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Report: A short history of Silva Mediterranea

Ben Salem

B. Ben Salem is FAO Regional Forestry Officer for the Near East. He served previously for ten years as FAO's Arid Zones Forestry Officer in the Forest Resources Division.

The fact that Mediterranean forests share many common and unique features led almost inevitably to regional cooperation. Almost 75 years ago, in 1911, Robert Hickel launched the idea of Mediterranean forestry cooperation and, in 1922, a small group of foresters and naturalists from France, Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia met in Marseilles to set up a Mediterranean Forestry League under the name of "Silva Mediterranea".

In 1948, Silva Mediterranea evolved into a subsidiary body of the European Forestry Commission and was known as the Subcommission on Mediterranean Forestry Problems of the European Forestry Commission. This Subcommission held its first session in Rome in 1948. Among its conclusions were the following:

"The degraded conditions of existing forests are due in large measure to unrestricted grazing, particularly by goats and sheep, which raises the whole problem of a fundamental change in the way of life of large sections of the population. Remedial measures can only be effected through intimate coordination of all governmental and communal authorities concerned with forestry, agriculture, grazing, water engineering, and social welfare. Continued planning is essential."

At subsequent sessions membership of the Subcommission was expanded to include all member nations of the European, the Near East and the African Forestry Commissions "whose territories were situated wholly or in part in the Mediterranean basin proper, or whose forest, agricultural or grazing economics are intimately associated with the Mediterranean region". The name Silva Mediterranea was changed to the Joint EFC/NEFC/AFC Subcommission on Mediterranean Forestry Problems.

At its Eighth Session in 1962, the Subcommission set up, in agreement with the President of IUFRO, a committee on Mediterranean forestry research. Research projects and themes were agreed upon by the member institutes.

By 1970, the Subcommission had held 11 sessions and the Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Research had held four. These resulted in recommendations, studies and publications on various forestry problems: land-use policy in the Mediterranean region, forest grazing, minor forest products, forest management, evaluation and training, forestry research, introduction of fast-growing species and the impact of tourism.

At its 11th Session, held in Ankara in 1970, the Subcommission changed its name to the AFC/EFC/NEFC Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions - Silva Mediterranea and revised its terms of reference. These were to:

· review periodically the trends in the use of forest land in the Mediterranean area and analyse the impact on this use of changes in the agricultural, industrial and urban sectors, with a view to advising member governments on the reorientation or improvements required in forestry techniques and practices in order to adapt them to changed situations or enable them to serve newly emerging needs; conversely, to examine periodically the progress taking place in the field conditions of the region, with a view to analysing its possible impact on the present use of forest land;

· identify forestry research priorities in the Mediterranean area, determine forestry research projects of common interest to member governments and recommend to the Director-General of FAO and member governments the adoption of the measures necessary to coordinate the concerted execution of these projects by the forestry research institutes in the region;

· determine and carry out, in collaboration with member countries and with the support of the appropriate national forestry agencies, the technical studies and surveys deemed necessary.

After an interruption of 11 years, Silva Mediterranea resumed its activities by holding its 12th Session in La Grande Motte, Montpellier, France, from 2 to 6 December 1985. This meeting reviewed the trends in the use of forest land in the Mediterranean region since the last session held in Ankara in 1970; discussed subregional and regional cooperation in the area of forest management, fire protection, forestry research and training; and, outlined the future programme of the Committee.

During this session, Silva Mediterranea also stressed again the special characteristics of Mediterranean forestry and the pressing necessity to strengthen and expand regional cooperation. The Committee identifies three types of activities to be carried out under its aegis and in cooperation with member countries. These are: technical studies and surveys; coordination of forestry research; and, a programme of action.

Under the first type of activity - technical studies and surveys - the Committee recommended the following:

· an inventory of experiences in agrosilvipastoral systems in the region;
· an inventory of the use and provenances of fodder trees and shrubs;
· continuation and finalization of the work on plantation techniques,
· evaluation of the social and ecological services rendered by the forest;
· preparation and publication of a catalogue of forestry training programmes;
· the study of certain aspects of forest fires; and
· publication of forest fire terminology in other languages.

As regards the coordination of forestry research, the Committee recommended that the results of the research themes and projects coordinated by Silva Mediterranea in the past be analysed and a survey made among member countries to ascertain research priorities.

To conduct this work the Committee decided to set up an ad hoc group on the coordination of the forestry sector. It entrusted Mr R. Morandini (Italy), with assistance from the Secretariat, with the task of coordinating research activities. Other activities identified included: national forest inventories; the establishment of a regional centre to test forest-fire control materials; the establishment of a regional data bank including statistics on fires; and, the organization of a regional centre to train trainers.

In accordance with its rules and procedures and because of the need to follow up actively the implementation of its recommendations, the Committee elected the following officers:

Chairman: Y. Birot (France)
Vice - Chairmen:
A. Ghebalou (Algeria)
R. Morandini (Italy)
S. Theophanous (Cyprus)

Spain offered to host the 13th Session, which will be organized in the last quarter of 1987.

SINKHOLE IN A CREEK VALLEY irrigation with FAO assistance

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