Sustainable Rural Communities – Cyprus 2017

Posted by

An ARCH Structured Course entitled

Local Crafts & Vernacular Building Techniques as Core Elements of Sustainable Rural Communities in Cyprus.

introduction This NET project was funded by the Erasmus+ programme, a European Union Programme, managed by the British Council and Ecorys UK. The training course was facilitated and promoted by ARCH (Archnetwork) and hosted by the Kato Drys Community Council with Panayiota Demetriou as project co-ordinator. The programme was a KA1 Adult Education for Staff project and it took place in 23rd to 30th September 2017


  •  Introduction (Gemma McDonald)
  • Stop & Watch – Cultural Heritage Interpretation (Lara Haggerty)
  • Adobe Brick Building (Liz Trevethick)
  • Low Carbon Energy Production (Desislava Todorova)
  • Forestry and Biodiversity Conservation (Katherine Rennie & Seona Anderson)
  • Communities (Michael Simpson)
  • Commentary on the daily films made during the visit (Blair Urquhart)
  • Participant Profiles

Introduction (Gemma McDonald)

During our time in Cyprus we learned about the 4 pillars of sustainability from our guide, Panayiota Demetriou, these are human, social, environmental and economic sustainability and how they affect the state of the local community. Through our trip we experienced the importance of these pillars in holding up a successful community and learned how interconnected they are, without one, the community would fall.

Human and Social Sustainability

During our time we visited a host of sites that displayed the importance of social sustainability. We see how towns and villages were struggling to keep people in their community and how children were moving away for more income and learned the affects this had on the villages. This began to fragment cultural knowledge and traditional skills as they were used less by the new generations. Cypriots have many traditions skills, from textiles to building techniques from jewellery making to pottery to farming methods, we explore the importance of these skills sustaining the local culture and society and the struggles they must overcome. We learned the struggles Cypriots tackle trying to keep their culture alive and keep up with the quick paced modernisation of society. The derelict buildings in the villages that the locals have moved away from were examples on how this effects a community. Then we learned ways in which Cypriots are trying to sustain their society and culture with modern and traditional techniques together in a way to keep the old and allow room for the new.

Environmental Sustainability

Environmental sustainability in Cyprus encompasses many aspects, the protection of species, building biodiversity, overcoming adversity with the struggles in forestry, growing food and using renewable energy. We learned how drought affects a lot of land in Cyprus causing crops to struggle though we viewed the techniques used to tackle this. The Cypriots use techniques to retain as much moisture as possible through certain species being planted that need less water and observing how water percolates soil at different elevations and angles then planning planting around this. We also learned how the locals rely upon the food they grow, how foraging is a part of their culture, this is an environmentally sustainable practice that helps the economy and society as well. We viewed this when we visited Aros.

Economic Sustainability

We learned that economic sustainability is crucial in keeping people in Cyprus and how local businesses rely upon the income of tourists or locals. Panayiota Demetriou, our host, had mentioned how a lot of local cafes and restaurants would be out of business if it wasn’t for “big family visiting” on Sundays and how a lot of restaurants make their whole income on a Sunday. A lot of local business are struggling due to lack of income to be able to offer staff, we saw this in the silver smiths we visited and the pottery business. Cyprus has been using techniques to try and overcome economic struggles and attract tourists to their businesses with attractive signage for advertisement.

The points that have been mentioned show how intertwined the 3 pillars are in holding up the community. This report will go on to expand upon the points that have been mentioned and hopefully give a clearer overall image on how important the 3 pillars of sustainability are in preserving culture, the environment the economy and keeping people in the community.



Signposting Cyprus’ Rural Tourism

My Erasmus+ supported visit to the village of Kato Drys near Lefkara in Cyprus focussed on the rural and heritage tourism and I chose to pay particular attention to Signage and Interpretation.

Background – Figures for tourism

Tourism in Cyprus is crucial to country’s economy: despite a dip in the contribution of the industry in 2006 to 12.6% of GDP from 20% in 2000, more recent statistics show that tourism is on a steady rise and visitors from the UK were over 1.5m in 2016. Visitors from the UK are the highest proportion of visitors making up 39.2% in the latest figures (2015)

A need to ensure this vital part of the country’s economy had led to investment from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) in attracting new visitors (Russian tourists are now one of the fastest growing markets) and in expanding the offer to the visitor beyond the ‘sun and sea’ factor. These new offers include wedding tourism and the luxury market, but I am going to concentrate on rural sites and traditional communities.

Food & Farming – Agro-tourism has arisen from a need for diversification: traditional farming methods are disappearing, often not economically viable, for example, modern, mechanised farming methods do not work on terraced fields, and the hill farms are either falling into disuse or sustained only on a very small scale or by immigrant workers.

However, there are some success stories, with villages using a portion of their land for alternative use such as solar farms, which support the village with power and can be sold on to the grid for profit. Provided this is done prudently, the villages do not lose their independence or community. Young people increasingly leave to find new opportunities in the towns or abroad and traditional family businesses and the heart of village communities are left struggling. Providing fast broadband has helped ensure that communities have other options, but all the same many villages are depleted or entirely abandoned.

Traditional foods such as olives, grapes, almonds and fruit are still grown and even in the mountains organic farms and the vineyards/wineries offer opportunities for tourism whilst also supplying residents, such as the meat smokery at Agros that we visited, or Loula’s sheep and goat farm, that makes Haloumi cheese (one of Cyprus’ top exports).

Heritage Sites – the ancient sites throughout Cyprus, including the World Heritage Site at Paphos have long held attraction for the visitor. The Department of Antiquities is responsible for major sites and museums across the country. Often, by contrast, the interest is not just in official heritage: a local guide with knowledge of traditional ways of life and the history and politics of the country can bring alive sights on the roadside such as grapes drying in the sun near Agros and these casually stored clay pots, some more than 200 years old, lying with old tyres in the corner of the yard.

Traditional Crafts – the area around Lefkara is renowned for lace-making, silver and goldsmithing and the remains of these artisan cultures do their best to attract tourists. Signage is often bold, even brash and purposeful, aimed at making the visitor ‘Stop and Look’ or showing parking places, rather than designed or branded to echo the tradition of the craft. The down side of this approach is that it can be off-putting to the visitor looking to experience the delicate art of lace making on the other hand, a Donkey Farm with life size golden donkeys at the end of the road was eye catching and memorable!



At Kourion braille plaques and raised diagrams for visually impaired visitors added a different and accessible element to the interpretation options.

In general heritage sites had very simple interpretation, and with a few exceptions this took the form of guide books/maps and on site information boards, generally quite heavy with text.

National Museum of Antiquities had a selection of methods, inclduing an audio visual interpretation showing the history of ceramics and in particular had very evident encouragement of younger visitors with interactive trail, posters advertising these, lion selfies and colouring sheets in a child friendly space.

A take away map of the city produced by young people was very interesting and pointed visitors to sites beyond the ‘official’ heritage and the involvement of young people in the creation of the map offered a path to more sustainable heritage interaction.

Otherwise the displays had quite minimal information and the display cards were very small – this had the advantage of not interfering with the items on display, but it was not easy to see what you were looking at!


Troodos Mountains – Forest Park and Botanic Gardens

The Troodos Mountains are a recognised Geopark and Forest Park with activities, trails for walking, cycling and off-road driving as well camping and a botanic gardens just some of the attractions to encourage visitors away from the coast. The day trip tour by coach (illustrated) was advertising and function combined.

Kato Drys Museums

For me the most memorable moments were found in the preserved and reconstructed traditional houses of Kato Drys, where two museums tell the story of the lace and farming way of life.

The connection with people from the past and their stories was both moving and engaging, and personal tours for both the Museum and the Bee & Embroidery Museum reinforced that authenticity.

Order books from Bee & Embroidery Museum

Order books from Bee & Embroidery Museum

Entrance to Kato Drys Museum



Comparison with Scotland

Economic: Scotland, too has a reliance on tourism to support the economy and invests substantially in attracting visitors: the main difference to Cyprus is that climate is one of the least important motivators! The selling point that the traditional rural communities have in common is showing the tourist the ‘authentic’ experience: something that Scotland has recognised as key to visitor satisfaction, and both cultures share a warm welcome to visitors.

Much of Scotland is forest park and the scenery and landscape is another key motivator for visitors.

Scotland has recently reinvigorated its traditional food and drink industry, and although many traditional craft industries are now lost to the past, we should not underestimate the potential for new versions of old skills, for example weaving and other textile crafts, to bring opportunities for tourism.

Lara Haggerty

[1]Visit Scotland Visitor Survey 2015/16



Adobe brick building

by Liz Trevethick, Highland Folk Museum

Part of our training through the Erasmus+ programme involved hands on experience of adobe brick making and seeing its use in the local area as a building resource and for restoring derelict buildings.

The day began with a presentation by architects Mourad Hennous and Maria Panta, putting earthen architecture into a global context. It was fascinating to discover that 40% of people on Earth live in earthen buildings and 17% of the world’s cultural heritage is built of earth, with 25% of that heritage being in danger.

Unfortunately nowadays earthen buildings are associated with poverty, being old-fashioned without the services of modern day life. It is thought they are not weather resistant, and that it isn’t possible to build tall buildings, although they have been built to the height of 11 storeys. It is easier for governments to build new communities around or beside old settlements rather than invest in the incorporation of modern services and infrastructure, and encourage training in the skills needed for building and repair.

With regard to sustainability, building entirely with local materials is a huge plus. The only energy involved is that of the sun and manpower. There are minimal transport costs; energy savings in production are massive compared to those of concrete, bricks and steel; materials are biodegradable, returning to the earth as they degrade; if built well – good boots (foundation) and a good hat (roof) – and maintained regularly the buildings can last for centuries – adobe needs to be rendered with the right material to protect it from the rain and allowed to breathe; the buildings also sit well in the environment and running costs are low.

