Macedonia is predominantly a mountainous country, cut by valleys, gorges, plateaus and highlands. It has 15 mountain ranges higher than 2’000 m, while forests cover about 39% of the country’s territory. The richness and the diversity of species and ecosystems is illustrated by both the outstanding number of over 16’000 floral, faunal and fungal species, out of which more than 850 are endemic, and the large variety of ecosystems. Although the entire territory of Macedonia encompasses only 0,5% of the European continent and 5% of the Balkan Peninsula, a disproportionately large portion of the European biodiversity is concentrated in the country. Therefore, Macedonia is widely recognized as the European “Biodiversity Hotspot”.
One of the most interesting areas regarding nature values is the basin of River Bregalnica, located in the eastern part of the country. As a result of the variety in topography, geology, soils, water distribution and micro-climates, a high diversity of plant and animal species has appeared. Over 50% of the watershed is covered by mixed stands of forests that are considered as a biodiversity-rich habitat. However, due to economic, sociological and ecological factors, respectively the widespread poverty and high unemployment in rural areas, limited economic alternatives for the rural population in remote and economically marginalized areas, and a low degree of public awareness, the loss of biodiversity is high and natural resources are not sustainably used. Therefore, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation decided to implement a Nature Conservation Programme in this region.
What do we want to leave behind?
The Nature Conservation Programme shall enable the natural resources in the Bregalnica region to be conserved effectively. In addition, all involved stakeholders at national, regional and local level will build and upgrade their capacities by applying principles of sustainable natural resources management, contemporary approaches on nature conservation, and the local economic development agenda. Conditions for nature conservation will be created and the people from the region shall live better as a result of the benefit generated from the sustainable use of the natural resources. As the main actor in this process, the Centre for Development of the East Planning Region (CDEPR) will become a leader in development and promotion of nature conservation in the Bregalnica region.
How do we want to achieve this?
The Programme includes different activities at three levels. At national level, the elaboration of the draft National Strategy on Nature Protection and the collaboration of the Faculty of Forestry in Skopje with the Bern University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland will be supported. At regional level, a draft Spatial Plan for the Bregalnica region, an Ecological GAP analysis with an Ecological Sensitivity Map, a Study on valorization of potential protected areas in upper part of Bregalnica, a Study for agro-biodiversity conservation, and a Study for tourism development of the Bregalnica region will be elaborated. At local level, at least 10 small projects for nature conservation or sustainable natural resources management that contribute to the improvement of the living conditions will be implemented and also, environmental friendly practices and energy savings techniques will be applied on a pilot level. During the implementation, the citizens from the region will be involved in a consultation process for certain measures and activities, and they will be regularly informed on all Programme activities and results. The participation of the citizens is considered as crucial to the successful implementation of the Programme and to achieving the main objectives.
Who is doing what?
The implementation of the programme is coordinated by the Swiss organization HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and its local partner Farmahem. The actual implementation is performed by different partners, depending on their responsibilities and competences. The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning is engaged in the elaboration of the National Strategy on Nature Protection and in the process of proclamation of protected areas. The Faculty of Forestry in Skopje is responsible for the exchange of knowledge with the partner-faculty from Switzerland, while the CDEPR conducts the process of elaborating the documents at regional level. Also, the municipalities are actively involved in implementation of certain measures for nature conservation and economic development. Additionally, Swiss and local experts, as well as many institutions and NGOs, will be involved in the implementation of different activities. The Steering Committee, consisting of the main partners including the Swiss Cooperation Office, monitors programme implementation and makes the strategic decisions.
It’s too early to anticipate a success story, but the positive reactions of the partners involved and the population along the River Bregalnica Basin ensure that the programme has all the features and components for successful implementation. Additionally, there are great expectations since there is reliable support, and even more support will be given to the same river basin through several Swiss-funded projects. In parallel to this programme, the project on Bregalnica River Basin Management started in August 2012. The project on Environmental Education enhanced activities related to the nature and water protection in the same region, and very soon another wastewater treatment project is expected to start. The ultimate goal is to demonstrate that with the application of a complementary and interlinked support in one geographical area, a big “difference” in the quality of natural and water resources management and in the improvement of the living conditions for the local people can be made.
“The integrated approach that will be applied in this project will enable intensive collaboration and coordination among all sectors: water supply, industry, agriculture, tourism, forestry, protection of environment, etc. This collaboration will lead to an increase in the value of the region and in the gross domestic product per capita, which will finally result in reduction of the migration from the region. The water of the River Bregalnica, besides its value as a resource and a factor for economic development, is a treasure that has to be conserved and protected – says Dragica Zdraveva, the Director of the Center for Development of the East Planning Region.
Budget and Project duration
The total of funds for the implementation of the project in the amount of around CHF 4’900’000 has been provided by SDC. Project implementation started in December 2012 and the completion of this phase is scheduled for the end of 2016.
For additional information consult the link bellow:
Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning
bul Goce Delcev bb
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation
Maulbeerstrasse 10/ Postbox 6724
CH-3011, Bern, Switzerland
tel. 41 31 385 10 10
Centre for Development of the East Planning Region CDEPR
Str Vanco Prke 119