Rural development through integrated forest and water resources management in Southeast Europe

Project description

Title: Rural development through integrated forest and water resources management in Southeast Europe
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Southeast Europe
Lead executing agency: Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) of South Eastern Europe
Overall term: 2015 to 2018


The rural population of Southeast Europe is strongly dependent on the preservation and sustainable use of the natural resources soil, forests, water and biodiversity. Degradation due to unsustainable management practices and climate change is threatening the bases of income generation, employment and development in rural areas, which in turn affects development opportunities and migration. In light of the conflict between the use of soil, forests, water resources and biodiversity, and efforts to conserve them, there is a need for an integrated approach as well as coordination between the important sectors and institutions.

Accession to the European Union (EU) is a declared policy goal in all the countries of Southeast Europe. To achieve this they need to harmonise their strategies, policies and legislation with those of the EU, and to put in place necessary conditions for their implementation. Natural resources management is a cross-border issue and the process of EU accession provides a common framework for it. In addition to their own national challenges related to sustainable rural development, the countries of Southeast Europe are now also required to cooperate and coordinate their actions across national borders.


Regional competences and resources, and institutional capacities for the sustainable management of forest and water resources have been improved in order to support the development of rural economic areas.


The project contributes to the improvement of technical, methodological and implementation competencies for the management of forest and water resources, and for the use of their economic potential in rural areas. In doing so, it cooperates closely with the Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group (SWG) of South Eastern Europe. This is the only recognised network with a political mandate in the areas of agriculture and rural development in Southeast Europe. It contributes structurally to rural development, the promotion of agri-businesses and the sustainable use of natural resources.

The project operates in three areas:

  1. Improving coordination between the environment, forestry, water and rural development/agriculture sectors
    SWG introduces positions to the regional dialogue that have been developed by its member institutions, working groups and networks. This entails coordination of the competent ministries, departments and authorities in the Southeast European countries. The topics addressed include the EU directives and their implementation in the context of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the protection of natural resources. Results and solutions are taken back to the member institutions.
  2. Integrating environmental objectives in rural development and agricultural policies
    Here, the aim is to develop inputs that support evidence-based and EU-compliant policymaking for the integration of environmental objectives in agricultural and rural development policies. To this end, the project uses on-the-job measures to improve the capacities of the SWG networks to develop practically applicable policy recommendations. This process involves expert staff from various ministries, as well as academics and practitioners; and it includes the private sector and non-governmental organisations.
    The regional composition enables fruitful exchanges and learning, particularly since the countries find themselves at different stages of the EU accession process. Policy recommendations are communicated to policymakers by SWG and its members.
  3. Planning and implementing the integrated management of forests and catchment areas in cross-border pilot regions
    In the pilot regions, the project carries out measures for integrated forest and water resources management that reconcile the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Examples include developing management plans for catchment areas, forests or pastures that contribute to nature conservation and flood protection, while generating incomes through so-called green value chains, for example, or through rural tourism. These measures pay special attention to the economic activities of women.
    Further education and training as well as on-the-job consulting are provided for policy and administrative actors, as well as the private sector and civil society. This equips them to implement measures, use EU support mechanisms and develop models for public-private partnerships.
    By working with the media, holding events and organising art and science projects in the countries of the region, the project raises awareness among the general public, decision makers, the private sector and civil society regarding the importance of forests, water and biodiversity to sustainable development.

Additional information