There are plenty of modern luxury, architect designed buildings around the world which disprove all of the negatives and prove all of the positives of earthen architecture but they have become the realm of the wealthy due to the cost of labour and skills.

Adobe brick is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of construction and we had the pleasure of learning how to do it in 29° C in Martin Clark’s garden, in Lefkara.


We were taught how to test the soil for suitability – how much clay it contains, how expansive the clay is and how much organic matter it contains.



The soil separates out and expands in water, and when mixed with water, rubbed over hands and then rinsed off, it’s possible to tell how sticky it is and how it will hold together.

The clay then has to be tested for shrinkage, to tell how much organic matter needs to be added. This is done by mixing a small amount of soil into a paste with water and pressing it into a 1cm length of 5cm diameter plastic pipe. It is then pushed out of the mould and left to dry. Placing the pipe section over the sample when dry shows how much it has shrunk. Ideally it should not shrink too much, as that would cause too much movement in the building once built. Mixing in organic material helps prevent shrinkage.



Then we got stuck in!!


Recipe for adobe bricks

2 parts local soil, sieved if full of large stones

1 part sand

1 part organic material, chopped to 2cm long pieces – can be any plant fibres, straw, etc. as long as it is soft and flexible when dry, not stiff and brittle.




We had a mixing pit edged with stones and lined with plastic. The dry ingredients are mixed together then water added into the middle. It is left to soak in for a few minutes, then more added. We used spades to mix it at first then could get right in with our hands.


Once it was the right consistency we wet the moulds, put down a layer of straw to stop it sticking to the ground, and threw the clay into the corners first, then filled up the middle – smoothing off with a wet stick afterwards.


 The tricky part was shaking the brick out of the mould.

I don’t think any of us will be giving up the day job but we had great fun and I think I can safely say we all have respect for those who can produce vast quantities of bricks in the time it took us to produce one!


Later we were able to see examples of modern adobe bricks being used to restore local buildings. Use of adobe showed the clear difference between the original structure and later repairs.


Some of our bricks and the adobe mix were used to build a clay oven, to be used for baking pizza at the student house. (The bottle is creating a chimney hole!)

So how is this relevant to the Highland Folk Museum and the north of Scotland?

There are many similarities between cultures – traditional vernacular buildings in Scotland were also built using local materials; turf, stone, wood and thatched with marram grass, heather, reed, rush or bracken. It was vital to keep the foundations dry and the roof in good repair, keeping the buildings habitable for generations. In the twentieth century they quickly became associated with poverty and primitive living conditions, with none of the services people came to expect. People couldn’t wait to abandon the old house and move into a new house with running water, electricity, drainage and a bathroom. The skills needed to build and repair the old buildings have largely been lost. The cost of building new versions is very high due to the cost of labour and the necessary skills required.

As in Cyprus and around the rest of the world, people are beginning to appreciate the advantages of such sustainable building and it is becoming possible to build modern houses which meet all our requirements and are environmentally sustainable. The high cost of labour and a skilled workforce needs to be balanced against the great economic and environmental saving on running costs, transport and production of building materials, as well as the social and cultural importance of preserving the skills, providing employment opportunities and keeping young people in our rural communities.

At the Highland Folk Museum we build, restore and repair a variety of vernacular buildings, to preserve them, but also, more importantly perhaps, to retain the skills needed to do so. In partnership with other organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland and their Engine Shed facility, we can train people, particularly young people – making sustainability trendy – and keep rural communities viable socially, economically, culturally and environmentally i.e. aiming to maintain the four pillars of sustainability.

Visitors want to see the finished buildings and the methods used to construct them – it is crucial to the whole experience of Scottish culture and heritage in general and the Highlands and Islands in particular.

I will be producing a presentation for my colleagues about the whole week, based on our joint report and tailoring it to our organisation’s specific needs. What I found particularly useful was an insight into the logistics and implications of organising such a structured course – something we are hoping to introduce in the future.

This programme has been really useful in demonstrating that rural communities around the world are all facing the same problems, with the same potential for renewal and growth. It is encouraging that so many people appreciate the importance of saving and adapting the skills and materials for modern day living, and that we all have similar aims and hopes.

Low Carbon Systems in Cyprus

By Desislava Todorova

My name is Desislava Todorova and I am a Renewable Energy Researcher at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) based in Thurso. I work on ERDF Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) funded projects, where the targeted recipients of the projects are rural communities and businesses, challenged by their location, dispersed population, climatic conditions and other surrounding issues. The idea behind the projects is to find answers to those challenges, overcome them by transnational cooperation and assist in the creation of vibrant, competitive and sustainable communities. One of the projects I work on (GREBE) has partners from three of the NET destinations – Finland, Iceland and Norway. I believe that the experience and knowledge from a location outside the NPA region will contribute to the research and work I’m doing by providing me with a different perspective. Furthermore, I am the Programme Leader for one of the master programmes in ERI – Developing Low Carbon Communities and also I am teaching 2 modules – Transition to Low Carbon Society and Developing a Community Energy Project. I will incorporate and transfer the knowledge and experience of building and nourishing a sustainable local economy from rural Cyprus to rural Scotland.

