LIFE-MICACC project
LIFE16 CCA/HU/000115

"Municipalities as integrators and coordinators
in adaptation to climate change"

Study trip to France

Group photo of the participants

Within the framework of the “Municipalities as integrators and coordinators in adaptation to climate change”, LIFE16 CCA/HU/000115 (hereinafter referred to as “LIFE-MICACC”) project, the fifth study trip took place between the 16th and 18th September 2019, in the Marais-Poitevin Regional National Park, France. The organizing team was set up with colleagues – the beneficiary organizations implementing the LIFE-MICACC project – from Association of Climate-Friendly Municipalities (AOCFM), World Wide Fund for Nature Hungary Foundation (WWF), and the coordinating beneficiary, Ministry of Interior. From the  other associated beneficiaries, colleagues from three partner municipalities (Municipality of Bátya, Püspökszilágy and Ruzsa), the  General Directorate of Water Management (GDWM) and  the PANNON Pro Innovation Services Ltd. also participated on the study trip. As a professional representative of the Ministry of Interior, the Head of the Department of River Basin Management and Water Protection also participated, along with several external partner municipalities’ representatives.

The participants travelled on 16th September 2019 by plane to France with a transfer in Amsterdam. They arrived in Nantes in the late afternoon, where they continued their way on a rented bus.  After a long and tiring trip, they arrived in Niort in the evening, where they had dinner at a nearby local restaurant.

Early the next morning, the organizers briefly outlined the schedule for the daily professional program, then the team took a bus to the 5th study trip’s destination to the Marais-Poitevin Regional Park’s center in Coulon, where Alain Texier the National Park’s Local Government and Environment Officer, greeted the group. First, François Bon elected delegate of the Province of Vendée, the Vice-President responsible for the Environment and Planning, also welcomed the participants. He was followed in turn by Catherine Tromas Vice-President for Culture and Development of the Municipalities of Deux-Sévres. After the introduction of our French hosts, Mátyás Farkas (WWF), on behalf of the LIFE-MICACC project delegation, greeted the French colleagues and briefly introduced the project’s objectives then the Hungarian participants shortly introduced themselves individually and presented their settlements in a few words. After the brief introduction part, the participants listened to the presentation of Jean Eudes Du Petit, deputy director of the Wetlands Habitats of the National Park. In the presentation, the creation and operation of the Marais-Poitevin Regional National Park was presented in details, followed by the introduction of the “Conservation of the most remarkables habitats and species of the Poitevin Marshes”, LIFE04NAT/FR/000087 project, implemented between 2004 and 2008 in which nearly 2000 hectares of municipally owned floodplain pasture since then has been leased  to local farmers for common extensive grazing.

 

Marais-Poitevin Regional Park's Officer welcomes the Hungarian group.

The Marais Poitevin Parc Naturel Régional phrase is translated to Marais-Poitevin Regional National Park in Hungarian however in Hungary we use the National Park classification for nature reserves, which must be protected from all agricultural and industrial use. The word of naturel (instead of national) in the French expression is referred to the difference that in these areas, in addition to taking into account the nature conservation interests, there is economic exploitation to, thus the Hungarian equivalent of “park naturel” is rather the name of a nature reserve or a nature park.

Marais-Poitevin Regional National Park's territory

 

The area was first recognized as a national park in 1979 which title had lost between 1996 and 2014 – as a result of agricultural activity, drainage and intensive irrigation - so during this period it was called interregional park. Following a long social and stakeholder consultation the Charte du Parc Naturel Régional du Marais Poitevin (2014-2026) statute was adopted in 2014 the existence of which was also prerequisite for regaining the status of a wetland national park. The statute was adopted by various stakeholders:  regional organizations, environmental and nature protection authorities, water directorates, municipalities, local farmers’ interest organizations, NGOs. In France, a so-called “Contract de milieu” form is common in each river basin  in which each stakeholder – on a voluntary basis – set the rules for the use of local water resources, the management of  living  waters, with the aim of achieving a balanced water resource management. Several of these local agreements resulted in the adoption of a joint statute for a 12-year period in 2014. The territory of the National Park includes 2 regions, 3 counties and 91 settlements.  The National Park’s area is interconnected by 8,200 km of sewerage system with 594 artefacts. The park which covers an area of almost 200,000 hectares is characterized by two types of landscapes. The dark green area on the attached map indicates the marshland with extensive floodplain pasturage (cattle, horses, sheep), while the light green areas indicate drier territories where intensive, irrigated field crop production dominates.

Thanks to the advanced water management system and the pastures and the reservoirs used for water retention, there is sufficient water in the canals for several consecutive years of drought. After the presentations, participants could ask their questions and discuss them with the National Park staff and elected local government officials.

