Aics and Florence University together for the protection of cultural heritage and socio-economic development in fragile contexts

The protection and enhancement of cultural heritage are a flywheel for socio-economic development in the fragile contexts, where the Italian Cooperation operates. This approach was at the core of the international Conference that took place in Florence on10th  and 11th  of November, organized by the University of Florence (Unifi) with the patronage of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (Aics), the support of the Islamabad Aics office and the Aics Rome, Office III^ – Opportunities and Economic Development. How to best capitalize on the skills of all the actors, involved in culture and heritage protection,  for sustainable and effective development cooperation was the goal of the Conference.

“The cultural sector, where Italy is very talented, is a priority for the action of Italian cooperation,” said Emilio Ciarlo, Aics Head of institutional relations and communication, who intervened at the conference in Florence. “In many Aics funded projects we cooperate with universities, research centers and civil society organizations, with their experiences and cognizance, as well as Italian companies for the restoration and enhancement of cultural heritage and which are excellences at an international level” he explained. Ciarlo then spoke about the attention Aics pays to human and economic development in these initiatives. “It is not taken for granted that culture promotion is considered a lever for development, but it is a fact since it produces over 3% of global GDP and 6% of the employed,” he said.

The first day focused on the role that cultural heritage has in the mitigation of social and economic fragility and in sustainable development, putting in dialogue with some of the main international sectorial organizations – such as Unesco – and several Italian universities with Aics offices operating in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

The Agency, in its first six years of activity, from 2016 to 2021, invested 70 million euros in the cultural sector, exploiting the Italian capability to generate added value for cooperation. The heads of Offices of the Aics Amman (Emilio Cabasino), Beirut (Alessandra Piermattei), Islamabad (Emanuela Benini), and Rosario Centola, former at Aics Kabul, now closed, illustrated this at the Conference.

The Agency has committed significant resources to programs focused on cultural heritage protection and the promotion of sustainable tourism in Jordan, a country rich in historical and archaeological sites, particularly in Petra and Jerash. Here Aics has also recently opened a regional institute for restoration, dedicated to the protection and conservation of monuments, and archaeological and tourist sites. The enhancement of cultural heritage and urban development is the core of some initiatives financed in Lebanon as the restoration and redevelopment of the ancient serial in Baalbek and the Tomb of Tire. In Pakistan, the Italian Cooperation funds allowed the reconstruction of the Swat Museum and the restoration of the Buddha of Jahanabad. New excavations conducted in 2021 also brought back to light the Shahi Vishnuite temple in its entirety.

On the second day, a focus was dedicated to the World Heritage site of Bamiyan, in Afghanistan, at the center of a redevelopment project that sees the Department of History, Archeology, Geography, Art and Entertainment (Sagas) of Unifi partner of Aics Islamabad, following the closure of Aics Kabul last year. The morning sessions examined the main cultural heritage protection actions carried out in the area, with the aim of discussing the results achieved until Taliban came into power and highlighting the most critical issues and sectors in need of further interventions.

Key relationships between the protection of cultural heritage, territorial planning and governance, a crucial theme in the Afghan context, characterized by exponential urban and demographic growth, were also examined. The social dimension’s role in the balance between heritage protection and governance paid specific attention. The contributions presented in these sessions were based on the data collected during the field research that took place immediately before, between April and June 2021, the change in the political scenario. A round table on the eventuality of future cultural cooperation actions in Afghanistan marked the closing of the Conference.

An exhibition organized by Imam Rajabi and Ejaz Ahmadi (University of Florence) entitled “Cultural heritage and climate change” as well as the “Bamiyan Living Culture” video installation, organized by LaGes and Studio Azzurro, was shown at the two days Conference.



OliveCulture Project: Training on “Processing Protocols and Hygiene safety” Chakwal – Punjab

Correct olive processing techniques and hygiene safety are fundamental to producing quality olive oil that can be healthy, safe and quickly reach the Pakistani market.

On September 26, 2022, CIHEAM, within the framework of the Project “OliveCulture – Holistic and Multiprofessional Mechanism for a Pakistani Olive Oil Value Chain”, funded by the Italian Government, implemented by CIHEAM (Bari, Italy), supervised by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), launched a Training session on the Mills installed at Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Chakwal, Punjab.

The event was held in the presence of Mr Roberto Neccia, Italian Deputy Head of Mission in Pakistan, Mr Marco Marchetti and Mr Costantino Parma, as International Project Coordinator and International Expert for CIHEAM Bari, and Mr Pietro Del Sette, on behalf of Ms Emanuela Benini, Director of AICS Islamabad, Mr Zafar Iqbal, Director of CEFORT and Mr Zeeshan Hanif, Deputy Commissioner of Chakwal.