The 2020 target for Cyprus is 13 % of the share of energy to be produced by renewable energy sources (RES) in the gross final energy consumption (electricity, heating, cooling and transport). The share of RES in the total consumption reached 9.8 % in 2015, bringing Cyprus closer to the set 2020 target.

The latest GHG emissions distributions enquiry made by the Department of the Environment in 2014 shows that emissions in 2012 were 9240 Gg CO2 including land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) and 9259 Gg CO2 eq. excluding LULUCF. Between 1990 and 2012, the total national emissions excluding LULUCF increased by 52%. The emissions of 1990 and 2012 by sector (excluding LULUCF) are presented in the figure below (Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Comparison of emissions’ distribution between 1990 and 2012.

The policies regarding energy, electricity, heating & cooling, and transport of Cyprus have been modified in order to accommodate the changes sought to reach the different EU targets. RES electricity is given non-discriminative access to the grid, while dispatch of renewable energy (RE) is given priority. Operators of RE plants, under the Cypriot legislation, are contractually entitled to grid connection and expansion of the grid, if necessary to connect a plant. In Cyprus, electricity sourced through RES is supported through subsidies, coupled with, a net metering scheme.

Solar panels could be spotted even in the most unlike places. For example, a phone booth in the centre of the capital of Cyprus – Nicosia.

The Net Metering scheme in Cyprus, coupled with, the”Solar energy for All 2015-2016” Scheme, offered households in Cyprus the opportunity to install up to 3 kW photovoltaic solar system. In order to promote the uptake they provided grants amounting to € 900 per kW (max. € 2,700 per installation). In aggregate 1.2MW of PV installations will be subsidised. There is number of policies aiming at promoting the development, installation and use of RES, especially solar PV and thermal.

There is an abundant solar power resource in Cyprus. The Cypriot target of both solar photovoltaics and thermal power is 7% of the total electricity production by 2020.

Solar PV and thermal installation are easily spotted; thus, during the site visits in Cyprus, it was noticeable that nearly every second or third household had a solar PV or thermal installation, even at the most remote places, same goes for Lefkara and every place I saw while travelling around.

 Solar thermal installations per capita in Cyprus in 2010 were the highest in Cyprus of all European countries – 611 W per capita. Cyprus holds the EU-28 record according to the “European Solar Thermal Industry Federation” for use of solar water heating systems per capita.

Currently, more than 93% of households and 52% of hotels in Cyprus heat water through solar power heating systems. The table below (Table 1.) shows the installed PV capacity in MW for each year from 2009 to 2014, as well total combined capacity (MW) and generation (GWh).

Table 1. Photovoltaic capacity from 2009 – 2014.


Installed (MWp)

Total (MWp)

Generation (GWh)

























It is evident from the table above that government policies and uptake of low carbon solutions is correlated, as there is a 25-fold increase in generation from 2009 to 2014 and a 21-fold increase of generation in the same time period. Solar installations decrease the GHG emissions, while at the same time, they provide their owners with saving on their bills.

Adobe brick as building material were another important low carbon solution that was introduced during the site visit in Cyprus. The pressing issue of global climate change has drawn substantial consideration of building materials over the last few years. Nowadays, the construction sector is accountable for t about 23–40% of the world GHG.

Adobe is an environmentally friendly material since it does not call for extra energy resources for its production and application, as it relies only on the energy from the sun. Furthermore, it can be completely recycled and it generates minimal levels of waste when disposed of. Adobe, contrary to most contemporary building materials, has many sustainability characteristics, including but not limited to low carbon dioxide emissions (CO2), local sourcing and biodegradability. For examples a concrete block masonry has C02 emission equivalent to 142kg/tonne, compared with an earth brick masonry where the C02 emissions are equal 22kg/tonne. On top of the minimal environmental footprint, adobe augments cultural continuity by preserving traditional skills and techniques.

A research made in the north of Cyprus (Louroujina) studied the environmental impacts of adobe as a building material and made a couple of very interesting findings. It was demonstrated that a traditional adobe building has zero carbon footprint, as a result of the resistance offered by the walls material in summer and winter correspondingly. Another interesting finding is that adobe buildings were found to have a very good energy management regardless of the weather conditions. This was a consequence from less use of artificial heating/cooling procedures. The high thermal capacity of adobe is considered to be the most prominent characteristics of the earth based building material, especially in arid countries like Cyprus. Adobe offers good resistance to heat travel through the wall, owing to its thermal mass and the organic property of its basic materials. Accordingly, lesser cooling energy is required in summer, when brought under comparison with modern building materials.

