Actuality & Events 1/2013
SAVE Foundation and SAVE Network
eNews: March 29, 2013
2013 is the 20th anniversary of the SAVE Network. To mark this important milestone in the conservation of endangered livestock breeds and cultivated plants, this years' eNews will look back at the events that lead to the SAVE Network and, subsequently, the SAVE Foundation being established, and provide an overview of the events of the last 20 years. This issue will cover the first five years, when SAVE moved from an idea to a Foundation.
The period 1993-1997 saw Europe changing rapidly as new countries emerged, the single market of the European Union came into force and conflict in the former Yugoslavian countries escalated. The Convention on Biodiversity, signed in Rio in 1992 came into force in 1993, creating an international framework for the task of conserving all forms of biodiversity. Alongside these political events, the world was changing in other ways: the rise of the internet heralded a new way of life for many. And the implications of genetic modification, cloning and "mad cow disease" (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE) led consumers to begin to take a closer look at the systems behind the food they eat.
The fall of the Iron Curtain was a turning-point for the economic structures of the Eastern European countries and, of course, in agriculture. Whilst in the West the conservation of endangered livestock breeds and cultivated plants as genetic resources and cultural heritage was mainly undertaken by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), in Eastern Europe various state-level institutes had already carried out exemplarily work. However, after the structural changes, it was no longer possible for states to continue financing these projects. Many were discontinued, some started on a new basis (e.g. for grazing and as tourist attractions in national parks), others were aided by western NGOs. These NGOs, which had previously worked together informally, saw the need for a better, cross-border coordination of the work. This coordination needed to be institutionalised and with a broad European basis. The Lake of Constance Meetings had already started in the mid 1980s with representatives of organizations working for the conservation of endangered livestock breeds from Germany, France and Switzerland meeting together. Soon, representatives from Austria, the Netherlands and even Norway joined in. The meetings were usually held once a year near the Lake of Constance. The meetings served to exchange experiences, for mutual consultation and networking.
In October 1993 the participants of the "Lake of Constance Meetings" gave the go-ahead for the founding of SAVE (acronym for "Safeguard for Agricultural Varieties in Europe").
The first SAVE Meeting took place in November 1993 in Lindau, Germany. Here the basic structure of SAVE was established, the working principles for projects, the logo was decided upon and the location of the SAVE office discussed. Right from the beginning, SAVE had an office in Germany and one in Switzerland. The location of the Swiss office remains the same to this day but the first office in Germany was in Witzenhausen reflecting the close cooperation with one of the original the SAVE Network partners: GEH (Gesellschaft zur Erhaltung alter und gefährdeter Nutztierrassen e.V.) .
The task of SAVE was, and remains to this day, to promote or build up national organisations at the grass-roots level. As long as such organisations are missing or are not able to run projects alone, SAVE should run projects itself. Because of this, many of the early projects were rescue activities, such as the live conservation of the last Polish Red Cattle (Podgorska), the rescue of the Turopolje pigs from between the war-lines in what is now Croatia, the support of the Karakachan horses in Bulgaria, the combining of the last Valachian sheep into new breeding herds etc. Alongside this, extensive, cross-border monitoring activities were carried out. SAVE and the, closely connected, Monitoring Institute for Rare Breeds and Seeds in Europe, and data collected from the whole of the Carpathian area and the Balkans together with local experts and using old literature resources where the breeds and varieties were still listed.
In order to place conservation activities on a sustainable basis it was and still is important to network and organise all the stakeholders involved. In the conservation work, the "3 pillar principle" is always maintained. This refers to the division of tasks between the State, the universities and civil society. All three pillars are represented and active in the SAVE Network in order to achieve a sustainable conservation effort.