The on-site training for the olive mill operators was conducted by Ugo Ametta, an Italian olive oil Maker and Master Miller with a long-standing international experience for 35 operators from Punjab and Balochistan. 40 operators are expected to participate in the course in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on September, 29 and 30, 2022.

The Training session focused on the most correct techniques regarding processing, maintenance of machines, hygienic-sanitary management of structures and processes, transformation and storage processes, all in compliance with the compulsory international protocols on risk analysis and control of critical points (HACCP), meant to prevent the dangers of food contamination and other health hazards.

Another on-site Training on the semi-industrial lines for the processing of table olives will start in October and will be conducted by Dr Matteo Milanese, President of Food Technologists of Puglia, Italy, in Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This activity stands under the primary goal of the OliveCulture Project meant to build the entire Olive value chain, through adequate processing, by observing proper rules and procedures, to reach the quality necessary for income-generating and health.

Glaciers & Students Project: preventing hydrogeological hazards in Pakistan’s mountains

UNDP, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), Government of Gilgit Baltistan and EvK2CNR organized Inception Workshop to formally launch the “Glaciers and Students Project”

August 24, 2022 Gilgit: The inception workshop was conducted to formally launch the project “Glaciers & Students. The project is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), executed by UNDP Pakistan, and Implemented by EvK2CNR.

The overall aim of the project is to prevent risks of hydrogeological hazards in Pakistan’s mountain areas, by establishing an evidence-based assessment and monitoring system for mountain glaciers to determine the behaviours of the glaciers with scientific studies and through the installation of Automatic Weather stations. The project will actively involve local universities and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the study and monitoring activities. A dedicated training and capacity-building programme will be designed for the students to ensure long-term sustainability of the project.

Representatives from all key stakeholders including Govt. of Gilgit Baltistan, Karakorum International University, and Civil Society Organizations were in attendance.  Mr. Khadim Hussain Saleem, Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Professor Dr. Engineer Ataullah Shah, Vice Chancellor of Karakoram International University, Mr. Imran Ashraf, Representative of AICS, Mr. Knut Ostby, Country Representative UNDP Pakistan, Mr. Agostino Da Polenza, President EvK2CNR and Goodwill Ambassador of Chief Minister Gilgit-Baltistan on the promotion of tourism in GB, Mr. Ashiq Ahmad Khan, Scientific Representative EvK2CNR Pakistan, Mr. Sajjad Haider Secretary Minerals, Industries, Labor and Commerce, Mr. Faisal Ahsan Secretary Forest, Wildlife and Environment participated in the workshop.

The workshop started with the opening remarks of Knut Ostby, Resident Representative, UNDP. He mentioned that “The importance of projects like Glaciers and Students becomes more vital when it comes to mountains and glaciated regions as the ecosystems in such areas are more fragile and need particular attention.” He added that this project will act as a bridge to transfer the technology and make better decisions for resilience.

Imran Ashraf, Senior Advisor Agriculture & Natural Resources on Behalf of Mrs. Emanuela Benini, Director Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), stated that “AICS believes in the nexus between Research and Education to be rooted in Pakistan, through a network of linkages between universities and institutes of Italy and Pakistan”.

Maurizio Gallo, Project Manager, EvK2CNR Italy gave a comprehensive presentation on the project to apprise all the participants on the planned activities. Mr. Ashiq Ahmed Khan, Scientific Representative EvK2CNR explained in detail the Glaciers Ecology, challenges and opportunities in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan. Mr. Shehzad Hassan Shigri, Director, Environmental Protection Agency emphasized the need for the installation of automated weather stations to better predict hazards. He also explained the research gaps in Pakistan and the need for international collaborations.

Prof. Dr. Engineer Ataullah Shah, Vice Chancellor of Karakorum International University (KIU) briefed the audience on the portfolio of KIU, and the support already provided in terms of research to different development projects and glaciers initiatives by KIU. He appreciated the provision for collaboration in the project with the academic institutions from UNDP and EvK2CNR that will lead to the sustainability of the project.

Faisal Ahsan Pirzada, Secretary of Forest, Wildlife and Environment Department, Gilgit Baltistan expressed his views at the event as, “innovative approaches under Glaciers and Students are vital for improved resilience”. He reiterated his support to the project and future initiatives.

Khadim Hussain Saleem, Secretary Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries Department Gilgit-Baltistan expressed his views as Chief Guest, “on behalf of Government of Gilgit Baltistan every possible support will be extended in this project”. He also wished success to all partners. He applauded the continued support from the AICS for several projects executed and implemented by UNDP and EvK2CNR with a focus on the conservation of protected areas and for the improvement of the livelihood of associated communities.

The event concluded with the Vote of thanks from Mr. Arif Hussain, Regional Manager Gilgit Baltistan EvK2CNR on behalf of Mr. Agostino De Polenzo, President EvK2CNR Association. He expressed thanks to all the participants including the Government of Gilgit Baltistan representatives, academia, partners, donors and media.