The area of Väinameri is located
in Estonia, in the Eastern part of the Baltic Sea between
the major islands and the mainland. The area represents
a rural coastal zone with high nature values.
Extensive beaches with widespread reed
areas, coastal grasslands and limestone plains represent
habitats for thousands of birds, mammal species and
rare plants. A shallow clean sea, where light reaches
the bottom along thousands of square kilometres and
which also contains a rich organic world. However, the
Estonian coastal landscapes have never been all natural.
Humans have inhabited the area over the last couple
of centuries and have developed their agricultural activities.
Grazing and mewing have always existed along the coastline.
During the second half of the twentieth
century, degradation of local coastal economies has
led to the degradation of many valuable habitats. The
opened coastal areas like wooded meadows, limestone
meadows and extensive coastal grasslands which are full
of species have been overgrown by bushes. To revive
these types of ecosystems, sensible management of ecosystems
is needed in the first place. Several Estonian non-governmental
organisations and the WWF-Sweden have initiated the
Väinameri project to restore and conserve seminatural
coastal ecosystems by assisting the local people in
developing small-scale economies. Main areas of the
project applications are in farming, handicrafts and
eco-tourism. Awareness building and ecological education
are also considered to be of high priority in this project.
The ecotourism component is a part
of a holistic approach to sustainable nature use in
the area. The idea of the project is to some extent
similar to the food chain concept in ecology. Local
inhabitants, through their economic activities use various
resources of the coastal area by changing the landscape
into a more diverse state. The sustainable character
of the human activities will keep the agro-environmental
system in equilibrium. By assisting new practices in
the coastal area, the Väinameri project will support
restoration of valuable areas, but also lead to the
improvement of social aspects.
Ecotourism, alongside with farming
and handicrafts, provides for re-creation of the viable
coastal farmers society, by creating extra income
and divercification of activities.
of the project
The project has resulted in a significant
improvement in coastal landscape management and the
protection of natural values. Thousands of hectares
of valuable coastal grasslands have been restored and
are now managed by more than 300 high quality beef cattle
and sheep. New jobs have been created in traditional
handicrafts and tourism industries within the local
communities. Three small businesses and several societies
have been created as a result of the project.
The main result of the project is the
establishment of the unformal co-operation network of
actors which encompasses about 100 people.
The project has carried out the following:
2900 hectar of coastal grasslands grazed, 2800 hectar
has been mowed and 110 hectar has been cleared of bushes.
The project has created 7 nature study trails and 4
demonstaration sites. Also, three different ecotourism
packages, which include bird-watching, botany, local
handicrafts, local food and accommodation have been