22 &endash; 24 May 1992
16 September 1992
3 - 4 April 1993
25 September 1993
9 October 1993
27 November 1993
21 December 1993
15 - 17 July 1994
26 October 1994
The preparation for the SAVE Foundation and early project work was only possible through the generous financial support of: the Erlenmeyer-Stiftung, Hans-Peter Grunenfelder, Pavel Beco, Markus Stadelmann, Peter Goop, Paul Friedlos.
of the SAVE Project Office
forerunner of the SAVE Project Office (1991-93)
Many contacts had also arisen from personal acquaintances with young people, who Pavel had enabled to visit and stay in Switzerland - for many of them it was the ever first visit to the West. The gratitude for this - and the resulting hospitality - yielded some strange harvests. During a visit to the family of a young agronomy student in Moravia, the Swiss visitors were entertained with an 8 course feast. While Pavel could make himself scarce thanks to an invitation to a scouts' jamboree, Hape and a companion remained and were forced by the mother, despite vehement protests, to serve themselves food, again and again. In the end, they did not know what else to do but to jump out of the window into the garden, as the hostess briefly disappeared into the kitchen. They followed Pavel to the Scouts and suffered a shock when they found themselves confronted by a large, cold buffet - to which they were invited, most emphatically, to partake in.
More journeys followed.
The need for action in the East was huge, and the keepers of endangered livestock breeds who in the Communist era were left undisturbed in their niche, were suddenly confronted with the market economy. The cancelled state subsidies and the far cheaper foreign products (e.g. wool) made the keeping of animals immediately unprofitable. The changes to agriculture that had taken decades in the West, were completed - in a hurry - in a few years, almost months. With the closure of collective farms whole herds were slaughtered to make money to pay the wages of workers that were no longer paid by the state. So many cows were slaughtered that there was an acute milk shortage in the Czech Republic. Of thousand-headed sheep flocks found during the first trip, there was, one year later only hundreds remaining, a few months late there were, at best, only a few dozen animals left. Pavel and Hape travelled East each year for several weeks to corners and valleys of the Carpathian Mountains in search of relict groups of Valachian sheep and Tatra cattle. With the aid photos from old publications they asked veterinarians and village leaders for information.
The targeted search in outlying areas, which were inhabited mainly by ethnic minorities proved its worth. While, in the central locations, collectivisation led to very consistent breeding results, in these remote regions the old, local breeds are still well known. But often Hape and Pavel got to hear that they had come a few years too late, the last animals had been slaughtered recently. Sometimes, due to false information, hours of fruitless journeys were undertaken. And the border officials had little sympathy for foreigners who travelled for kilometres on small side roads along the border. But then there were moments when the original Walachian sheep were suddenly found - at the penultimate farm in the back lanes of the last village before the border to the Ukraine.
Urgent projects to be tackled were:
The Eko-Team made big waves, and Pavel and Hape gained direct access to government offices in Prague. Deputy Environmental Minister Bartak did not miss the opportunity to pay a visit to Switzerland and the model farm of Pavel Beco in Dicken (see picture).
The coordination centre of Eko-Team in Prague was, from a PR-point of view, a great success. Without expensive commercials on television, the importance of agricultural biodiversity could be made known and became politically "acceptable". Even so, officials made it clear that in talking about agrobiodiversity this was the "jam on the bread" and that, for countries in the East, this could only become a real concern once the bread and the butter had been secured.
Eko-Team became known in the countries neighboring the Czech Republic and representatives were also invited to attend meetings to Poland and Hungary. But it turned out that the local project partners could not be coordinatet from Prague. Initiatives to conserve the Podgorska red cattle, the Swiniarka sheep and Bialogrzbetka cattle in Poland could not be started. The Eko-Team was dissolved in 1993 and the tasks moved to Switzerland to be coordinated from St.Gallen, in the new SAVE project offices. In 1994 the SAVE Project Office, together with the German rescue GEH and partners in Poland, was able to secure the last remnants of Podgorska red cattle in the Carpathians.
In December 1997 the first annual meeting of the SAVE Foundation took place in Utrecht. With a list of 33 potential cooperation partners ready to be contacted SAVE Foundation began with the two founding partners GEH and Arche Austria. The offices in Witzenhausen, run by Karola Stier and in St. Gallen, run by Waltraud Kugler took on the work of coordinating the newly established umbrella organisation. This included:
The next edition of the eNews will cover the early days of the SAVE Foundation and take a closer look at some of the organisations and individuals that have worked together with SAVE over the years.