In Cyprus, adobe was continuously used for construction from the prehistoric times until the middle of 20th century. Adobe was considered a low-cost and easy to manufacture and apply material. Furthermore, the high thermal capacity of adobe, was considered to be vital, in order to cope with the arid climate of Cyprus. The core reasons behind the extinction of the technique during the second half of the 20th century are the social and economic changes (agricultural improvements and rural depopulation) that occurred in the Cypriot society. Traditional skills were made obsolete by the industrialization of the construction industry.

Nowadays, adobe is used mainly for the conservation and restoration of historic and traditional earthen buildings. However, there are proponents of the idea that adobe has a place and can be incorporated into the 21st century. Fortunately, during our visit in Cyprus, we had the honour to get to know two of them, the architects Maria Panta and Mourad Hennous. They introduced us to the past, present and future of adobe integration in building and construction. Both of them are firm believers that adobe can offer a sustainable solution both in environmental and social terms.

Forestry & Biodiversity Conservation

Katherine Rennie & Seona Anderson

 1. Biodiversity in Cyprus

Plants: there are at least 126 endemic plant species, found on the island, about 8% of the indigenous flora. The island’s high variety of habitats, due to the various microclimates and geology all contribute to the high number of endemics. Aleppo Pine forests, Phoenician juniper maquis, Rock Rose maquis and mosaics of Aleppo Pine are major communities in the area.

The island’s Cedar forest is restricted to one valley only. It has suffered from lumbering for shipbuilding, and forest fires. The natural regeneration has been influenced from competition from Brutia Pine which is quicker at occupying vacant niches.

The use of land for agriculture has led to the clearing of forested areas. Vineyards and orchards have replaces pine forests. Only in the late last century, has strict forest protections and management practices come into place. Grazing from goats has also been brought into control. Hunting is also prohibited in Paphos Forest and parts of the Troodos.

Many of Cyprus’ endemic plants are found only on Troodos, especially at higher altitudes. More than a third of the 130 endemic species are found on Troodos, about 1000 m. The yellow flowered Alyssum troodi, and A. cypricum are confined to serpentinite areas of the Troodos. The saprophytic orchid Limodorum abortivum, grows under pine trees plus many other orchid species on Troodos – Helleborine orchids “The Holy Virgin’s Tears” Epipactis troodi.

The endemic Cyprus Golden Oak, Quercus alnifolia covers extensive areas on steep slopes and amongst the Troodos landscape. It is also the national tree of Cyprus.

Fauna: 169 birds, 12 mammals, 20 reptiles and 16 butterfly species are known to the island.

The largest wild animal that lives on the island now is the Cyprus mouflon (Ovis orientalis ophion), a type of wild sheep only found in Cyprus. The first inhabitants of the island, in the Neolithic period, brought various animals including deer, wild boar, mouflon and wild goats. Moufflon is the only species to have survived. This species has evolved into an endemic form. The population was on the brink of extinction due to intensive hunting, spread of agriculture and reduction of forests. Due to protection laws, the populations has increased substantially in the last few decades.

Cyprus is popular with birds using it as a stopover during the migration from Europe to Africa and back.

The fauna of the Troodos reflects the rich flora of the mountains and wide spectrum of habitats it has. From mountain butterflies, damselflies and bird species not found elsewhere on the islands. Endemic lizards and snakes plus freshwater crabs and frogs found in mountain streams. These last species are recovering from the use of DDT which was used in the antimalarial campaign.

We visited the Troodos National Park and completed one of the marked trails through an area of pine and juniper forest.



2.. Conservation Issues

2.1 Forest Fires: every year in Cyprus, forest fires are a huge risk that cause enormous and irreparable damage to the forest ecosystems and can threaten residential regions. Several reasons contribute to forest fires – high temperatures and drought periods, strong winds and flammable vegetation. The accumulation of biomass from the abandoned rural areas, increased tourism are also important that contribute to increased fire risk, especially during summer time. Cyprus is experiencing increasing temperatures and longer drought periods which is increasing the potential for forest fire.

Prevention measures in Cyprus include actions and measures that aim to reduce or eliminate potential fire outbreaks.

Law enforcement

Information campaigns

Proper picnic and campsites


Fire danger manning

The creations of fire breaks to interrupt the continuity of fuels. Fire breaks slow the rate of spread, giving more time for the firefighting teams to reach the fire.

Forest stations that are located in forested areas all over the island with accessible roads and an independent phone network.

Fire lookout stations: placed in strategic locations, usually at the top of mountains. These stations are staffed with observers that monitor for potential fires on 24hr basis.



During our visit there was a local fire which was contained by helicopter drops of water.

 2.2 Land Management and Abandonment

Cyprus has experienced many different waves of invaders and emigration over the last eight hundred years including major periods of population movement and emigration in the second half of the twentieth century. Alongside these changes rural depopulation continues to increase and has major implications for land management and the biodiversity which lives in Cyprus.

Grazing of sheep and goats is one of the defining elements which has shaped the Cypriot landscape, and contributes to the range of species and ground flora under the trees and shrubs. We visited a sheep and goat farm which was still being run as a family business. However many young Cypriots are not interested in herding as a livelihoods and many shepherds are now immigrants.