Then the group set out for a boat-ride to see the marshlands, wetlands and extensive pastures. The typical problem of these areas since the 1990s is the reforestation resulting of the abandonment of grazing. National Park staff is constantly trying to promote this type of grazing to the farmers preserving the area’s natural state. The farmers take their animals to the area through the canals by boats designed for this purpose and leave them free to graze until winter when the area is completely covered by water.

After lunch, the group took the bus again and headed for Poirée sur Velluire with our French hosts, where Mayor Alain Remaud was waiting for the participants. After the mayor’s greeting a press officer from the local Quest France magazine took photos of the participants. The article about the visit of the Hungarian group can be found by clicking on the following link (https://www.ouest-france.fr/pays-de-la-loire/les-velluire-sur-vendee-85770/le-poire-sur-velluire-des-elus-hongrois-au-communal-de-l-anglee-6532481).

 

Alain Remaud, Mayor of Poirée sur Velluire welcomes the Hungarian participnats on the field tour

The municipality currently has 1-year-long contracts with five local farmers to rent the municipal pasture. Participants also had the opportunity to meet a local farmer Alexis Gelot who was willing to answer any kind of question. This summer was also very dry here so the area needed watering. In the wet winter months, artificially created reservoirs are filled with water by pumps, which provide irrigation for livestock farmers and agricultural farmers in the hotter months. During our visit the area was also very dry with no rain for months so most of the farmers had already transported their animals to home. The local water authority’s experts are taken aerial photographs to map terrain and hydrological features of the area with great accuracy. After the calculations, they determine the number of animals in the given pasture area and where should they create the artworks and facilities providing ideal water management.

A specialist from the local water authority talks about the hydrological and geographical conditions of the area.Alain Texier talks about local specialties.Water management artifact

 

The final part of the study trip’s professional program was the visit to the Municpality of Nalliers, where 106 hectares of municipally owned pasture are located. The area was presented to the Hungarian delegates by André Boulot, a representative of the local farmers’ club representing nearly 1000 farmers and Jacques Rauturier, a local farmer cattleman. In this area, farmers collectively graze their cattle and horses. Like the ones seen in Poirée sur Velluire, the animals are free here. The hydrographic features of the area were presented by officials from the local water authority. Finally, the study trip participants had the opportunity to ask questions of all experts involved in the implementation of the National Park and also to the elected municipal representatives and local farmers.

Information board about the project in Nalliers.Graph of the hydrographic features of the area.Asking questions with the help of an interpreter, Jantsits Ágnes
A representative of the local farming community answering the questionsCows drinking water in the parkPasture

 

On 18th September 2019 after breakfast, the group set off to Bordeaux. Before the plane took off, the participants had a chance to go sightseeing for a couple of hours. At 1 PM, the LIFE-MICACC team said goodbye to the French capital of red wines and started to the airport where an unexpected inconvenience happened. It turned out that our flight was cancelled due to the Amsterdam airport luggage carriers’ strike. The airline did not notify either the participants or the travel agent. After several phone calls, the travel agency informed the participants that they would be able to travel home in two groups on the next day. As the saying goes “In every bad thing, there is something good.”, participants were unable to travel home that day but the travel agency could only find accommodation for 21 people in Lacanau lying on the Atlantic coast. The lucky ones could even see the sunset on the coast. The next day, the participants travelled home in two groups. The first group got to Budapest with a transfer in Zurich, while the second group came home via Paris in the early evening. Despite the adventurous and exhausting journey the participants appreciated the study trip and the new experiences.

Participants in front of the Cathedral of Bordeaux Sunset on the French coast

On the way home, participants shared their detailed professional views on the study trip with the help of a questionnaire and gave feedback on what they felt was useful and what they were taking home with themselves. Evaluating the answers, all participants found the study trip very useful by and large. They highlighted the Charte (Charte du Parc naturel régional du Marais Poitevin) as a key to a successful project which is not only widely accepted in society but also serves as a basis for the operation of the National Park by striking a balance between the various stakeholders. The accomplishment of local agreements to preserve the natural state of the area may be exemplary and can be adapted to domestic practice. In Hungary as a result of river regulations, swamps and marshes have disappeared but the water management in the National Park could be a solution for revitalizing these areas in our country. Intensive agricultural production and industrial livestock farming are environmentally unsustainable thus there is a need to encourage farmers at local level for extensive livestock farming. However, we must not forget that best practices can be transposed and implemented successfully just if we take into account the local specificities and conditions.

A detailed description of the visited sites is available in Hungarian in the document library of the project website (http://vizmegtartomegoldasok.bm.hu).

Budapest, 25th September 2019

Written by Bettina Hugyecz and Petra Szatzker, Ministry of Interior

Project partners

Minister of Interior Bátya KTSZ General Directorate of Water Management (OVF) Pannon Pro Innovations Püspökszilágy Rákócziújfalu Ruzsa Tiszatarján WWF Hungary