A list of priority projects was made by the SAVE preparation group in 1993. Whilst some of these projects - such as the creation of a collection of wild fruit varieties - remain on the "wish list", others count amongst the main activities of SAVE in the last 20 years. Other projects were added to the list as the need became apparent. The following are a small selection of the projects started in the first five years of the SAVE Network.
Romanian Wallachian shepherds took sheep with them when they migrated west during the Wallachian colonisation and settled in the Beskides, a range in the Carpathian Mountains. The sheep remained isolated in this Moravian mountain range from the 13th to the 16th century and developed into an independent breed. This original sheep breed was bred only in Slovakia, and Czech Republic.
Large flocks were kept mainly for milk but also for meat, sheepskins and wool. Under state direction of the former Czechoslovakia, the Valachian was improved by cross-breeding, which eradicated most of the original breed. In the 1980s, when various initiatives were started for the conservation of this impressive sheep breed, only a few remnant sheep could be located.
In order to coordinate the conservation of this breed, SAVE began to locate and network stakeholders. During the project, sustainable breeding groups were created that have, over the past 20 years of work, seen this breed move from highly endangered to a trend towards a reliably increasing population.
The Turopolje pig came close to extinction during the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.The rescue of the pigs from between the lines of battle by members of the SAVE network is probably one of the most dramatic rescue operations SAVE has ever conducted. As the war in Croatia broke out in 1991, the pigs could no longer be left to roam on the pastures. Keeping the pigs inside incurred higher costs for farmers. The meat market had collapsed and pigs were being shot by soldiers for food. SAVE, together with the Schönbrunn Tierpark in Austria and EuroNatur, were able to remove some animals to safer places during the winter of 1993/94 whilst marking others so that a herdbook could be started. The interest shown in the pig breed helped to bring hope in a difficult time for the local farmers.
Turopolje pigs are excellently adapted to the floodplains of the Sava river and are, thus, unique. They are able to look for food in the water and sometimes even dive for mussels. The breed is descended from the lard-type pigs of Croatia crossed with local meat pigs, then crossed with English Berkshire pigs in the 19th century.
The exciting rescue of the Turopolje pig breed was a success story &endash; but this success was only possible because there was somewhere to place the pigs at short notice. Rescue stories such as this led to the concept of Ark and Rescue Stations, which resulted in the projects Arca-Net (see: www.arca-net.info) and ELBARN (see: www.elbarn.net).
Podgorska Red Cattle
Representatives of the European SAVE Foundation purchased 1994 some of the last purebred Podgorska Red Cattle in southern Poland to save the breed from extinction. The Polish red cattle is Poland`s single autochthonous cattle breed. It is from the Central European red type. Since 1960 it was crossed with Danish red and since 1980 with Angeln blood. The lowland variety (Dolinowa) is not available any more in purebred form. Only the upland variety (Podgorska) has survived pure in small numbers. The Polish red cattle was a victim of the economic structural changes in the country. The population, which until the sixties represented ca 20% of the entire cattle population of Poland, was reduced first to just 200 animals of the Podgorska strain. This last purebred herd was placed at the state farm of Hanczowa in the Beskidy mountains.
As the Polish government had no more budget for keeping genetic resources in live populations, SAVE Foundation and the German GEH bought the most important breeding lines in a rescue action in 1994 when the herd sized dropped to 50. An in situ conservation project was initiated. The animals remained in the then privatized state farm and the farmer committed himself to keep the cattle in accordance with SAVE`s instructions.
