for social groups in need and for the Mediterranean forests in the near future.