Croatia - Challenges and Opportunities
The most critical threat regarding the preservation of HNV farming in Croatia is the declining number of farmers and loss of traditional land management practices. The majority of low productivity grassland is already abandoned and converting into forest and this trend is most likely to continue. The under-grazing prevents the beneficial influence of animals on biodiversity, such as species selective grazing, seed dissemination, re-rooting of pasture flora, maintenance of soil organic matter, pest and disease control, etc. This results in the loss of species-rich grasslands and the open landscape important for migratory birds and many other species.
The Croatian farming population is old and poorly educated. The majority of agricultural households are outside the key administrative, fiscal and inspection systems. They are subsistence, non-market oriented, producing for the household’s own consumption. Their owners earn their living by working in other sectors but still live on their smallholdings. In a number of cases the small-scale farms are used as a last resort by people without sufficient pensions or other income opportunities. Almost 2 thirds of agricultural households are not included in the Farm Register; these farms are not eligible for any subsidy.
There are too few farms with young successors. Younger farmers tend to switch to other, more profitable jobs. On the other hand, younger and better educated farmers are geared towards high-input and highly specialised farming. To them, maintenance of HNV farmland through nature conservation/agri-environment measures does not appear profitable and “serious” enough. Appropriate information and education programmes should be developed if there is to be any chance of changing their attitudes.
Traditionally, Croatia has been a tourism-oriented country and tourism is one of the most important generators of its economic development. Well-preserved landscapes and good, traditional food are among the main motivations for visiting the country. While tourism in general is on the increase, all types of tourism related to HNV farming areas are poorly developed and rural Croatia is still largely overlooked by naturalists. Croatia lies on one of Europe's main bird migration flyways and at the crossroads of four bio-geographical regions and there are many opportunities to develop agro-eco, bird watching and similar types of tourism that can bring benefits to the farmers still maintaining HNVF areas.