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Humus per la Biosfera – Start of Soil Analysis

Group visit of project members on site ©Giacche Verdi Bronte

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The research takes place in three different fields near Bronte: An organic olive grove, a traditional organic olive-pistachio grove and an intensively cultivated almond-pistachio grove. The last two directly border each other and are well suited for a comparison of soil attributes and soil biodiversity between organic cultivation and pesticide and artificial fertiliser use. Already in the winter semester 21/22, we conducted a comparative arthropoda study here with interns.

Prof. Paolo Guarnaccia (second from left) from the University of Catania and his students took vertical soil samples for lab analysis of porosity, CO2-oxygen respiration and other factors.

Students and volunteers placed a metal ring in the ground, covered with foil, to distribute a certain amount of water evenly in the ring by quickly pulling away the foil. The time during which the water percolates into the earth gives clues about the soil’s porosity and compression.


Surrounded by volunteers Dr. Andrea Zimone (left) took topsoil samples for analyzing the soil biological quality, based on microarthropods.

Prof. Domenico Longo (above) measured the soil respiration. The lower part of his self made CO2 accumulation chamber is an empty cylinder, which is open above the ground. The upper part contains the electronics which are able to measure the rise of CO2 concentration from the ground, starting with the amount equal to the surrounding air (400 ppm). The soil releases CO2 from the microbial respiration – the faster the graph rises, the more microorganisms are present. The device also measures temperature, humidity and pressure.

The analysis will continue regularly.

EUKI in German TV: Report on Young Volunteers and Students within the Project Humus per la Biosfera

Two films were made from the material, which can be seen here:

“Sizilien abseits der Touristenpfade-Wo junge Freiwillige Abenteuer erleben” in German 29 min.

“Die brachliegende Kornkammer” in German 6 min.

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Film crew in sicily ©Giacche Verdi Bronte

Humus per la Biosfera: Formation and Sensitisation for Humus Growth

The face-to-face conference was aimed at 82 high school agricultural students from two schools and their teachers (12), as well as GV staff, their volunteers and four university students. The live webinar was attended by 76 farmers who had recently participated in a survey conducted by GV/MHS and the University of Catania on the economic and environmental situation of their farms. Thus, there was a direct flow of information to students and future farmers as well as active farmers.

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©Giacche Verdi Bronte

Under the moderation of the school representative Romano Stella (third from right), speakers and topics were:

Pino Firrarello (mayor of Bronte and senator in Rome, third from left): Words of welcome.

Prof. Alessandro Scuderi (Uni Catania, Dept. Economics, second from left): Findings from the survey of local farmers, e.g. the higher biodiversity of small farms and their prospects in the planned biosphere reserve “Terre della Biosfera”.

Stefanie Hermsen (MHS, first from right): Experiences and good practice examples relevant for Sicily from the German biosphere reserve Rhön.

Prof. Paolo Guarnaccia (Uni Catania, Dept. Agriculture, Food and Environment, second from right): Global situation of food security in relation to soil degradation and, referring to our current project “Humus per la Biosfera”, the necessity of humus build-up, both for fertility and for climate protection.

The students and farmers continue to participate in the EUKI project “Humus per la Biosfera”, as well as the University of Catania and four of its students led by Prof. Paolo Guarnaccia.

Humus per la Biosfera: Indoor Environmental Education for School Children

©Giacche Verdi Bronte

In format of a comic story the previously created PowerPoint presentation informed about the relevance of humus growth for a healthy environment.

The children were interactively involved in small filtration experiments after the presentation and participated curiously, with great interest while asking many questions.

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©Giacche Verdi Bronte

Now the project is about to start the second educational phase with the same children, deepening their knowledge by outdoor activities. Together with the same children compost boxes will be permanent installed in the schoolyards so that each school can actively produce its own humus.

©Giacche Verdi Bronte

©Giacche Verdi Bronte

©Giacche Verdi Bronte

Continued Commitment for Education and Climate Action in Bronte

Despite the difficult situation related to the Covid-19 pandemic, the activities of the Giacche Verdi Bronte do not stop. Some of them are carried out in person with limited attendance due to anti-pandemic regulations, while others are carried out remotely through webinars and online meetings. Between the end of April and May 2021, among the many activities promoted, we had two important meetings with two schools in Bronte.

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The first meeting took place on 30 April 2021 with the Benedetto Radice High School. We were invited by the headmistress, the teachers and the students to talk about the environmental enhancement of the area around Bronte  during the school assembly and therefore with representatives of all classes (aged between 14 and 18). Andrea Aidala of the GVB staff showed through a power point presentation the main naturalistic places in our territory, focusing on the theme of the Simeto and Alcantara river valleys as a UNESCO MaB area called “Terre della Biosfera” and on the numerous projects promoted over the years in synergy with the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung Foundation, including “Boschi per la Biosfera”, within the BMU’s EUKI programme. The students asked many questions and showed great interest in the topics proposed, with the hope of soon being able to visit the places described during the presentation of both the GVB and CAI Bronte, present with Angelo Spitaleri.

The second meeting took place on 19 May 2021 in attendance, at the L.Castiglione Middle School. In 2018-19, the Giacche Verdi Bronte, thanks to the “Frutti per la Biosfera” project (also in synergy with the MHS within the EUKI programme) transformed a disused area of the school into a wonderful educational vegetable garden. Two years later, the garden is still a fantastic reality and it was possible to organise a planting day in cooperation with the school. International GVB volunteers Alessia Doering and Lilly Kai, in this case supported by students from the Istituto Agrario di Bronte, guided the school children (aged between 10 and 12) in planting various vegetables and local herbs, forming three different groups. Other stations organised by the GV included: a herbarium “station”, where volunteer Rebekka Fackler showed the main Sicilian wild flowers useful for the survival of bees; and an insect house “station”, where volunteer Karla Fischer built an insect house with the students and explained the importance of safeguarding pollinating insects. At the beginning and end of the meeting Andrea Aidala interacted with the students, talking about the importance of bees and inviting them to become activists of the “save bees and farmers” initiative by getting parents and relatives to sign up. The Mayor of Bronte Sen. Firrarello, accompanied by Councillor Capace, also visited the school during the activities, and they expressed their appreciation for the activities, congratulating the School Director and the organisers of the day.