Following roughly two decades of transition, illegal logging, and overgrazing of forests and pasture lands, Albanians living in rural areas started to become conscious of the damaging effects these practices were having on the environment. To address this, residents organized in community-based organizations with their main goals of protecting and rationally using their resources.
Participatory planning and management of forest and pasture lands was piloted in only 30 communes during the implementation of the Albanian Forestry Project financed by the World Bank (1996-2003). Given its positive outcome and wide community support, the approach was extended under the NRDP Project in more than 200 communes. This experience led to the decision of the government of Albania in June 2008 to formalize forest land rights transfers to 345 communes - resources which are used by almost one million people. The project has addressed the issues of soil degradation and improved watersheds by (1) financing participative forest management planning; (2) piloting the preparation of micro-catchment plans which integrate agriculture, forest and pasture management; (3) financing investments in forestry, pasture and agricultural lands; and (4) financing carbon sequestration activities on commune forest lands through payments from the BioCarbon Fund.
Currently the project is working with 240 communes (21 more than the project objective). It is estimated that the improved management of Albania’s forest and pasture resources and watersheds in 240 communes, through participatory planning, institutional change support and small-scale investments in planting of forests and orchards in degraded lands, thinning and cleaning of degraded forests and pastures, erosion and grazing control measures, has since the start of the project in 2005 contributed to:
- a 25 % increase in income earned from forest activities in communal forest and pasture lands;
- a 50 % increase in income earned from forest and agriculture activities in micro-catchments;
- approximately a 400,000 ton reduction in erosion; and
- the establishment of forest and pasture extension service.
Albania is one of the first countries to sequester carbon on eroded lands. The Biocarbon Fund, a public/private initiative administered by the World Bank, reached an agreement with the government in June 2007 to purchase emission reductions received from carbon sequestration activities, estimated at about $11 million to the Biocarbon Fund.
The IDA team worked closely with (i) the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Water Administration of Albania, which was responsible for overall project management; (ii) communes involved in the approval of forest management plans and supervision of investments; and (iii) Forest and Pasture Users Associations that participated in the process of preparation of management plans and implemented the investments. Key Development Partners included the Swedish government, which provided a financial contribution to the project.