Consortia as a participatory water management system for sustainable development
in the Plain of Sybaris, Italy

This case study focuses on water collection, storage and distribution methods that are implemented in Sybari Valley in Calabria (Italy), an area that has always suffered from water scarcity. It sheds light to a participatory river management system implemented by local populations and farmers, in a site that is nowadays characterised, on the one hand, by a massive coastal building and, on the other hand, by an extensive and dewatering industrial agriculture.

In this area, it is also relevant an approach to rural development based on biodiversity protection and polyculture, the practice of subsistence agriculture based on growing more than one crop at a time (wheat, barley, vetch, chickpeas and other vegetables, together with grapes, figs, citrus and olives), and small-scale stock-raising (cattle, sheep, pigs and goats), as the ancient Mediterranean methods already included. The purpose is to contribute to shift from predominant extensive and industrial cultivation methods towards a sustainable and organic agriculture, including an appropriate and efficient water management.

The tendency of the local population to protect ancient crops and promote biodiversity represents a way to bring to light the great cultural heritage and wisdom of a territory known in the past as part of the Magna Graecia.