What will be the future of the chestnut value chain in the Northern Apennines?

Apr 18, 2023

Author: Tarek Allali, Manola Colabianchi, Michele Moretti, Francesco Felici (UNIPI)

As a continuation of the Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) activities of the Italian North Apennines reference region in the framework of the MOVING project, the University of Pisa (UNIPI) organised a workshop on 23 March 2023, entitled: “Debate on the future of mountain areas of the Italian Northern Apennines”.

The workshop is the second of its kind, as a similar one took place at the beginning of February 2023. Both workshops aimed at gathering local stakeholders, promoting networking, and discussing the future scenarios for the Italian North Apennines, with a particular focus on the chestnut value chain by 2050.

To kick-off the workshop, participants were presented with four possible scenarios, and voluntarily splited into four groups that rotated around the different scenarios. UNIPI classified these scenarios into most favourable, moderate and least favourable scenarios.

The four scenarios presented for the future of value chains in the Northern Apennines were:

  • Market utopia (most favourable scenario): mountains will become an attractive environment for living. People will run away from urban agglomerations to find refuge from the pressures of modern life. The arrival of new residents will encourage the emergence of more economic activities, recovery of abandoned groves, and construction of more infrastructure.
  • Dormitory (moderate scenario): the progressive decrease of life quality in urban areas will cause an increase of population in rural areas. However, the economic system and services available are very limited and cannot satisfy the needs of the increased population, which will keep people dependent on urban areas for the opportunities these areas offered.
  • Entertainment (moderate scenario): mountains will become a leisure and tourism destination. This will benefit only a limited group of residents. It could discourage other activities and lead to more exodus. The increasing number of visitors will open the door to a severe landscape change (i.e. more parking spaces, pavement, large events stages, rally trails, etc.). Moreover, the touristic activity will impact the chestnut value chain negatively by damaging chestnut groves and illegal collection of chestnuts.
  • Wilderness (least favourable scenario): this scenario originates from territories that did not manage to reverse the demographic exodus after World War 2. Most of the human presence in some areas is completely lost and gave the chance to nature to flourish again (i.e., more soil organic matter, more faunal and floral biodiversity, etc.).

Facilitators began by reminding participants of the key characteristics of each scenario. These scenarios were identified before this workshop through two phases, including the first workshop outcomes and during the internal meetings of the UNIPI. Afterwards, participants were asked to express their opinions on each scenario and the probability that it could actually take place in the future. Participants highlighted a variety of elements concerning each scenario, such as defining current situation, desired initiatives, negative impacts, etc.

In the second part of the workshop, participants suggested actions and strategies that would be needed to achieve the most desirable scenario for them, out of the four presented. These proposed actions vary as urgent, medium-, and long-term initiatives according to a line time (2023-2050).

In particular, participants recalled the urgency to implement existing financial support for new economic activities in areas above 500 meters of altitude and to lower taxes for mountain residents in the Northern Apennines.

In addition, participants pointed out some medium-term initiatives such as the valorisation of food quality aspects, emphasising education, and changing the policy paradigm for mountain areas by focusing of resource preservation. Finally, for the long-term, participants suggested making the Natural Park of the Apuan Alps a gateway for technical support for local communities.

This foresight workshop at local level will be followed by other workshops at regional and European levels. Representatives of the Northern Apennines reference region will meet first with other regions’ stakeholders, and then with Pan-EU representatives to discuss common scenarios for European mountain territories. Together, we will co-construct and share strategies and policies that might shape the future towards more sustainable and more resilient mountain areas in Europe.