Capacity building at Balkan Green Belt

Involving local people – enlarging the scope of nature conservation

© Gabriel Schwaderer
Winners of the competition for ecological regional development in the Jablanica-Shebenik Mountains. © Gabriel Schwaderer

Those who turn out to be crucial for the success or failure of protective measures may be people who at first sight appear to have nothing to do with nature conservation. It is all the more important  to bring them in on nature conservation projects from the very start. EuroNatur gets all kinds of local people on board from decision makers to private individuals. The project entitled “Capacity Building for the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Balkan Green Belt” is an interesting example showing what bed & breakfast places and protective measures for the Balkan Lynx have to do with each other.

National Park – on paper and in practice

EuroNatur is campaigning to set up a trans-boundary conservation area in the Jablanica Mountains  that lie between Albania and Macedonia to include the Schebenik mountain range that runs parallel to them on the Albanian side. One aim in this is to preserve a long-term habitat for the Balkan lynx in the Balkan Green Belt. (Read more ...)

EuroNatur was keen to make sure of the support of the local population in good time and infuse life into the concept of the National Park. So in 2008 we started the project “Capacity Building for the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Balkan Green Belt”.

Winning local people as partners in nature conservation

The goal is to show the people who live in the Jablanica Mountains what economic perspectives there are in protecting the natural treasures in their home region. We need to win them as partners. Someone who can attract nature-loving visitors with the label “ Jablanica Nature Park – Home of the Balkan Lynx” and can secure his own income in doing so will be keen to support the designation and implementation of a conservation area even if this means accepting certain restrictions elsewhere.


What actions are Euronatur and its partners taking?

  • Offering first-hand experience of sustainable development: In the course of the planning of Jablanica Macedonian National Park those involved went on a study trip to the Lonsjo Polje Nature Park in the Croatian Sava floodplains and picked up ideas, among others, about sustainable tourism and ecological education to use in their own projects. The Lonjsko Polje Nature Park was established with the aid of EuroNatur and is considered a shining example in the region for sustainable development in conservation areas. 
  • Sowing seeds, disseminating ideas: In the course of a competition 14 project ideas on ecological regional development in the Jablanica Mountains were chosen. Private individuals, staff members of nature conservation organisations, teachers and others from the Jablanica region took part in the competition.
  • Supporting projects: the implementation of the chosen project ideas was then supported with expertise and funding. Among them were projects for environmental outreach, for the teaching of environmental concerns in schools and ideas for nature tourism.
  • Creating networks: the competitors in this event presented the results of their work to each other and also to various representatives of national and international organisations enabling them to make valuable contacts and networks for the future.
  • Carrying this approach over to other regions: integrating human needs into nature conservation measures is a tried and tested approach which EuroNatur applies in other projects for regions and for species.


Important successes - what we have so far been able to achieve

  • There was a lively response to the competition:  altogether 50 project ideas were entered. Of the 14 chosen as winners 13 have been successfully carried out.
  • The competitors took part with great enthusiasm. At last they were able to realize ideas which in some cases they had been thinking about for a long time. And they received the necessary support in funding and expertise as part of the EuroNatur project.
  • Acceptance for the planned designation of the Jablanica National Park in Macedonia has grown perceptibly through this project. The participants and with them the representative of the Macedonian Environmental Ministry confirmed they would continue to drive forward the designation of the area as Jablanica National Park in Macedonia.


Partner: Macedonian Ecological Society (MES) 

Sponsoring: Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funding from BMU the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, MAVA Foundation, Lufthansa Environmental Sponsorship, EuroNatur donors and sponsors


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