One Square Meter – an art for empowerment project
One Square Meter uses the art of wool working to tell the story of mobile pastoralists. It is a needle-felt sculpture which creatively demonstrates, in tangible form, the links between mobile pastoralism, biodiversity and culture.
It is comprised of a knitted carpet base into which 20 – 30 different species of sculpted felt plants are woven – a visual representation of the fact that in one square meter of land where mobile pastoralism occurs in some rangelands, you can find up to 40 different species of plants. Although the creative art piece is at the core of the project, in practice it is much more. Its strong foundations in research, science and self-determined community processes make it a useful tool for engaging decision makers. The creation process enables women wool-workers from different communities to exchange knowledge and learn from one another, and the final piece helps pastoral communities develop funds and support the livelihoods, particularly of women.
One Square Meter is a celebration of mobile pastoralism – a practice which is highly beneficial to nature and the climate, animals, human beings, societies and rural economies – and the people who maintain it.
So far, four communities in Spain, Turkey, Chile and Lebanon have developed their One Square Meters – read about those below… At DiversEarth we can’t wait for further exchanges and new friendships – our next community in Nepal is waiting… In the meantime, we thank everyone who has been involved so far and give a special shout out to Almudena from DehesaLana without whom this wouldn’t have been possible.
1m2 in Spain – DehesaLana
This is where 1m2 truly began. In the hearts, minds and hands of the community organisation DehesaLana, in the Extremadura region of Spain, with the support of our Spanish partners Trashumancia y Naturaleza. Three wonderful women said they could bring the idea of One Square Meter to life. And they did. Led by Almudena Sanchez, who would subsequently share her amazing craftwork and expertise with other communities, DehesaLana studied the plants of Extremadura, maintained by mobile grazing practices, and needle felted each detail. The result is stunning. Since then, a group of women come together each year to celebrate One Square Meter, work with wool, and simply have fun. Thank you DehesaLana!!!
Photo credit: Concha Salguero
1m2 in Turkey – Avukma Producing Women’s Cooperative
Our second One Square Meter is from Turkey and created by Avukma Producing Women’s Cooperative led by Güler Sarıgöl Köymen. Güler and associate, Esra, visited DehesaLana in Spain to learn the craft of needle felting. This wonderful exchange of knowledge was made possible and facilitated by our partner, Yolda Initiative in Turkey – an organisation working to understand and support the threatened practice of nomadic pastoralism. Thank you Güler, Esra and all of the women in Avukma for the fantastic One Square Meter showing the rich plant diversity of Turkey enhanced by mobile pastoralism.
Read an article on reflections from the exchange between the DehesaLana, Spain, and Avukma, Turkey by Liza Zogib
1m2 in Chile – Wallontu Witral
What can we say about our third One Square Meter? It was such an honour and pleasure to work with Anita and the ladies of Wallontu Witral, the Mapuche indigenous association for traditional handicrafts in Chile. Such skilled woolworkers, it was easy for them to learn how to needle felt. We all learned so much during our time together. A huge thanks to IUCN CEESP for the funds to make this One Square Meter possible!
Read an article about our journey in Chile by Liza Zogib.
1m2 in Lebanon – Cooperation for Rural «Mouneh» in Arsal (تعاونية المونه الريفيه عرسال)
In July 2019, our 4th One Square Meter exchange took place in the village of Arsal in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Situated right on the Syrian border, Arsal has the unfortunate notoriety of being the only village where ISIS rebels took control. The atrocities the locals experienced here made our visit all the more special. Halima Hojeiry heads the Cooperation for Rural «Mouneh», where the women make a whole array of products, including quite exquisite rugs. We thank Halima and the 16 other women who took part in the exchange for their warmth, openness and generosity.
Thanks to our Lebanese partners, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, SPNL. We also thank the Zogib family without whom we would not have been able to enter Arsal!