In co-operation with the Zootechnic Institute in Balice/Krakow (Prof.J.Trela) and the Genetics Institute in Mrokow (Prof.Z. Reklewski) the scientific and technical supervision and the fertilization with purebred semen was guaranteed. In 1999 the herd needed to be displaced because of problems with the farm. As the situation in Poland had changed fortunately and again financial means were available for live conservation of genetic resources, the herd could be given back in Polish hands in Spring 2000 and is situated now in Gladyszow nearby the old place. Thanks to the SAVE engagement a national genetic and cultural heritage of Poland is still alive. The core breeding group of Gladyszow is still in property of SAVE Foundation.
Since the Middle of the 19th century, Mangalitsa pigs (woolly pigs) were bred in Austria-Hungary. The Mangalitsa enjoyed great popularity as a lard pig until after the Second World War. However, as the demand for lard decreased massively, breeding was reduced or stopped at all. The Mangalitsa exist in 3 variations: blonde red and swallow-bellied (with a fair belly). Mangalitsas are robust, resistant against diseases and stress and are capable of moving safely in any type of terrain. Even during wintertime, they like to stay outdoors.
The SAVE Focus, published in 1997, highlighted the need for international coordination for the conservation of the Mangalitsa pig. Conservation breeding was established in Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. However, problems related to inbreeding became apparent. This problem could be solved through international cooperation in breeding. Furthermore, rare and very rare breeding lines could also be spread. Through this coordination an international breed standard and herdbook could be built up. These days Mangalitsa pigs are to be found all over the world as the quality of the meat, including the fat, is now appreciated.
Karakachan Horses, Dogs and Sheep
The Karakachan sheep, horse and dog are local breeds that have been developed in Bulgaria as a result of the most primitive type of livestock keeping - nomadic livestock keeping. The Karakachans are a Balkan nomadic people of livestock breeders, who are considered by many historians to be descendants of the ancient Thracian livestock breeding communities. It is considered that, thanks to their extremely conservative livestock breeding traditions, Karakachan people have saved the most primitive and pure domesticated forms of animals - a sheep type "tzakel", a mountain horse and a livestock guarding dog.
In collaboration with SAVE, the Bulgarian Biodiversity Preservation Society "Semperviva", a nongovernmental, biodiversity conservation organization founded in 1997, established a conservation programme for the three breeds. This included buying and establishing a nucleus herd of sheep, establishing a "Rare Breed Centre" to keep them, buying a group of horses and stimulating and supporting the reintroduction of the Karakachan dog to the natural environment of the breed - among flocks of livestock. The Rare Breed Centre in the Pirin National Park is now the home of all three breeds plus flocks of Kalofer and the Bulgarian screw-horn longhair goats.
Seen as being an "urgent" subject right from the beginning of SAVE in 1993, the dwarf cattle of the Balkans have always been a part of the SAVE project work. Since the beginning of SAVE, various projects have been undertaken to conserve this special cattle breed and its varieties as part of the Balkan Network for Rare Breeds.
The Busha is particularly endangered by the changes in agriculture in the Balkans as well as crossbreeding with larger breeds. A further problem with the breed is the changing national structures in the Balkan region. This means that crossborder cooperation is a very important part of its conservation. Thus, the International Workshop on Shorthorn Cattle of the Balkans, held at Pogradec, Albania (11-13 September 2008), brought together the partners for a crossborder regional co-operation for indigenous livestock breeds of the Balkans region based on Shorthorn cattle (Busha, Illyrian, Brachyceros).
Under the UN-FAO Funding Strategy for the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources the project "BushaLive" has been accepted. Together with partners from the universities of Sarajevo and Munich, SAVE will run this project for the "determination of different types and strains of Busha Cattle in the Balkans through collection of existing information from projects and meetings e.g. of ERFP and SAVE, phenotypical characterization of different types and strains and molecular genetic analysis including the estimation of the purity of distinct subpopulations".
A comprehensive overview in the field for the collection of Information about the situation, production, conservation and market possibilities of Busha cattle will be done as well as discussion and determination of best practice methods. The development of a crossborder in-situ conservation and data management model shall ensure a sustainable conservation. This reflects the need for information exchange, technology transfer and capacity building within the Balkans.
