Albania - High Nature Value Farming
In Albania all types of HNV farmlands are present, but there is very limited knowledge of the topic and the relevant inventories are not wholly dependable. The most common is Type 1 (semi-natural pastures and meadows). There are about 400,000 ha of natural pastures in Albania that account for 14.3% of the country’s surface, which is almost as much as the area of arable.
Two types of natural pastures are recognized based on their traditional use – summer and winter pastures. Summer pastures are all pastures in the sub-alpine and alpine zones and are used in summer for 4-6 months (May-October). Winter pastures are located in the lowlands and are used in winter as well as in early spring and late autumn.
The ownership and respectively the management of pastures are changing in the last years. Currently, 58% of pastures are given to communities, one third is still state-owned and private pastures are only 7% of all. This change in ownership changed the historical grazing rights and respectively, the livestock management systems. The effect of it remains to be seen.
Type 2 HNV farmland is the next most common. These low-intensity small-scale mosaic landscapes usually consist of vegetable gardens, arable plots, orchards or vineyards and grasslands. In the central and southeastern part of the country (Prespa National Park) there are still traditionally managed small orchards and vineyards.
HNV Farming systems
Traditional livestock farming based on domestic breeds of animals, primarily local cattle, donkeys, pigs and goats, is carried out over large areas of the country. Historically, there has been no use of artificial fertilisers to increase the pasture productivity.
Albania has long traditions in livestock breeding, particularly sheep and goats breeding. Cattle are bred mainly in the lowlands in the West, while sheep and goats in the highlands in the Northern and Southern parts of the country, where they graze on the extensive mountain pasture during the summer months.
A considerable amount of pasture and forests was converted to arable land in the period 1950-1990. The pasture area has decreased from 700,000 hectares in 1960s to about 400,000 hectares nowadays. This resulted in an increased pressure for grazing in non-pasture areas such as forests and arable land. A still common practice is that arable areas and orchards are grazed after harvest, especially by sheep. Forests are also not officially considered grazing land, but in practice both shrub lands, coppice and high-stem forests are grazed. The only areas where grazing is not allowed is in “protected forests”. Another typical practice is lopping of oak trees for fodder, especially for goats and incoppice forests.
Prior to 1990, transhumance was prevalent, extending such grazing in all areas. In recent years most of transhumance takes place within the same district or to the neighbouring district where the summer-mountain pastures are not so far away from winter-lowland pastures.
Now, the most typical features of livestock farming systems (Shumka, S., 2010) are:
- medium-sized (mostly sheep) farms with herds of 150 ewes on average. They are concentrated mainly in the southern part of the country, especially in areas close to urban centres
- small farms with some 10-30 ewes
- transhumance to the mountains in the summer (June-September), mostly now limited to the south-eastern areas
In the last 10 years, there are large areas of arable land – on average 181,000 ha (draft IPARD, 2011), that remain uncultivated. Some regions are more affected than others but in any case it is not limited to mountainous areas only where the biggest decrease of population is recorded. Considering the experience from other countries from South Eastern Europe, this extensification of previously intensively used arable land may become very important for biodiversity such as in Bessaparski Hills IBA in Bulgaria.