Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is made up of mountainous highlands, mostly in the south and the west (highest point 2,386 m); hilly areas, mostly in the centre and the north, and flat and rolling plains in the northeast, where most of the fertile agricultural lands are situated. About 50% of the country is covered by forests and 25% by pastures.
The Dinaric Alps traverse the country from its western border with Croatia to the south-east creating two major watersheds, the Black Sea (76% of the territory) and the Adriatic Sea (24%). The average altitude of Bosnia and Herzegovina is 500 m with over half the country higher than 700 m above sea level. Much of the country is underlain by limestone, creating classic karst landscapes of gorges and bare limestone pavement in many areas, but also characterised by a series of large lowland poljes (depressions), in many cases traditionally subject to seasonal inundation and still in some areas characterised by areas of wetlands.
The climate is variable, ranging from a typical Mediterranean environment in a narrow strip just behind the Dalmatian coast to a more temperate continental regime inland, characterised by warm to hot summers and long harsh winters, especially above 1,000 m.
There are four main biogeographical regions in BiH:
- Mountains and river valleys cover 1.28 million ha;
- Lowlands in the Pannonian region cover 2.25 million ha;
- The Mediterranean region covers 0.5 million ha;
- The karstic region covers 1.08 million ha.
Bosnia and Herzegovina anchors much of the biological diversity and broader natural resources of the Balkans. BiH is among the five richest countries in Europe in terms of species density and diversity.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has one of the most diverse ecosystems in Europe, representing pristine forests, extensive and intensive farmland, ample fresh water sources, and a rich mosaic of flora and fauna. However, the majority of these natural treasures remain unprotected or under inappropriate management.
There are 11 protected areas with a total territory of only 92,014 ha. An assessment of the protected areas management effectiveness says that plant succession represents a significant pressure on the protected areas system (Porej, D. & Matic, S., 2009). It is most prominent in Hutovo blato Nature Park through the eutrophication process, fires, disappearance of flood meadows, lack of livestock in local community and thus absence of grazing in the park, etc.
All major watersheds and biogeographical regions in the country are shared with its neighbors; thus the natural resources and biodiversity conservation challenges of BiH are transboundary not only in nature but also in importance.
Currently Emerald network includes 28 sites covering 204 587 ha.
Agriculture and Farming
Fig.1. Land use map of Bosnia and Herzegovina
The UAA of 2,125,000 ha provides a rather limited production base for agriculture, in terms of both quantity and quality. 45% of agricultural land is hilly (300 -700 m), mountain areas (> 700 m) account for a further 35%, while less than 20% is suitable for intensive agriculture, mostly in lowland river valleys.
Natural and semi-natural grasslands occupy more than half the agricultural land in B&H (1,047,000 ha). Statistics distinguish between meadows (437,000 ha) and pastures (610,000 ha). Pastures refer to natural grassland located mostly in the mountains that is not cut for hay. Meadows are usually on the better grasslands, and may also be grazed.
In 2009, the total arable land was 975,000 ha, of which almost half (46%) remained uncultivated. This is a long-standing problem for B&H agriculture, resulting in a large part from the 1992-1995 war, which led to large population displacements, involving both refugees and permanent migrants to larger urban areas and the setting of large minefields, many of which are still to be cleared.
There has been neither a general nor an agricultural census in B&H since 1991 so it is very difficult to give a picture of post-war farm structure. The estimated number of agricultural holdings in B&H is 515,000 with over 50% of these below 2 ha, and more than 80% below 5 ha. Only 4% have more than 10 ha. On average, the agricultural holding in B&H is estimated to be 3.3 ha, fragmented into 7 to 9 smaller plots.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a potential candidate for EU membership. The country receives financial assistance under the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), a part of which focuses on rural development.