Olive trees

We visited an area of historic olive trees, c.800 to 1,000 years old, known locally as the Frankish Olive Trees. This grove of around 6 acres illustrated many of the historic and contemporary issues of land management in Cyprus. During the Ottoman invasion the land was signed over to the church to prevent it from being seized. The trees and the land can be owned separately by different individuals and communities. These olive trees were grafted onto the wild olives and the wild olive suckers need to be cleared from the base of the tree regularly to ensure the energy goes into the productive olives. The area we visited was rented by a shepherd to graze his sheep and goats, which helps to keep the undergrowth down as a protection from fire, but the trees themselves are managed by the Ministry of Forestry. In an adjoining grove of ancient trees the land and trees are managed by the owner with the advice of the Ministry of Forestry. The trees need to be heavily pruned once every 7 years to ensure they remain productive.


2.3 Invasive Species

Australian wattle tree (Acacia saligna) is one of the most problematic invasive tree species in Cyprus. It is native to Australia but has colonised many parts of Cyprus include cities, natural and seminatural habitats. It can thrive on poor soils, it produces large numbers of seeds which can tolerate fire, it has an extensive root system and can out-compete many native species in height. False acacia (Robinia pseudacacia) is also a common invasive species which has spread into natural and seminatural habitats. Other major invasives include Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis), Periwinkle (Vinca major), and Gum Rockrose (Cistus landanifer).




3. Conservation Action, Community Engagement & Restoration

3.1 Action on Oaks

We met with German forestry students who were part of local and European efforts to increase oak habitat, particularly Kermes oak (Quercus coccifera). The project to plant more oaks has been running for 5 years. At first seedlings were planted but the loss rate was c.80% and the refined method is to sow acorns in a shallow hole dibbled with a stick. For every 5000 acorns plants about 400 survive to seedling stage.

As part of community engagement efforts pottery acorn necklaces are made and sold to tourists for 2 euros. We made several as a group during our visit.








3.2 Troodos Botanic Garden

On Day 2 we visited the Troodos Botanic Garden in the Troodos National Park which was established near the site of an abandoned asbestos mine in 2004. The garden includes a visitor centre and herbarium, an endemic plants area, a riverine section and an arboretum of native, endemic, cultural and introduced species. The visitor centre had displays, screens and take away literature on Cyprus’ flora. One of the useful features for visitors was a screen with a series of pictures of plants in flower in any particular month. The garden was free and had mostly easy access footpaths and visitor areas, including a picnic area made from recycled tractor tires and cable spools.



 3.3 Amiantos Asbestos Mine Habitat Restoration

Asbestos has been mined in the Troodos at least since the Classical Period and the Amiantos Mine operated commercially throughout the twentieth century until the late 1980’s. When the mine closed the restoration of the area and the stabilisation of the slopes of the mine was undertaken by the government. Work began in 1995 to terrace the slopes and to reforest the terraces. This has been a major restoration and reforesting project which involved three main stages: the earth works to create the terraces or berms and to cover these with fertile soil from nearby areas; the thatching of newly greened area to protect seeds and seedlings; the planting and watering of approximately 70,000 trees and bushes of 15 native species. The reforestation is well underway and the contrast with the un-restored area on the north slope of the mine is marked.









Michael Simpson

It is not my intention to report on a day-by-day basis, but to give an insight on how I could relate the experience from a small community on the North Coast of Scotland to a small community in the White Mountains of Cyprus.


Both communities, Tongue on the NC of Scotland and Kato-drys in SE Cyprus, have more similarities than you might first expect. Both are ancient communities and both have had to deal with similar challenges. Both communities have ageing populations and people have left for education, employment and careers elsewhere.

The Scottish and Cypriot diaspora also have similarities. Both went to Canada, Australia and other parts of the British Empire, now Commonwealth. In Cyprus, many of these expats are coming home, and investing in the villages their families originated from. In Tongue many people are coming from the South with new ideas and experiences, challenging to both communities. Together they have to find ways to work for the benefit of their own communities. Both need to encourage young people with families to come and live and settle down. So therefore, facilities like schools, transport, affordable housing and jobs need to be provided.

It was noticeable in Kato-drys and Lefkara which houses that have been neglected over the years and are undergoing renovation. It is similar in Tongue, but to a lesser degree.



Walking along a beach on the north coast of Scotland is similar to walking along the beach in SE Cyprus, but the experience is completely different. The highlight of the course for me was the trip to Kornos Pottery. We were greeted by the all-female cooperative with real warmth and lashings of “lemonada”. I had never seen a pottery wheel propelled by the foot, making the process truly sustainable. The women really enjoyed their work and enthusiastically guided us in creating our own pots, to various levels of skill. My pot now bakes beside the log-burner.

Highly and enjoyable and instructive though this was, I began to wonder about the sustainability of the pottery. The drying shed was full of unsold pots and I later learnt that the women were making a few thousand euros per annum. The pottery at Kornos is in keeping with a tradition and craft that has been practiced in Cyprus for over 1000 years. Therefore, it has a cultural and historical value that cannot be reproduced by importing pots from abroad. This value has to be accepted for what it is. The pottery cannot be expected to compete with cheap imports.


