Highlights from our PEGASUS annual meeting in Reggio Calabria
The PEGASUS team has just come back from the 2nd annual meeting of the project, kindly organised by CREA and held in Calabria (Italy), home to one of our four Italian case studies.
Case study leads from the different PEGASUS teams presented the emerging results and findings of 12 in-depth case studies, which range from establishing a mountain wood label and supply chain in Slovenia, to improving the sustainability of the intensive tomato production in Italy, to enhancing good farming practices in the Volvic water catchment through a public-private partnership in France.
Invited to attend the meeting, the members of the PEGASUS expert advisory board – external experts involved to give us guidance and recommendations – provided useful comments throughout the discussions. Amongst the topics we agreed should be investigated further, the issue of trust/cooperation between local actors, which was found to be a critical factor in all of the 12 in-depth case studies. Data issues, establishing causality between actions and results, and the importance for actors to be able to use public and private mechanisms in combination were also identified as key topics.
The group went on a field trip across Calabria to visit two sites of bergamot production, a citrus fruit whose essential oil is used in the food and drink and the perfume and fragrance industries. About 95% of the world bergamot is produced in a narrow stretch of land in Calabria, in the south of Italy, where a specific micro-climate, with marked seasons and little temperature difference between day and night, provides bergamot trees with the unique conditions they require. The origins of bergamot are unclear: bergamot is believed to be either a naturally occurring genetic mutation of bitter orange trees or a hybrid species from a crossing between lime and bitter orange. Bergamot fruits (like all citrus) contain an essential oil whose function, in the natural environment, is to protect the fruit against flies and other insects. Bergamot essential oil is famous for its use in perfumes – it is one of the key components of Kölnisch Wasser (Eau de Cologne) invented in the 18th century - and as a flavouring agent in food and drinks such as in Earl Grey tea, a recipe which dates back from the 19th century.
The first site the PEGASUS group went to see was one of the largest processors and exporters of essential oil of Calabria, where the 5th generation owner explained us the full range of their operations, from harvest collection, selection of essential oils, to sales to multinationals of the food and perfumes industries. At the second site, we found out all about the parallel and more recent organic supply chain which supplies a smaller number of customers and has been growing steadily. Producing bergamot is often not the core business of Calabrian farmers but it is critical in generating some additional income to the population of this economically struggling region.
In the next months, the PEGASUS team will be busy analysing these case study results further and will test emerging conclusions with stakeholders in different countries and at EU level around May and June 2017.