Nature Serving the Community
The protected areas have already been confirmed as an important tool for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable development. This was also reflected on the Albanian government’s strategies for promoting and increasing the surface of the protected areas, creating a special institution for the management and monitoring of the areas, as well as the creation of a network of visitor centres in the protected areas.
Often, the protected areas include local communities which must adapt their living in accordance to the status of the area and what it offers. On this topic, the main concern of the managers of these areas is to offer alternative and sustainable opportunities, which will help with the economical wellbeing as well as that of the communities in these areas.
The profits from a protected area that a community receives are closely related with the environmental fatures of the area, which includes the marine and land habitats living in it and the economical and touristic development of the surrounding regions. If we refer to the protected area of the Natural Park “Karaburun”, one of the most prominent elements are its grazing areas. Depending on the species and the range of the pasture, the community has the opportunity to utilize the region in a controlled manner, in cooperation with the managers of the protected area. Currently in this protected region, 42 families have been contracted, which rely on raising livestock. This is a positive example of how a protected region can assist the surrounding communities in order to develop traditional activites. On the other side, the region is supported by the high demands from the visitors and the businesses for traditional farming products.
A similar example is present in the protected area “Vjosë-Nartë”. This region is composed of a variety of habitats which are represented magnificently by the sand dunes, the Narta lagoon, the wetlands, the pine forest, the salt flats, etc.
Currently the Narta Lagoon is used by 60 fishermen mainly for fishing of the lagoon’s species, including eel, bass, etc. It must be noted that the surrounding communities are always prioritized in order to receive fishing patents, as they represent the most important interested parties for the management and the protection of the area. As part of the protected region, the number of families that can profit is limited so that the species populations used for fishing can be sustainable.
In both of the cases mentioned above, the services that the protected areas offer are easily understandable and accessible to the community, because they can be easily translated into profit for the communities. The difficulty is in the services offered by these regions that are not readily accessible for the community. In these cases, the profits are indirect, and they are mainly tied with the quality of life, air, environment where they live, the drinking water, etc. Having not understood the importance of these factors in flood prevention, stong winds, and erosions, the residents have built beach services for the visitor, thus creating damage. In a similar case, the residents of a protected area have intentionally used fire in order to quickly produce food for livestock, but the inhabitants are not aware of the grand consequences that vegetation loss has in the acceleration of the process of erosion, in the water filtration, and in the quality of the air.
In this setting, the role of the administration of the protected regions is crucial towards the education and the promotion of sustainable economic and touristic activites, as well as in the prevention of the wrong practices which compromise the values and the services offered by the protected areas for the wellbeing of the communities.