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Zambelli beekeeper showing frames - photo by Davide Sigele

Visiting the Zambelli Beekeeping Company – Photo by Davide Sigele

RuralAlbania, a project to support small agricultural producers in northern Albania, was launched in September. It follows a strong pre-existing relationship and one of the first initiatives was a familiarization visit

The fog around Reggio Emilia seems to be protecting the newly turned earth as it is almost winter. Except for a few rare tractors with rakes, it’s still rural. Brunhilda observed from the bus window: “I’m not used to it, it’s different at home, the mountains are high and the fields are broken. It’s my first time in Italy.”

Brunhilda was not yet thirty. He is part of ADAD , an Albanian organization of hundreds of farmers. He has spent a week in Emilia Romagna together with other organizations and associations dealing with rural development, as well as representatives of local and national organizations supporting the agricultural sector in Albania.

Puke, Kukes and Diber are among the rural centers in the north of Albania. project. It is implemented in this project funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation – There is a visit. Volontari nel Mondo RTM, an NGO based in Reggio leader and Emilia Romagna Regions and CIA-Agricoltori Italiani It also cooperates with many Albanian subjects.

“The purpose of this week’s visit is to get to know the activities of the Agricultural Assistance Centers of the CIA, which has 40,000 members, one of the main organizations of the Italian agricultural world, and to visit some of the largest farms in our region,” said Francesco Gradari, Regional Manager for the Balkans of RTM. . “The project started in September. After going through the Covid restrictions, we immediately made several visits to Italy and Albania. For us, it is fundamental to create and strengthen inter-territorial exchanges and relations,” he explained.

In Reggio Emilia, Brunhilda and her colleagues met with CAA National Manager Pasquale Plicato and CAA Piedmont Manager Giovanni Allaccia at San Pietro Cathedral, recently restored through an extensive architectural project. “We explained how we help our farmer members in all the ways related to the common agricultural policy,” explained Giovanni – “I also wanted to share the experience of the mountain farmers who are closest to the farmers in northern Albania.”

The meeting brings many questions and exchanges between people who are in close contact with the world of agriculture every day. “We don’t export models, but we believe it’s important to share good practices,” explains Alberto Sartori from Friuli, who has been working on rural development projects in Albania for more than 4 years on behalf of RTM: “The idea is to support farmers, especially women and young people. Farmers’ organizations with more than twenty years of experience are already doing it in the northern part of the country.

The understanding of the Italian reality leads us to reflect on the structure of relations and connections between the central government and individual farmers, especially in the Albanian agricultural system, which is still at a stage of construction in less accessible areas. A bustling, open construction site that feels like something is being built.

Hafuz Domi and Sabah Jaloshi, presidents of ADAD and Agropuka The two partner organizations of the project emphasize the importance of being close to the farmers, gaining their trust and thus being the main interlocutor in their area. Merita Deda of the Ministry of Agriculture recalls opening regional offices for this very purpose, while Evelina Azizaj, who coordinates ANRD A network of mostly Albanian civil society organizations working on sustainable rural development emphasizes that the support system for agricultural development cannot do without an overview of the rural world.

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Brunhilda’s story proves him right. Originally from Diber in northeastern Albania, after studying geography in Tirana, he was faced with the choice of returning to his homeland or staying in the capital. “During my studies, I never doubted that I wanted to stay in Tirana. Then I saw a graduate who could not find a job other than a shop assistant. It wasn’t what I wanted. I came back to work in the municipality and to become a local guide with other young people”. It is these young people who focus on the development of tourism in their area, become real community animators, and are now involved in the work of the Albanian countryside. They work between commercial organizations and individual farmers. there will be a link to communicate regularly.“My dream in 5 years?” said Brunilda.“To be a game changer, to contribute to changing things fundamentally”.

Ambitious inspiration in a reality that remains difficult. Many young people from northern Albania are still forced to emigrate, a phenomenon that has worsened in recent years. “After all,” explains Evelina Azizaj of the ANRD network, “some rural situations, especially in the mountains, lack even basic services.” He said he had recently met families who had forced their children into boarding schools since the age of 6 so that they could attend primary school. “They told me that education is important. I also have two small children, but why should an important right like education be taken away so dramatically? It hurts so much…”.

RuralAlbania – during a week visit promoted by Davide Sigele

Honey Extraction Machine – Photo by Davide Sigele

Davide Zambelli, owner of a beekeeping company in the Reggio area, also has two children. For several years he combined his beekeeping with his work as an employee. “I wanted to earn enough to support my family. And when I realized it could be done, I went 100% to bees.”

Davide’s is one of the CIA-linked companies selected for the visit. “Their experience may be important for this group,” explains Francesco Gradari. Davide awaits us a few kilometers from Reggio, but it is no coincidence that many are in the Apennines. “This is where materials are stored and all manufacturing processes take place. Then more than 300 hives are brought from the plains to the Apennines, depending on the time of flowering and the state of flowering.” Sales method. This is not a coincidence, most of the rural areas of Albania have at least one hive, and the production is expanding commercially. “Country “In the north of the country, honey production is traditional,” explains Alberto Sartori. “For many years, they have been supporting beekeeping groups in the Puke region, and beekeeping is the main element of their income support.” Zambelli’s company actually received European funding to buy a lot of equipment. “Important help,” he explained, “and it allowed me to organize my business.”

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As agriculture is a highly regulated sector at the Community level, Europe often appears on these visit dates. The Albanian group is fully aware that the development of agriculture goes hand in hand with the EU rapprochement process. “The Italian experience related to the common agricultural policy is important and will be important for the creation of several services for the benefit of Albanian agricultural farmers,” explained Cristina Chirico, head of the International Relations Department of the CIA. Francesco and Alberto joined the group on a study visit. “There are many funds,” added Evelina Azizaj, “and there will be more in the future, especially through the IPA tool. We need to be able to make the most of them.” For example, the network he manages has been directly involved in the implementation of the “Khödö-Ta” program in recent years project. Funded by the European Fund, it aims to improve the participation of young people in the social, economic and political life of the rural areas of northeastern Albania, especially in remote areas such as Shkodër, Kukes and Diber. Thanks to this project, Brunhilda dedicated herself to her community.

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