The tourism gurus would probably suggest a café, better signage, opening hours to suit the tourists and probably an online presence. This would destroy the essence and ethos of the cooperative, in a similar way to the Strathnaver Museum, on the north coast of Scotland where I work as a volunteer, famed for its warm welcome and slightly higgeldy-piggeldy display, which again many visitors value for its honesty. No doubt visitors to the north coast of Scotland would like to visit the museum on a Sunday. The museum doesn’t open on a Sunday.

To conclude, both entities need recognition of their place in the community ; both need recognition for the historical, cultural and social aspects; both need to look at organic change as well as receiving the support and encouragement from outside agencies, organisations and their own communities.


Along the coast at Farr in the north Highlands of Scotland is a small museum, the Strathnaver Museum. The Museum tells a story about how folk were evicted from their houses in the 19th century and forcibly moved to the coast so that the Duke of Sutherland could graze more sheep. Though the stories are different, it is similar to the Museum in Kato-drys. Talking to Rosemary Macintosh, administrator at the Strathnaver Museum (who attended the course in 2015), we hope to establish further contact with the museum in Kato-drys to further mutual cooperation and cultural links.

Although I didn’t meet the Mayor of Kato-drys, as Chair of Tongue Community Council, I will be reporting to the Council on my visit, particularly as Kato-drys has devolved autonomy and budget responsibility. Something we think that the Highland Council and the Scottish Government could well emulate.

I had a most enjoyable experience and can thoroughly recommend it. My thanks to Panayiota, Martin and Libby and my fellow travellers.


Textual Commentary on Daily Films

Blair Urquhart


Filming with Artificial Intelligence in Cyprus

By Blair Urquhart, October 2017

The main topic of the Cyprus visit was “sustainability”. Our structured course led our two car convoy through the mountains to visit many examples of innovation and practical solutions to the issues facing the rural economy. We visited traditional producers of almonds, figs, grapes (raisins), herbs, cheese and smoked sausages.

Recording the experience as sequence of short films has provided some useful insights. These short films are recorded on a mobile phone and processed automatically by an online app known as “Magisto”. Uploading requires an Internet connection and this takes some time, but the processing is just a few minutes. It means that finished movies can be presented on a same-day basis. The footage is edited with some amazing sophistication – but often misses the theme or the logic of the story. The results are nevertheless interesting from the point of view of a visual record of the learning experience. These short films can be viewed alongside this report at

Day 1 – Green Heart – Smoking Sausages at Agros

A theme of many conversations was the desire to create employment to encourage children to return to the villages, and to maintain a way of life that had survived for generations.

Day 2 – Adobe Go

We discussed “The Four Pillars of Sustainability”. Adobe appears to tick the boxes in every case except in “economy”. In Western economy, building with Adobe bricks tends to add to the cost. However, the “human, social, and environmental” pillars were beautifully illustrated in this ‘hands on’ experience.

Day 3 – Kato Drys Mothers and Fathers

Sustainability in this context has also become “resilience” – the ability of communities to find strengths from their own resources.

Kato Drys is a good example of a village community that has created a very fine museum which centres on village life. The best features of this mountain village, in terms of buildings and streets, shops and cafes, have been restored, and as a result new building is taking place and the population is growing.

The film highlights the “Mothers and Fathers” of this community in old photographs. As a community inspired “museum” the exhibits speak to the present inhabitants as much as to the visitors. Panayiota, our host, is surprised to find a photo of her own grandparents. Elli, the museum director, describes the role of the salesman with his suitcase of lace and embroidery samples produced in the village. Jim provided the coffee.

Day 4 – Chirokitia:  Generations and Diversification

Chirokitia (Kofinou) is the location of a sheep and goat farm belonging to Evthimios and Loula Evthimeu. No-one could tell me how many generations of Evthimeus had lived there, except to say, “perhaps since the Crusades”. Panayiota describes how the goats follow the leader, who is identified by a long beard.  In this movie the soundtrack, “The time for love…”, was chosen to match the amazing collection china and glass objects in the farm house. Recently the family has introduced small scale catering for parties who come out from the city to buy haloumi cheese.

Day 5 – Pottery and Silver – Picnic Under The Olive Trees

Of particular interest in terms of sustainability were the craft industries; lace making, pottery and silver smithing. All of these occupations have lost out in the market place to varying degrees and require new approaches to survive.

Filming was not possible on this visit – out of memory!

Day 6 – White Road

We visited the site of an early unlisted monument located next to Apliki Church in the Cyprus Mountains which may have existed in Crusader times. The movie features an arch stabilised by the introduction of “hot lime”. Originally considered for a restoration project using Adobe bricks but halted by the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.

Day 7 –  I Wanna Be Free (Freddie Mercury)

We visit to the “Turkish Occupied Zone” in Northern Nicosia.

