Peschiera Borromeo's Wetland: Three Year Maintenance Undertaken by Disadvantaged Workers of an “Open Air Laboratory” for Biodiversity Research and Environmental Education

Project location: ITALY, Peschiera Borromeo
Project start date: September 2015 - Project end date: June 2018
Project number: 2015-016
Beneficiary: Alboran Cooperativa Sociale

The "Peschiera Borromeo's wetland" represents a part of the "Water Mill Project" of Peschiera Borromeo (just 15 Km East of Milan, Italy) which is an ambitious privately funded philanthropic project, integrating modern organic agriculture, sustainable bio-diverse environment and social solidarity implemented by local volunteers. The Project has been conceived, designed and set up by "Antico Mulino srl" and "Società Agricola GAB srl" both owned by a member of the Borromeo family. In 2013 a 1,5 hectare wetland was created thanks to Lombardy Region and European Agricultural funding, to mainly attract young people, from primary schools to university students, to study and understand "in the field" (as if they were in an "open air laboratory") the biodiversity global threat and how to face it.
This scientific and educational goal is critically depending on the first three year life of the new wetland. NPF has decided to support the initial critical period (2015-2018) of this fragile ecosystem by financing an accurate maintenance program which will keep under constant control the vegetation growth and the overall water level.

The importance of the biodiversity global threat, is now recognised worldwide. Air and water pollution, deforestation, overbuilding, the fragmentation of the territories make difficult the shifts of wildlife to find food and repair to carry out reproduction.
The "Water Mill Project" of Peschiera Borromeo includes an important scientific and educational component based on a newly built wetland aimed to become an innovative and attractive way to disseminate in young people, attention and awareness on biodiversity threat and solutions. NPF has recognized the value of this project which requires a specific maintenance program to launch the wetland utilization.

The three year maintenance of Peschiera Borromeo's wetland that NPF has decided to finance will be undertaken by local "Alboran Cooperativa Sociale" using disadvantaged workers. This decision will not only ensure the launch of an innovative "open air laboratory" for biodiversity research and environmental education, but will also reinforce the existing ecological corridor where many endangered bird species will settle and survive to the nearby town threats.
The mission of this Project fits perfectly with the "global - local" two fold approach of NPF and covers three of the main sectors of NPF's approach namely: (i) environment and wild life conservation (especially birds), (ii) scientific and educational approach to biodiversity and (iii) social solidarity by using disadvantaged people in green jobs.

The project  bean in July 2015 and will end in june 2018 and will consist in keeping under constant control the vegetation growth and the overall water level on the newly built 1,5 hectares wetland in the municipality of Peschiera Borromeo (15 Km outside Milan). In fact, after having planted only certified native species, the vegetation growth has to be carefully controlled to successfully achieve the optimal balance between wild plants and the recently planted native species. It's also important to monitor and keep under control the water level, since this wetland has been designed with different water depth to attract different kind of animals and vegetation (for example, lower depth to permit the presence of limicolous species, higher depth for the anatids).
The maintenance contract has been awarded to "Alboran Cooperativa Sociale" a well known local no-profit cooperative, with a long experience in green maintenance and already managing another nearby wetland. Moreover, "Alboran Cooperativa Sociale" is mainly employing local disadvantaged and disabled workers. The use of said disadvantaged people in this kind of open air works is an additional value to the biodiversity issue by blending social care with environmental responsibility.

The maintenance includes
a) Botanic "green" maintenance: Three time a year the grass will be cut manually on the border of the wetland; all main bushes and more than 800 young certified plants newly installed will be checked and groomed;
b) Water and infrastructure management: The water level regulation in the wetland will be done by using manual bulkheads upstream and downstream the natural flow of the incoming water. Both during the summer period (April ‐ September) and winter period (October ‐ March), the water will be provided by the Consorzio Bonifica Est Ticino Villoresi through the irrigation canal called Naviglio Martesana ‐ Roggia Renata. During the winter period (October ‐ March), it will be necessary to check the rainwater flow constantly and eventually manage the exceeding water disposal. Therefore the whole year regular inspections will be arranged to regulate water levels and check embankments stability.

Regarding the scientific aim, the Peschiera Borromeo's wetland has already attracted in July 2015 the first students of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia in the frame of an International cooperation agreement which foresees that Vic students may undertake curricular or extracurricular external academic "practicums" at Peschiera Borromeo's farm and wetland. By securing the growth of the Peschiera Borromeo's wetland in the first 3 critical years, NPF contribute to the success of this innovative environmental educational program whereby students may approach the biodiversity issue in an "open air laboratory". The Project foresees that such an international cooperation will expand year after year by possibly enlarging the scientific network to other wetlands.
The "Water Mill Project" aims to become a replicable benchmark and virtuous example for local communities and attract specifically students of both primary schools and universities to build their future in agricultural and environmental sectors.

The overall project, in its shareholders long term vision, aims to study, debate and locally disseminate concrete and measurable solutions to the global issues of agriculture productivity, environmental sustainability and social solidarity.

think global, act local
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