Biodiversity offers opportunities
Title: Conservation of Agrobiodiversity in Rural Albania (CABRA)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Tourism and Environment
Overall term: 2012 to 2018
Albania is characterised by great biological and landscape diversity. Although the country accounts for less than 0.3 per cent of the surface area of the European continent, it is home to 30 per cent of all known species of European animals and plants. Albania’s mountain regions, some of which are extremely remote, are especially rich in flora and fauna. This very high species diversity can be attributed to the geographical location and decades of economic isolation.
As the country has opened up politically, the loss of natural biodiversity and agrobiodiversity has increased. Wild species are threatened by fragmentation of their habitat and unsustainable hunting and gathering. Native crops and animals are lost due to relocation of the rural population and insufficient controls on trade in seed and pets. In the process, knowledge about their management and care and their economic potential is also lost.
Conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity are improved.
The programme pursues an integrated approach to rural development under which the conservation of biodiversity is combined with the promotion of sustainable agriculture and tourism.
At national level, the programme advises the Ministry of Environment in improving the overall legal and institutional conditions for conserving biodiversity, including reforming the management of the protected areas. At the same time it promotes cooperation with the ministries responsible for agriculture and tourism. In addition, expertise is being improved both in the ministries and other related authorities.
At regional and local level the programme supports partnerships with the public administration, the private sector and civil society, with the aim of jointly elaborating development prospects that are equitable in terms of gender and sharing of benefits. Nature conservation and protection of biodiversity, agriculture, and tourism are all mainstreamed in the activities. Cooperation takes place in the form of local action groups using the EU’s LEADER approach – a methodical approach to regional development enabling local people to be involved in shaping regional processes – and informal, temporary groups working on specific issues.
Cooperation between the ministries has improved considerably. For example in 2014, for the first time the national biodiversity strategy stressed the importance of agriculture and forestry for the conservation of biodiversity. The national tourism strategy devotes a whole chapter to the topic of sustainable rural development and nature-conserving tourism. The Albanian Ministry of Agriculture increasingly takes the tourism and biodiversity strategies into account when designing its rural development programmes.
Reform of the management of protected areas, which is supported by the programme, and the revised version of the national biodiversity strategy improve the general institutional and political conditions for conserving biodiversity. The administration of protected areas was previously under the responsibility of the forest administration but is now an independent administrative unit.
Two regional nature reserves have been set up in Albania’s alpine region, broadening the range of destinations available to mountain-climbers and hikers. This greatly stimulates both local economic development and the conservation of agrobiodiversity. There is greater regional marketing of local products such as medicinal and wild herbs, chestnuts and dairy products. Smallholdings in the mountain regions are increasingly cultivating native varieties, and the stocks of rare goat breeds have almost doubled.
Additionally, a viable and sustainable marketing and branding concept for the Albanian Alps region has been developed and is being implemented. This involves creating guidelines, establishing and promoting the Albanian Alps as a regional brand recognised as a nature, hiking and outdoor destination. The aim is to unlock, enable and highlight the inherited value propositions.
By establishing the forum for agrobiodiversity, Albania has forged a link with European knowledge networks. This has created the necessary framework for improved public relations work and lobbying at both local and national level.