Pathfinders of the Waters

The Pathfinders of the Waters project utilises an intangible heritage element specific to the Danube Delta – the traditional canoe known as the lotca – as a focal point for raising awareness about the relationship between humans and nature. The project encompasses a practical traditional boat construction workshop, a comprehensive methodology, open educational resources, a digital platform and dedicated events for the Pathfinders of the Waters children’s network.

Pathfinders of the Waters, Danube Delta, ROMANIA

The pilot project was supported through partnerships with local authorities, the Department of Sustainable Development of the Romanian Government, the Active Citizens Fund – Norway Grants, the Bosch Foundation, and Kaufland Romania. At the helm of the project is the Romanian canoe legend Ivan Patzaichin, who won 30 titles at the Olympic Games, World and European Championships.

Pathfinders of the Waters, Danube Delta, ROMANIA

The project successfully highlights the fact that, throughout history, people have shaped their existence and cultural practices in harmony with their environment, while nature has adapted in response to human actions. This understanding serves as a catalyst for transforming the way individuals interact with the environment in contemporary life.

The Pathfinders of the Waters project targets children in villages with limited access to cultural activities, using the lotca as a means to acquire new knowledge and skills. Through workshops on wooden boat construction, the children gain a deeper understanding of the value of heritage, including its relevance to climate change and links to sustainability. They learn to reconnect with the resources of their local areas and foster an appreciation for cultural and ethnic diversity.

Pathfinders of the Waters, Danube Delta, ROMANIA

The pilot project, implemented between 2018 and 2022, involved four Romanian localities within the heart of the Danube Delta, namely Mila 23, Sfântu Gheorghe, Sulina, Chilia Veche, and 4 others in Romania, connected to lakes or the Danube River: Drobeta Turnu Severin, Eșelnita, Piscu, and Comana. The results have demonstrated the potential to expand the project at regional and European levels. The goal is to further solidify and extend this approach to encompass other national and international examples of intangible heritage in need of preservation and valorisation.


“This engaging grassroots project is led by passionate local leaders and is beautifully depicted in joyful photos, illustrating the participants’ enthusiasm. Involving individuals from five ethnic minorities, the activities of the Pathfinders of the Waters project contribute to the cultural integration of children from diverse backgrounds. The canoe is both the physical focus of the project and also a potent symbol which helps foster understanding of the broader ecosystem of the Danube. The project seeks to link countries along the Danube, acknowledging the shared riverine heritage common to many communities in Europe. This also demonstrates the replicability and relevance of the project for other regions”, the Awards’ Jury commented.

“The Pathfinders of the Waters project aligns clearly with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and broader notions of sustainable development. It effectively bridges the relationship between sport, learning and heritage, providing an invaluable platform for children’s engagement. Furthermore, the project’s high-quality digital platform amplifies its reach and impact”, the Jury said.

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Contact: Teodor Victor Frolu | |