Communal Forestry is very important in Albania. The right to make use of forests and pastures in a sustainable way is now largely a matter for local governments in Albania. A project supported by Sweden has contributed to a change in the law affecting about one million people in rural Albania which are very much depended from these resources and a more decentralized and effective management of natural resources in the country.
About 60 per cent of all forest in Albania is communal forestry. The support from Sweden has contributed to making the management of communal forests and pastures more effective and decentralized, resulting in farmers and other independent landowners having received the right to utilize small, but for them valuable, forests and pastures in accordance with regulated cultivation plans. The project is being carried out by the organization Connecting Natural Values & People (CNVP), with the aim to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable development benefitting the local communities and improve environment in general.
The formal right to use the land not only provides security and increased income; it also contributes to a brighter future for rural Albania, where there is still widespread poverty. The local authorities are responsible for drawing property boundaries, issuing title deeds and establishing and examining cultivation plans together with the organized forest users. To do this, local government authorities need to have better knowledge, routines and information technology tools.
The following results have been achieved:
The most important and major result is an improved decentralized management, in which decision-making power and administration for the ownership and management of local forests and pastures is given to local actors. Local governments together with the forest user associations now manage their communal forest and pastures, in the benefit of the local communities. The project supported this in 13 targeted communes in Albania, but CNVP has through the network or regional communal forests federations managed to spread to other areas as well. Local governments and the forest users associations manage their communal forest and pastures within newly transferred responsibilities. The process of decentralization started more than 10 years ago, and is now getting more sustainable, providing more incomes for local communities and improving environment.
Secured property rights for forest and pasture users. The communal forest and pastures transferred from State property to property of the Local Government Units through project support are registered in at least 20 communes. User rights are identified and the project succeeded to have the first user rights agreements for communal forestry made with the Local Government Units, Forest User Associations and the users.
Farmer forests practiced with sustainable communal management in 13 target Communes within 6 regions. To address the needs of the local forest families, ‘farmer forest models’ were developed by CNVP and practiced in the target areas. Training and extension is used to further promote such sustainable forest practices that provide more regular income and meet domestic needs of forest families.
Income generation through supporting Forest Producer Groups. The project has developed income generating strategies for rural households depending on communal forests for their livelihood, including providing better links to markets. This has resulted in a 20 per cent increase of incomes for 13000 rural families from non-timber forest products such as walnut, sweet chestnut, hazelnuts and medicinal and aromatic plants, in the last 3 years.
Support to women’s economic empowerment and governance in communal forestry. The perspective of gender equity and women inclusion has permeated the whole project. CNVP has supported local women producer groups in 13 target communes to benefit economically from various non-timber forest products. Around 3000 women have benefited from services provided, creating networks and selling products in local and national markets. The participation of women in decision making processes for communal forest governance and board member representation has increased by 20 per cent.
The regional and national federations of communal forests are representing communal forest users and the associations. The Federations have increased capacities and regularly discuss and debate their role and functioning, and provide training and information to their members the communal forest users associations. The federations are recognized representatives for the communal forest users in Albania and are important actors in the process to further improve communal forestry.
A follow up project (2014-2018), aims to consolidate, replicate and build further on earlier programs, investments and achievements to the communal forestry and natural resources sector in Albania.