Ecosystem services for health, wellbeing, and the valorisation of rural areas.

  • Nature Governance
  • GAL Garda e Colli Mantovani
  • Italy
  • 2022

The project Wellbeing and Ecosystem service for Agriculture in Lombardy (WEAL) brings together health, wellbeing, and green infrastructures with the aim to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of rural and urban populations. Through the understanding of the health and socio-cultural benefits of nature, the project wants to promote active aging, social inclusion, job and income opportunities.

The projects will be implemented in the territories of three GAL (Gruppo di Azione Locale – Local Action Group): Garda e Colli Mantovani, Terre del Po, Risorsa Lomellina. It will involve a wide variety of actors, such as regional parks, social cooperatives, agriculture and forestry companies, healthcare and social care entities, local bodies and entrepreneurs.

The problem

In the three GAL, rural communities are affected by a series of negative social dynamics, often connected to depopulation and emigration. Increasing average age, lack of generational change in the agricultural sector, youth and female unemployment are some of the main issues in the territories. Besides representing a huge cost for the healthcare system, the main consequences of these issues are the loss of human resources and of cultural tradition, as well as the standardisation of agricultural production. The causes of these negative dynamics are varied. For instance, the area of the GAL Garda e Colli Mantovani has undergone deep transformations linked to settlement drives and tourist interests, such as the increase in the number of second homes, which have slowly led to the exodus of the local population.

The project

The goal of the WEAL project is to enhance the territories of the three GAL through the awareness and valorisation of green infrastructures for the delivery of ecosystem services related to health, wellbeing, and social inclusion (Green Care).  On one hand, the project will analyse the health and economic benefits provided by green infrastructures.  Different topics will be taken into account, such as the recreational and aesthetic value, tourism, stress reduction, active ageing, and social farming. the improvement of air quality, the recreational value, stress reduction, active aging, and green jobs opportunities, especially for the youth and disadvantaged categories. On the other hand, the project will try to better understand the local dynamics and confront with organisations and representatives of these territories. Finally, the project will seek to transfer methodologies and increase capacity building to create real benefit for the Lombardy community, in addition to drafting and possibly activating schemes of payment for ecosystem services (PES).

Our contribution

The Etifor team is responsible for the development of the common action for the valorisation of ecosystem services in the three GALs and for the local action of the GAL Garda and Colli Mantovani. In this sense it will carry out several activities of the WEAL project including:

  • mapping and economic assessment of the natural capital suitable to provide ecosystem services for wellbeing and health in the territory of the GALs involved;
  • internal training for GAL staff on specific topics of the project;
  • conducting participatory processes in the three GALs to enhance ecosystem services;
  • drafting and negotiating payment schemes for ecosystem services (PES) linked to Green Care.
The project “W.E.A.L. – Wellbeing and Ecosystem service for Agriculture in Lombardy” is funded by the Operazione 19.3.01 “Cooperazione Interterritoriale e Transnazionale” of the PSR 2014-2020 of the Lombardy Region. The LAG Garda e Colli Mantovani is leading the cooperation project and the LAG Terre del Po and the LAG Risorsa Lomellina are project partners.