On 5th December, five staff and volunteer members from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority set off to Lefkara in Cyprus to take part in a PRIDE2 (Partnership for Rural Improvement & Development in Europe) week-long training course, organised by GRAMPUS and funded by the EU through its Erasmus+ programme. This was a cultural exchange and a chance to share knowledge, as well as a great opportunity to learn about a new culture, food and traditions, and to see a completely different way of life.
Kato Drys (a beautiful nearby village) is a Green Village partner specialising in rural food, empowering communities, traditional handicrafts and sustainable development. The Green Village concept is about achieving the ‘four pillars of rural sustainability’ that are used to form the basis of their work – environmental, cultural, social and economic sustainability for a community, a village, an organisation, or a product or process.
It is clear that the local craftspeople are trying hard to transform traditional products, such as Lefkara lace and silversmiths’ jewellery, into more contemporary items to make them more appealing in the modern age. They are also trying to work with younger people to ensure future sustainability of these traditional crafts.
One thing that I was particularly interested in observing was whether Cyprus had any similar issues to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In particular the problem of young people migrating from rural areas to the city. I discovered that there are similarities, with fewer younger people taking up traditional skills and crafts, preferring instead to go to the city to study and to find work.
Most of the activities we took part in revolved around local cuisine. This included foraging for our own food – including almonds, olives, horta (foraged greens), and carobs, which we then cooked using traditional Cypriot recipes – and gaining a better understanding of the importance of food in Cypriot life. I learnt about the culture, food, religion and history of the area, including the physical divide between the North and the South of the country.
Later in the week we went on a trip to Nicosia where I was fascinated to see the border and sense the atmosphere in the city. The Cypriot side of Nicosia has a more modern, westernised feel than the Turkish side, where there are many more traditional local shops and the typical fake handbag and clothing stores.
The training course is mutually beneficial for the local trades and for the course participants. Local trades benefit from the promotion of the traditional skills and crafts, the process of sharing information, and spending money in the area which will help improve the local economy. The participants benefit from gaining awareness of a new culture, heritage crafts and skills, networking and learning about new ways of doing things and initiatives, to take back home.
I had a very memorable week and an experience that I feel very lucky to have been a part of.
This funding will continue until 2020, but the future for the UK participants is uncertain.