PyrAnakampsi: Strengthening civic action in fire-affected communities

Laona Foundation / PyrAnakampsi: Strengthening civic action in fire-affected communities

The PyrAnakampsi Project-Alevlerden Geleceğe (2022-2024) aimed to support civil society in rural areas, as well as the lands devastated by wildfires in upland Larnaca and Limassol, as well as in northern Cyprus.

In July 2021, wildfires destroyed 55.000 km2 in upland Larnaca and Limassol, preceded by earlier fires in the foothills of the Pentadaktylos range (which also broke out in 2022). Unless aware of the broader effects of erosion, biodiversity loss, and climate change, various speedy recovery actions may actually harm long-term prospects for residents, productive lands, and ecosystems.

The project collaborated with 11 fire-stricken communities, eight in the Republic and three in northern Cyprus. The participating communities were Ayii Vavatsinias, Akapnou, Arakapas, Vavatsinia, Eptagonia, Ora, Odou, Salamiou, Agios Epiktitos/Catalköy, Agios Amvrosios/Esentepe and Vassilia/Karşıyaka. Cooperation was established with the informal TC group, Cyprus Environmental Initiative (CEI) and expertise was shared via two collaborating CSOs: Phoenix, an action group formed after the fires, and the volunteering group 300.000 Trees in Limassol.

The project objectives were to strengthen civil society representatives and informal groups in developing a holistic approach to their post-fire situation. Additionally, it aimed to convey an understanding of the role that CSOs can play in influencing local and national authorities to introduce measures for sustainable recovery, considering social, economic, and environmental issues.

The key elements of the project included the identification of ‘hidden’ assets (natural/cultural heritage), conducting SWOT analyses in collaboration with each community, to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the production of individual reports with maps outlining each village’s potential, and the strengthening of local capacities on matters relevant to their future and to fire-recovery. The project started with the planning and implementation of an awareness campaign, to acquaint the beneficiaries with the project’s aims and familiarize the project team with the local conditions, assets, and challenges. Subsequently, the project team engaged with communities through SWOT analyses, offering recommendations, organizing capacity-building activities, and providing mentoring sessions for residents and Apodimi. During these interactions three villages, Ayii Vavatsinias in Larnaca, Salamiou in Paphos and Agios Epiktitos in Kyrenia, demonstrated potential to move forward with other projects in due course, so they received additional information, guidance and encouragement.

The Pyranakampsis project benefited from a grant under the Active Citizens Fund Cyprus programme, funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, through the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021.