The first step, a collection of the actual available information is already running. A list of the different types and strains of Busha cattle in the Balkans is in preparation. The next activity will be a phenotypical characterization on a cross-border interdisciplinary basis. A kick-off meeting will take place in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, on the 18 - 19 April 2013 before the field work starts. The aim is to discuss exact requirements for the collection of blood samples, the phenotypical characterization and detecting of the situation, production and market possibilities in the single countries and regions. Following the meeting the SAVE staff will make a short field trip. Most of the necessary field trips will take place through the experts in the respective countries. Later on in the project a workshop that is open to a wider field of stakeholders will take place. Persons with an interest in the project or who have information about Busha cattle should contact the SAVE office on email@example.com
Conservation and Adding Value to Fruit Varieties
Within the Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Programme, Partnership and Expert Fund, Partnership Block Grant, 1st call for proposals, the Mihai Eminescu Trust and SAVE Foundation form a partnership of a project proposal "Sustainable Agriculture in Remote Areas of Romania: Conservation and Adding Value to Fruit Varieties". With this project the conservation of fruit varieties in Transylvania will be continued with several practical measures: A workshop with stakeholders and experts, the planning of measures and priorities with local partners shall include the local communities from the beginning on. A demonstration orchard and a core collection of traditional fruit varieties shall ensure the conservation of the most important varieties. Educational activities will promote the interest of the public in their cultural heritage and a consolidation of the local fruit expertise shall ensure the conservation activities. Besides this activities in the field there will be an exchange of information.
As it was mentioned in the previous eNews, the first steps for a successful conservation of Transylvanian fruit varieties were already done. Now important steps like the collection of scions of important varieties and their growing will be launched. We are happy to be able to collaborate within this Swiss-Romanian Cooperation Programme and we are looking forward to start the next important steps toward a sustainable conservation of Transylvanian fruit varieties.
7-8 April: "Natural and Organic Products Europe 2013", The Natural Food Show, Natural Beauty & Spa, Health & Nutrition and Natural Living; at Grand Hall, Olympia, London UK. Web: www.naturalproducts.co.uk
18-19 April: "BushaLive" Coordinations-Meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
12-16 May: Quantitative traits breeding for multifunctional grasslands and turf; 30th Meeting of the EUCARPIA Fodder Crops and Amenity Grasses Section; at Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. Web: www.eucarpia2013.ikbks.com
23-24 Mai: Mountain hay meadows - economic, social and environmental value, Conference at Gyimesközéplok, Romania. Contact: email@example.com, Web: http://mountainhaymeadows.eu/conference.php
29-31 May: ICAR Technical Workshop 2013, Aarhus, Denmark. Web: http://www.icar2013.dk
29 June: Opening of the seed multiplication garden at the "Kraizschouschteschgaart", in Leudelange, Luxemburg. Web: www.kraizschouschteschgaart.info
26-30 August: EAAP 2013 Annual Meeting in Nantes, France. Web: http://www.eaap2013.org
19-21 Sept. Let's Liberate Diversity; Internat. Meeting in Basel, Switzerland. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
19-21 Sept.: Annual Meeting of the SAVE Foundation and the European SAVE Network at Biezenmortel, the Netherlands. Contact: email@example.com
20-21 Sept.: 7th Seminar on Agrobiodiversity: "Agrobiodiversity - a chance for Agriculture and Rural Development" at Biezenmortel, The Netherlands; Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org , Web: www.save-foundation.net
26-28 Sept.: Interdisciplinary Symposium "Biogeography of the Carpathians: Evolution of Biodiversity in a Spatiotemporal Context"; in Kraków, Poland. Contact: email@example.com, Web: http://bio.botany.pl/carpathians-biogeography/
28 Sept.: International Alpine Cheese Olympics: Food and Drinks, Tradition and Culture, at Galtür, Tirol, Austria. Web: http://tinyurl.com/cklgdky
29 Sept. - 2 Oct.: First International Conference on Global Food Security; at Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands; Web: http://www.globalfoodsecurityconference.com
Further information is available