We started in “Helen’s” lace shop in Nicosia. Panayiota stood behind the counter while Martin went off to the “2nd hand clothes” section. It looked like a typical shopping trip until we stepped outside. We were immediately immersed in fabulous street art.  Martin explained, “it used to show a Muslim girl throwing a Molotov cocktail but now it’s been made a little bit tame. It’s very mild politically, very inclusive.” We crossed the border. There was a tiny graffiti of Freddie Mercury with the words, “I want to break free” from which the title of this movie is taken. Magisto “AI” decided to include some footage taken by accident which heightened the air of mystery! The waiter showed us to reserved table – number 42.

Day 8 – Kurion

Kourion, an extensive archaeological site of Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian periods that survived because of an earthquake in A.D. 365 which buried the remains. This was a final day cultural excursion.

Hosts: Panayiota Demetrios, chairman of the Kato Drys Community Council and Martin Clark of Arch

Summary Itinerary

Saturday 23rd September: arrival at Paphos airport and travel to Lefkara

Sunday 24th September: visit to family smokery and local food producer (Agros), Troodos Botanic Garden, Amiantos Asbestos Mine Regeneration, Troodos Forest Park

Monday 25th September: adobe brick lecture and practical session in Lefkara

Tuesday 26th September: visit to the National Museum of Cyprus Nicosia, visit to North Nicosia across the Green Line

Wednesday 27th September: Visit to Church Reconstruction Project, Collection of figs for cookery demonstration, visit to Kato Drys Local History Museum and Kato Drys Bee and Embroidery Museum, making of clay acorns as part of reforestation project

Thursday 28th September: visit to local silver smiths, making clay oven from recycled bricks.
Friday 29th September: Finishing of clay oven building; afternoon local food cookery demonstration and practical experience; making dyes from local mineral and plant sources
Saturday 30th September: visit to Kourion Roman site, visit to Paphos Mosaics, return flight back to Edinburgh in the evening

Participant Profiles

Participants:  Desislava Todorova, Gemma McDonald, Katherine Rennie, Lara Haggerty, Liz Trevethick, Michael Simpson, Seona Anderson, Blair Urquhart, 

Katherine Rennie: I am currently interning with the Scottish Wildlife Trust at two different reserves. My job has involved writing an invasive species report and I am currently teaching biological tasks to secondary school groups. I have been volunteering with the Scottish Wildlife Trust since 2015 after I graduated from university. I am passionate about conservation and educating younger generations about local wildlife and enjoying being outdoors. By learning from the people I met and working with other organisations I have gain more confidence which will help me in future occupations. I am planning to share my experiences from this trip by writing a blog for the local paper and Cumbernauld Living Landscape website and hoping to talk to the school groups about the trip. I am also hoping to build my own outdoor oven using adobe brick methods and share what I know plus keeping in touch with members of the group on further events.


Lara Haggerty, Library Manager & Keeper of Books, The Library of Innerpeffray

Background: I attended Glasgow University and studied for a joint MA Honours in English Literature and Theatre Studies. After graduating I spent several years working in a freelance capacity on a wide variety of cultural youth projects and arts festivals, including training for youth arts development. In 1995 I co-founded Wee Stories Theatre – a touring company based in Edinburgh, which specialised in shows for families, based on traditional and classic stories and storytelling. My role was to do everything except perform on stage, under the title of ‘General Manager’ and I did this for over 12 years. At this time I was also a Board member for the National Association of Youth Theatre and Scotland representative on the Board of Voluntary Arts Network, later becoming Vice Chair of the Scottish Committee. In 2006 Wee Stories Theatre reorganised and I found myself job hunting. I joined North Lanarkshire Council where I was a culture/heritage adviser for schools for 18 months and then was appointed Keeper of Books at Innerpeffray where my job is to combine curating an historic collection of rare books with business and tourism management for a cultural attraction.

Michael Simpson My background is in agriculture, forestry, aboriculture and landscape. I have worked for the National Trust, Forestry Commission, Countryside Commission, RSPB, Nature Conservancy Council and County Naturalist Trusts. I have lead structural courses under the Leonardo Programme and worked with and managed volunteers for over 40 years.

Seona Anderson: I worked at Plantlife International as European Conservation Coordinator for fifteen years and prior to this I was a researcher in archaeobotany and ethnobotany in Russia and the Middle East. I am currently working and volunteering at a range of local organisations in Perthshire and I will be using the skills and experiences from this structured visit in a variety of ways. In particular I will be sharing the environmental interpretation materials from the Botanic Garden and the community element of the oak reforesting project with former and current colleagues in the Scottish conservation sector. I will share the experiences of using local skills in a contemporary economic model with my colleagues at Remake, creative recycling charity. I enjoyed experiencing the range of cultural and conservation models which we shared during the visit, particularly seeing how cultural, nature and local economic models work together in practice. I also enjoyed meeting my fellow participants and I hope that I will engage with them on projects in Scotland.





Blog Post Location

Recent Posts