With one-third of the land already degraded in the Mediterranean region, desertification is the invisible gorilla; a far-reaching issue we easily overlook because we fail to focus on sustainability. This is one of the key messages of the PRIMA REACT4MED Project Kick-off meeting that took place between 20 and 23 June, in Heraklion, Crete, Greece. During the meeting, an inter/transdisciplinary team of 25 researchers and professionals confirmed that nature conservation is no longer enough to guarantee the livelihoods of Mediterranean communities and laid out the planning for a 3-year project supporting the implementation of measures to enhance sustainable land and water management systems, to support increased and stabilized land productivity vis-à-vis climate change and variability and to accelerate dissemination of relevant technological innovations in 8 Mediterranean Pilot Areas.

The PRIMA REACT4MED Project, entitled "Inclusive Outscaling of Agro-ecosystem Restoration ACTions of the Mediterranean", is funded by the PRIMA Programme (Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area), a European Union Programme supported by Horizon 2020, focused on building research and innovation capacities, and devising innovative solutions addressing critical problems in the fields of water management and agro-alimentary systems in the Mediterranean.

The PRIMA REACT4MED consists of 11 partners (Universities, research institutes, and an SME) from countries cooperating with PRIMA (Greece, Italy, Germany, Cyprus, Israel, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, and Egypt) and has Pilot Areas in Troodos Mountains (CY), Heraklion (GR), Stornara and Tarra Apulia (IT), Cànyoles (ES), Merchouch (MO), Bethlehem of Galilee (IL), Menemen (TR), and Tamia (EG).

During the meeting, partners also had the opportunity to meet with stakeholders from the local government and the farmer’s community to better identify barriers and opportunities for the widespread adoption of a previously successful afforestation actions. Other REACT4MED Pilot Areas aim to support a wide range of restoration measures such as mulching to prevent erosion and conservation of soil moisture, differentiated cultivation systems, integrated or biological management of soil fertility, use of alternative water resources, smart farming and conservation agriculture based on no-tillage, crop residue management and farming system’s diversification.

The PRIMA REACT4MED Project is coordinated by the Hellenic Mediterranean University, led by Prof. Dr. Thrassyvoulos Manios, Vice-Rector of HMU, and Dr. Ioannis Daliakopoulos, Assistant Professor at the Department of Agriculture of HMU.

National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRA Morocco), Partner in the REACT4MED serving as both Work Package and Pilot Area Leader, is led by Dr Rachid Mrabet (Research Director) and collaborating researchers from Regional Agricultural Research Center of Rabat (Dr Ahmed Douaik, Dr El Haj El Maadoudi, Dr Rachid Moussadek, and Dr. Abdelmjid Zouahri).

During REACT4MED, which is scheduled to end in 2025, Project partners will work systematically for the assessment and implementation of these agricultural and forest regenerative and restorative measures and to develop policy recommendations for enhancing the spread and uptake of these measures.

For more information about the Project, please contact Dr Rachid Mrabet at rachid.mrabet@inra.ma and the REACT4MED project (info@react4med.eu).