Solutions for conservation challenges in the Buna River Delta, Albania
Following on from five years of action in the Buna River Velipoje Protected Landscape, the partners of the Living Buna project have shared two of their successful solutions for improved protected area conservation through ‘PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet’. Both solutions respond to challenges presented for effective conservation and management of the protected landscape and include actions undertaken by all sectors in the Buna community.
The Buna River Velipoje Protected Landscape was designated as a protected area in 2005 and is also listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. It is home to threatened endemic bird and plant species and is an important migration corridor between the Adriatic Sea and inland areas. The Buna Delta spans over 20,000 hectares and hosts around 36,000 residents, whose livelihoods mainly depend on agriculture, livestock, fishing and tourism.
What are the challenges?
There is an increasing awareness among the community to protect and preserve the natural wealth of the landscape; however, local practices and priorities continue to threaten the natural values. Most of the damage to the protected landscape in Buna comes from unsustainable tourism, agriculture and day-to-day activities. They result in land and water pollution, inappropriate waste management, illegal hunting and fishing, and illegal construction.
The designation of a protected area in 2005 served as a strong acknowledgement of its natural values. However, the next important steps for effective management, such as the creation of a strong governance structure and management planning, were not enabled. The management body faced a series of issues - funding, knowledge of management strategies and ecological restoration techniques and community support.
What are the solutions?
Solution 1: Increasing community contribution
The Living Buna project partners delivered activities that increased the ideas and capacity of the local community to contribute to the protection and management of the protected landscape, in cooperation with the national authorities.
Community and CSO training programme
Training sessions were held for community members and the civil sector, aiming to build their knowledge of the protected landscape and to train them to develop effective local conservation project proposals. To support collaborative protection and management of the protected landscape, the sessions included the introduction to the management plan for the Buna River Protected Area and discussions around the threats to its natural values.
Small Grant programme
The small grant programme served as a financial mechanism through which ideas grew into projects that benefit the environment and the local community. The community members demonstrated through this programme that sustainable tourism, agriculture, water management and recreation are feasible and showcased how they benefit the area. The Small Grants Scheme funded 23 projects, channelling 268,230 EUR to local community actions.
Solution 2: Building protected area management capacity
Creation of a Protected Area Management Committee
To give the governance structure broader formal input, especially for a decision-making mechanism, a Management Committee was formed, composed of the management authority, a water authority, local government, community representatives and regional government.
Management effectiveness assessment and capacity analysis, and a tailored training programme
The mid-term review examined the success of the management plan, reviewing the implementation progress of the action plan and the effectiveness of the outcomes. The Living Buna partners carried out a detailed analysis of capacity for implementation and protected area management, extensively engaging with authorities and land managers. The results informed a training programme to assist in filling knowledge and capacity gaps.
Why is this important?
The solutions bring together people’s need for a secure livelihood and activities that improve the protection and management of the natural environment. The sustainability of existing activities was improved, resulting in reduced negative environmental impacts, such as in agriculture and tourism. Other initiatives directly improved the biodiversity values, through restoration and protection. Projects were required to contribute to the implementation of the management plan for the protected area, providing additional social benefits where the civil society worked more closely with authorities. It also increased the capacity of community members to apply for other grant mechanisms successfully, by learning how to write proposals that align with existing policy and strategy.
The formation of the management committee ensures that the perspective and requirements of local authorities and key stakeholders are included in steering the management. It also serves as a contact for outside organisations to approach with concerns or opportunities. Through the training, the capacity and capability of the Regional Administration for Protected Areas (RAPA) based in Shkodra staff is improved, and they have received additional equipment to perform their work to a higher standard. Their knowledge allows them to have greater satisfaction from work and efficiency. The staff involved in the public visitation of the protected landscape are trained to provide a better experience to visitors, which will result in increased interest and positive tourism in the area.
The PANORAMA Solutions were submitted as part of the project "Community and youth engagement for wetlands conservation", as replicable and effective actions that had a demonstrated positive impact for nature conservation and the sustainable development in the Buna River Delta. They stem from the long-term Living Buna project, implemented by the IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Institute for Nature Conservation of Albania - INCA and PAP/RAC with the support of the MAVA Foundation, and contribute to Enhancing the conservation of coastal wetlands in the Mediterranean Basin while promoting Wetland-based Solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises.