Promoting Rural Development and Renewable Energies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania

Project location: ALBANIA, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania
Project start date: September 2013 - Project end date: October 2014
Project number: 2013-037
Beneficiary: Oxfam Italia


In South East Europe, the current pattern of energy use is environmentally damaging and unsustainable, and the existing environmental problems are closely linked to energy systems. However, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) both have substantial renewable energy sources that could be harnessed to meet energy needs of various sectors; thus promoting energy efficient use in the region. Currently, a lack of consumer access to these sources means that the population of these countries are faced with a shortage of energy, especially in the most marginalized and poor regions, despite an abundance of energy sources. Renewable energy can play an important role in helping to meet basic energy needs in peri-urban and rural areas, especially marginalized poor rural areas, through the use of modern technologies. These can help to provide alternative sources of energy for specific needs, such as hot water production using solar heaters and small-scale agro-processing industries. The project will help provide sustainable access to a natural resource and economic asset base for vulnerable rural women and men that is more resilient to climate change, environmental degradation and market transformation. The main application of renewable energies will be the heating of small rural schools isolated with no energy source (neither electricity, gas). The schools are , located in the communities where the activities will be held, are attended by children of the families headed by women (most of them) that are involved in farming medical herbs in Albania and in pomegranate, apples and soft fruit in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The majority of women in Albania and in Bosnia and Herzegovina are employed in agriculture. In these countries, farm work is hampered by low mechanization, and yields are small because of limited use of fertilizers; two factors contributing to poverty in rural areas. The women not only work alongside men on the farm, they also manage childcare and household chores. The time they spend at home doing unpaid and unregistered work limits their participation in society a factor cementing male dominance. Even in average wages, a women's salary is 20 per cent lower than a man's. School enrolment is lower in rural areas than in cities, especially for girls. This may be because girls must seek jobs to help support the family or because tradition keeps them at home.
In Albania, with the transition to a market-based economy, many of the principles of equality enforced during communism have lost strength. Employment is no longer guaranteed. In addition, more women than men lost their jobs during structural adjustment, and formerly state-owned assets were generally granted to men. As a consequence, women increasingly depend on their husbands and extended families for survival. Widespread poverty and limited employment have forced many Albanians to migrate abroad in search of jobs. on the other side, Bosnia and Herzegovina due to the recent war, experienced a massive international migration. When women are left behind they find it difficult to reunite with their husbands because of strict emigration laws. These factors have contributed to a large number of single-parent households, the vast majority of which are headed by women. Women have more limited access than men to assets that could help them earn a living, adding to their vulnerability. For example, women face discrimination in owning property and in starting a business. Even gaining access to credit can be difficult for women, not for legal reasons but because banks prefer lending to men. Bosnia and Herzegovina has the lowest level of female participation in the workforce in South-East Europe. Women are 51% of the population and constitute 36% of the active labour force. Bosnia and Herzegovina still copes with deep-rooted, traditional patriarchal stereotypes regarding the role and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society.
In the last 5 years, there is an important flow of returnees people/families that try to re-start their previous life in the target Countries (from 1996 almost 1mil people returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina, out of which almost 450,00 refugees and 550,00 displaced persons). However, the difficulties and obstacles (social, economical and cultural) don't allow a real integration yet.
In the North of Albania the farming of medical herbs represents a big income for all the families living in the rural area, in the last 40 years a unscrupulous harvesting of wild medical herbs destroyed all the mountain environment. Now in the northern part there are about 500 hectares planted with medical herbs, manly sage, lavender and thyme, farming medical herbs will avoid the wild collection that caused big damage to the environment. In addiction the area cultivated is characterized by very poor soil, it's a alluvial soil, very pebbly so inappropriate to other cultivation. To impulse this activity still is sicking the drying infrastructures, where the herbs after the harvesting are dried in the shade, with only natural ventilation to conserve the physical properties.
Another part of the environment heavily damaged is the forest reserve, used without a regulation it has manly abandoned the mountains causing the washing out of the fertile soil and increasing the risk of landslips.
The goal of the proposal, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, focuses in protecting the environment and sustainable use of natural recourses, provide clean energy possibilities to disadvantages communities and in doing that support rural agriculture families to be part of the economical life of their own country.

Oxfam Italia has a large experience of work in this area and consolidated relations with local institutions and civil society organizations. Oxfam Italia is currently implementing 3 main projects:
• Programme SEENET Phase II is ongoing, financed by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 7 Italian regions (11,2 million of euro total budget and 4,5 managed by OIT). It has regional approach and is involving 47 local authorities from all countries of the region. Main areas of intervention are SMEs, Cultural and rural tourism, territorial planning;
• Project on Sustainable Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina co-financed by Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. End of the project foreseen in December 2012. Total budget managed by OIT from donors is 1.500.000 Euro;
• EU IPA project on Environment (Drina valley in Bosnia and Herzegovina): total budget from EU is 110.000 Euro and deadline foreseen in October 2012;
• "Smallholders Farmers' Access to Markets in Egypt and Bosnia Herzegovina", financed by IFAD 1,300,000 US$, co-financement from OIT 350,000 US$ The objective of the programme is to enhance smallholders' market access to remunerative markets for local and traditional products and expected starting date is November 2012;
• Albania Domani is ongoing project financed by Cariplo Foundation. Oxfam is carrying on activities about medical Herbs and honey in the north part of Albania. Total budget managed by Oxfam Italia is 450.000 Euro.
The present proposal will strengthen the activities we are already carrying out through the project titled Renewable Energy Technologies in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Project duration is 3 years and total budget is 1,670,000 US$ (co-financement from IFAD 1,200,000 US$).
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, all activities will be conducted in direct collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture, Energy, Forestry and Tourism of FBosnia and Herzegovina, RS and the Ministry of Foreign trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER), Municipalities of Foča, Ustikolina, Goražde, Bratunac, Srebrenica, Konjc, Trnovo.
In Albania it will collaborate with MADA (Mountain Areas Development Agency), Qarku of Shkoder, Municipalities of Scutari, Koplik, Fush Arrez, Vau dejes and Puka, Ministry of Agriculture.

To this purpose O.I. will develop the following activities:

Activity 1 - Installation of heating system in 4 rural schools
The situation of rural school in Albania and in Bosnia and Herzegovina is very poor, the students have to study in small room without heating, and during the winter, the temperatures go below zero. Majority of the primary schools in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are organized the way of having one main central school for pupils from first to ninth year of education and a number of small rural schools for children from 1st to fourth year. While central schools have a number of classrooms, sport hall and boiler room, central heating and good working conditions inside, most of the rural schools are only have one or two classrooms and no central heating systems at all. It is often the case in rural schools that children before the class starts gather around coal/wood stove to heat their hands to be able to write and follow the lessons.
One of the ideas for further promotion of renewable sources utilization at the expense of better working conditions in rural schools, is to install small biomass based central heating systems in two rural schools in Albania and two in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It bears emphasizing that every municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina has from 5 to 12 rural schools and there are 123 municipalities in the country providing large space for expansion of such demonstration projects. Results will be multiple: better working conditions in rural school buildings with heating covering all the rooms including hallway, toilets and teachers' office, hot water would be available for children in winter time, locally available wood fuel would be utilized and therefore less greenhouses gases and pollutants would be emitted. Oxfam Italia has made a survey on the rural schools. Results have shown that most of the rural schools are being in bad heating conditions for most of them use old wood or coal based stoves of low emission efficiency. Most of the school administrations cannot afford pellet or oil based stoves for they are too expensive to maintain and fuel too expensive to buy. Oxfam Italia RE team members have also confirmed that there are locally available wood log based boiler rooms that can satisfy the needs for such schools. The project will install 4 central wood heating systems of 15-20 kw each one, to assure a warm temperature during the winter and to avoid humidity during the autumn and spring. The wood is very cheap and available during all the year. It is planned to switch wood logs with brickets produced by a small factory collecting waste of forestry and of agriculture. The direct beneficiaries of this activity will be at least 200 children of the communities target and part of the families of the women head of families.
These systems can provide safe and continuous heating based on locally available and affordable fuel. With appropriate involvement of the authorities that are in charge of heating costs for schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, these demonstration projects can prove all the economic and environmental benefits that can make an important step toward the innovation technology in under-development areas.

Activity 2 - Construction of 2 hangars for drying medical herbs
Cultivation and collection of wild grown aromatic plants is one of the most important sources of income for farmers living in the mountainous areas of Albania. The area of Malesia e Madhe, region of Shkodra, is well known for cultivation of Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs). The MAP value chain is characterized by the informal nature of its upstream base (producers, gatherers and collectors) and its better organized and structured downstream (processors and wholesalers/exporters). Although, plantations provide a more stable production base, greater control over quality and a scaled option to regenerate endangered plants, farmers in this area have insufficient resources to deal with high value added postharvest processing like drying of MAPs. Local producers have little power to influence prices and they accrue limited direct benefits from participation in the value chain by only cultivating MAPs. This lack of resources limits the capacity of farmers to increase surface cultivated and their bargaining position. Actually they either use very primitive techniques of drying or sell products directly to exporters located in the area. There is a trend toward vertical integration by downstream firms (3-4 exporters in the area), providing them a regular supply and greater control over quality. This trend strengthens the value chain, but it also risks taking the means of production out of the hands of the farmers. Processing requires more skills and resources than cultivation but it is also the most innovative value chain link in both new product development and new technology adoption. In order empower this important link of the value chain, the project will build a drying and storage facility. These hangars will be accessorized by two big rotors powered by two solar panel that during the day, when the evaporation is higher, will extract the air, reducing the humidity inside the hangars, allowing a better evaporation of the humidity of the herbs, and making shorter the process.

Activity 3 - Chestnut Reforestation Initiative
A reforestation initiative of chestnut will be done in 6 hectares owned by a cooperative of women , the little plants, one years old certificated, will be planted by students of primary and secondary school, and this will sensitize children about environment and forestry conservations. The forest will be managed by the cooperative, the waste will be collected and an annual pruning will be organized. All the branches and the wastes will be transformed in compost and the wood will be used for burning in the stoves.

Activity 4 - Women Cooperative in Agriculture
The project will support at least 20 women agriculture cooperatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina (specially focused on berries, and small fruits). and in Albania (focused on medical herbs and small fruits) The cooperatives are managed by women and most of the members are women head of families that live in rural areas (specially in Bosnia and Herzegovina cooperatives as "Cooperativa Insieme" and "Emina Association" are composed by multi religious members that in Bosnia and Herzegovina it is a clear reconciliatory message). These cooperatives are facing markets/commercial problems due to world crisis and high competition. For this reason a trainings on management and access to market will be organized and technical support to producers, which are intended to be implemented with the goal of improving product quality.
N.6 seminars and workshops will be conducted to this end, by specialized agronomist and they will include extension service referents for municipalities, regions and cooperatives associations operating in the sector and in the area. Trained persons will be invited to implement demonstration of activities, training and technical assistance to producers. In order to ensure productive improvement and attainment of national and international market (for which is necessary to respect qualitative and hygienic rules) this activity foresees the purchase of small equipment (jars, tables, cupboards), which will serve to better position their products in target markets.

Activity 5 - Awareness campaign on renewable energies
All the activities should be linked with awareness actions on energy savings and rationale use of energy, based on pilot interventions to promote a sustainable use of domestic resources and reduction of fuel consumption. The local communities and people should be active in operating the actions and share the goals of the initiatives. The dissemination of the knowledge is a key part of the strategy of the project, and it is made up of two main work packages:
5.1 Awareness raising
At family and small enterprise level priorities identified are focused on creating awareness about:
- The needs to modernise domestic cooking and heating systems burning fuel (wood burning stoves and boilers with high efficiency) to reduce the wood consumption at a local and national level;
- Dissemination of energy-saving lamps to reduce the domestic consumption of KWh and diminish the national demand of new plants;
- Small scale plants for KWh and hot water production;
- Systems for water consumption decrease and recycling;
At local community and institutional level priorities identified are:
- Awareness activities and dissemination of information at school and community level. Experimental actions and courses in the schools addressing to the problem of global warming and reduction of the greenhouse gases;
- Direct atmospheric carbon dioxide reduction through changes of heating systems to biomass or solar (photovoltaic) in public buildings and forestry;
- Encourage of adopting new models in water, biomass and energy consumption through dissemination of small scale solar plants in public and private agribusiness activities open to the public.
As final event, it will be organized a music contest, to raise the awareness about environment and renewable energies, involving young generations, in particular children of primary schools. This activity aims to realize a music contest among schools in the city of Florence (Italy).
A free music contest for young bands, as opportunity for discussion between peers about living matters as environment, renewable energies and climate change.
The awareness-raising activities will be developed in Italy, especially in Florence, to promote among young people musical projects focused on the project themes, and in Bosnia to provide opportunities for Bosnian guys.
1) Promotion of a contest and collection of registration in Florentine.
In the first phase the contest will be promoted and registration collected in Florentine schools through communication, promotion, information and meetings;
2) Selection of bands in Florence.
The bands will participate to the contest and will be selected for the final. Events will be realized in Florence, but will also accepted recordings sent via web;
3) Final event and award ceremony in Florence.
The final event will award the winners and will be the event for lighting up the application of RE as solution for the future of the next generations. It will be also a feedback session on the results achieved by the project.

Target groups and final beneficiaries of the action
The intervention has to be focus on three level of intervention:
- Family based;
- Small business- cooperative/association and schools;
- Local community/municipality territory.
Therefore, the main target groups are:
(i) smallholder farmers, households whose livelihoods depend on agriculture in the mountainous areas that will be sensitize about energy protection and saving systems. As well small renewable energy systems (solar panels, pellet for heaters) will be installed to provide house and water heating to reduce the uncontrolled and misused of wood in the familiar dimension. In total 50 peri-urban and rural families will be involved (25 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 25 in Albania).
(ii) individual and collective agriculture SMEs (managed by women), that will be supported through the installation of small renewable energy plants for increasing the quality of their businesses in a sustainable way. Special focus will be in the following interventions: solar power irrigation and solar irrigation systems. The beneficiaries of this infrastructure will be constantly trained and sensitized about the correct use of the natural resources and energy. This target will be also supported by small equipment and trainings to facilitate the access to different markets of their products. In total the project will target 20 small business in agriculture (10 in Bosnia Herzegovina and 10 in Albania).
(iii) At least 200 children of the rural schools that will be heated by renewable energy equipments. Their families and communities will also be involved in the awareness about the important and non-high cost of using renewable recourses for energy.
(iv) Municipalities, local communities and CSOs that will benefit from the intervention in its territories and it citizenship and from larger intervention oriented to environment protection, energy saving systems and application of renewable energy in their territory of reference. Municipalities (in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, but also in Italy - Florence) will be also responsible for planning awareness actions on the topic of "clean energy" and environmental protection.

