Bulgaria - COMMON LAND ISSUES
In 2012 and 2013 EFNCP, Civil association for sustainable use of pastures, meri and meadows and the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria further explored the challenges faced by the commoners by implementing the project “Enabling conditions for sustainable management of grassland habitats” funded by GEF Small Grants Programme in Bulgaria.
There are over 1.3 million ha of permanent pastures, meri (common pastures) and meadows in Bulgaria and more than half of them are of High Nature Value.
The pastures, meri and meadows in Natura 2000 zones are 0.6 million ha. They are habitats to a number of rare and protected species such as European souslik, marbled polecat and Romanian hamster; spur-thighed tortoise, corncrake, great snipe, spotted crake, roller, white stork, imperial eagle, Montagu’s harrier, etc..
The High Nature Value of pastures and meri nowadays is a result of centuries-old common use by the inhabitants of rural settlements for grazing and feeding their livestock while complying to clear governance rules.
The main threats to the valuable grassland habitats are related to ceasing grazing and/or mowing, which lead to scrub overgrowth and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services as well as an important feed resource for livestock farms.
On the other end of the spectrum is the complete destruction of grassland habitats by ploughing them and converting them to arable land especially in lowland areas.
Ownership of pastures, meri and meadows in Bulgaria
Municipalities are the biggest owner of pastures, meri and meadows in Bulgaria, including in Natura 2000 zones, and have a legally binding responsibility for their sustainable management.
Ownership of pastures and meri in Natura 2000 zones
The key challenges for the governance of municipal pastures and meri:
- There is still no regional definition of permanent pastures, which reflecting their specific characteristics. Thus, only 20% of all pastures in Bulgaria are declared for support in 2012;
- Municipal administrations rarely have access to up-to-date information about the size and condition of the pastures for which they are responsible;
- Each municipality develops its own regulations on the basis of its experience and practice, but often this is insufficient. The emerging experience exchange between municipalities about pastures governance leads not only to the sharing of good practices and of useful information, but to collaboration to develop new approaches.
- Unfortunately, there is much poor practices, including deliberate non-compliance with the regulations; this results from the lack of a unified approach and adequate controls from the national authorities.
- Communication and discussion of commons governance issues in and between the regional offices of national ministries and institutions at municipal level has been very limited.
|Discussions of commons governance issues with representatives of municipal authorities in Bulgaria, Gergini, May 2013; S.Stoychev|
The following studies and recommendations were developed as a result of the project workshops and experts discussions on the commons governance issues in Bulgaria (available in Bulgarian only):
- Analysis of the existing legal framework for municipal pastures and commons in Bulgaria
- Proposal for improving the existing legal framework for municipal pastures and commons in Bulgaria
- Guidance document for sustainable use of municipal pastures, meri and meadows
- Review of European governance systems for common grazing – conclusions and recommendations for Bulgaria
- Seminar presentations:
Partnership for nature-friendly management of pastures with STEP - the Society for Territorial and Environmental Prosperity
EFNCP-Bulgaria is supporting the Society for Territorial and Environmental Prosperity – STEP in the implementation of its project focused on management of common pastures and meri in Godech municipality. The project is funded by EEA Grants in Bulgaria and runs for 14 months from November 2014 to December 2015.
The project aims to contribute to understanding the problems and finding solutions for the governance of municipal pastures in the Natura 2000 zones of Godech municipality. The municipality is located is Western Stara Planina and has approximately 4100 ha of arable land, 4550 ha of meadows and 10300 ha of pastures and common grazing land. The specific project objectives are:
- To improve the municipal regulations for renting of pastures by local livestock breeders; and
- To support local livestock breeders to clear the unwanted vegetation from municipal pastures in a nature-friendly manner and at the same time to make them eligible for CAP payments.
The project shall set up a partners working group to analyse in details the situation with municipal pastures as well as to produce recommendations for improving the regulations. For this activity, the project and the team shall use the experience from the previous project on municipal pastures, which analysed the national framework and its implementation in three pilot municipalities – Dragoman, Ivailovgrad and Kurdjali.
For achieving the second objective, the project team shall engage young people as volunteers; raise their capacity and improve their understanding of nature-friendly clearing of unwanted vegetation on pastures in Natura 2000 zones.
The project foresees a number of events, working meetings and seminars during its implementation. A web-page for the organization and project will be also set up and running.