WaterLANDS partner Centrum Ochrony Mokradel (CMok) contributes to the project through knowledge gained from its restoration activities in two areas: Całowanie Fen and Kampinos Wetlands, which make up the Knowledge Site Wetlands around Warsaw.
On 9th September 2022, CMok held a workshop to engage with representatives of the local community and decision-makers responsible for the area to discuss and reflect on the current and future state of the Całowanie Fen.
The meeting was attended by many different stakeholders including residents of the surrounding villages, landowners of Całowanie Fen, local authorities, users of the mire resources, activists and representatives of tourism, water, forestry, and NGOs.
The workshop was supported by organisers Wetlands International and the Institute of Nature Conservation - Polish Academy of Sciences.
30 people attended the meeting, which consisted of an introductory lecture that discussed the history of restoration at the Całowanie Fen, and a workshop which involved a hypothetical future (the year 2032) in which at least a third of the area had been restored to mire condition.
The meeting was accompanied by an exhibition of paludiculture products, which was presented to participants by a Dutch farmer who, as a special guest of the workshop, was on hand to talk about his farming activities and the products he produces from reeds and typha.
The workshop was extremely productive, and the organisers took away the following key lessons on community engagement:
- Residents are sceptical of research meetings in EU projects where they are expected to be involved. They feel that their voice is not heard by Brussels and they do not trust scientists and researchers.
- Incidental undertaking of restoration activities that are not maintained and continued creates distrust of such activities, which can be perceived as a waste of money.
- Meetings with residents should be organised on non-working days to give working people a chance to participate.
- Relationships built during ongoing restoration projects need to be maintained and cared for - these are tasks beyond the project area that should involve local authorities and local activists.
- The differing visions of local people about what the marsh area should look like can hinder restoration efforts. There is therefore a need to educate the public, who are open to new knowledge and dialogue.
By the end of the meeting, it was clear that almost all participants supported the rewetting of the Całowanie Fen. Further discussions with the local community should aim to develop a coherent vision of how the rewetted bog area should be used in the future, taking into account the need to maintain the use of the meadows on the edge of the fen.