Approach and methodologies applied will emphasize the active involvement of final beneficiaries in the definition and identification of problems and, above all, solutions. This aims to strengthen the sense of ownership of the initiative itself and in respect to environmental issues, energy saving and correct use of the natural resources through a higher responsibility for individuals (authorities, families, producers, services providers) on the development and maintenance of activities undertaken. The project includes capacity building and the improvement of advocacy capacities of local groups,
Thus, the strategy of the action will be focused on the following specific methodological aspects:
- participatory approach and social equity: target groups involved in the envisaged activities will have a leading role and will actively participate in the decision making process of all activities. Participatory approach allows to go beyond the simple transmission of basic information but to generate a change of attitudes and behaviour. The combination of using participatory methods and social equity will provide an impetus to gain in-depth understanding of the social relations in the community and help programme implementers to focus on where the benefits should go or are going. Using this approach will confirm that the project impact focuses on different groups, especially the poor or vulnerable members of the communities.
The action will apply Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methodology, which is approved by UN and used by non-governmental organizations to incorporate the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of development projects and programmes. The basis of the Participatory Rural Appraisal methodology is decentralization and empowerment. Decentralization means that resources and discretion are devolved, turning back the inward and upward flows of resources and people. Empowerment means that people, especially poorer people, are enabled to take more control over their lives, and secure a better livelihood with ownership and control of productive assets as one key element. Decentralization and empowerment enable local people to exploit the diverse complexities of their own conditions, and to adapt to rapid change.
- empowering approach: the focus will be on enabling people, to protect themselves and their communities against the damage of their territory. As far as empowering strategies are concerned, the project includes measures to allow the target groups to make informed decisions and choices that might help them to overcome problems and prevent deeper damages. The empowering approach will be adopted mainly in the implementation of discussion groups, workshops with the target groups and awareness raising campaign and dissemination.
- networking: the aim is to improve and strength the co-operation and exchange among public and private entities engaged in environmental protection, energy production and commercialization, agriculture production. The networking will have local, national and a regional focus. The co-ordination and networking is particularly useful in order to share and learn about the already existing experiences in the same sector and to develop and identify good practices and policies. LEADER is an innovative approach within EU rural development policy as a method of mobilising and delivering rural development in local rural communities by mobilization of socioeconomic players to work together for maximum added value. For the proposed project, particular importance is LEADER approach to networking, providing a very complex framework in terms of objectives, tools, implementation methods, actors involved and ways of meeting the needs of members.
- welfare mix methodologies: this envisages that services intended for people cannot only be provided by the public sector, but they must be the result of interactions between public and private sectors, thanks to the promotion of strategic, financial and operational synergies. The welfare mix model meets the need of saving money on public administrations' expenditure, and of making the Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albanian civil society become protagonist of problem solving process, regarding their territory.

The following are, in short, the main goals of the project:

a) 4 schools (2 in Albania and 2 in Bosnia and Herzegovina) equipped each one with a central heating system, assuring an optimal temperature in the classrooms during the autumn and the winter. 200 children of the rural schools that will be heated by renewable energy equipments (100 in Albania and 100 in Bosnia and Herzegovina).
b) 2 hangars for drying medical herbs built and equipped with two rotors powered with solar panel, for extracting the humidity and reducing the days of drying for medical herbs. 100 families increased their potential of drying medical herbs.
c) 6 hectares reforested with two years old certified chestnuts three. 100 student involved in planting trees and sensitized on management and conservation of forests.
d) 6 workshop organized to improve product quality; small equipment to strengthen the business activities delivered. N° 20 small business in agriculture (10 in Bosnia Herzegovina and 10 in Albania).
e) Awareness campaign on renewable energies organized at family, small enterprise and community level. N° 50 peri-urban and rural families will be involved (25 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 25 in Albania). N° 20 small business in agriculture (10 in Bosnia Herzegovina and 10 in Albania). Municipalities and local communities that will benefit from the intervention.
The project rises up the environmental consciousness of the population of target areas, at all level, starting from the children at school, staff of municipalities and technicians and arriving to the representatives of ministries and institutions. This new vision will be promoted trough common changes at households level like, for example, changing the light bulb with florescent lamp saving up to 75 % of electricity, turn off the light if it isn't useful, use a more efficient stove for heating or a solar panel for producing hot water. The RE is perceived as a real solution to reduce environmental pollution and especially represent a real saving of money: in fact, in Albania all the domestic boilers are electric and the actual cost of electricity is very expensive, the cost of a solar panel could be amortized in less than two years. With a higher consciousness about, also the government would start to promote it through incentives and public campaigns. Moreover, it has been demonstrated in other countries in Eastern Europe that introduction of alternative and renewable forms of energy help reduce reliance on a single source, generate significant energy cost savings, create jobs, reduce pressures on the natural assets and improve value chains in targeted households and municipalities. Creative solutions to energy production leads to a finite economic savings with individual families and communities. It is also important to mention here that although energy is widely available in rural areas in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, some remote areas are still not connected to the grid. The improved and more efficient use of natural resources will combine with renewable energy strategies in rural energy development to help create local-level green economies to help create livelihood opportunities.

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