Country Pasture/Forage Resource Profiles


Prof. Andrea Shundi

1. Introduction

2. Soils and Topography

3. Climate and Agro-ecological Zones

4. Ruminant Livestock Production Systems

5. The Pasture Resource

6. Opportunities for Improvement of Fodder Resources

7. Research and Development Organizations and Personnel

8. References

9. Contacts



Albania is in Southeast Europe and more precisely on the western side of the Balkan Peninsula (see Figure 1); it is bordered by Greece to the south and southeast, by Macedonia and Kosovo to the east, and by Montenegro to the north. Its western border is the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. The Illyrians, the ancestors of the Albanian people, together with the Greeks are the most ancient people in the Balkans. The Albanian language is unique and one of ten branches of the Indo-European family of languages. Agriculture began in Albania in very ancient times, in the Neolithic Age.

Figure 1. Albania in Europe

Albania is a small (see Figure 2), very mountainous country with a population of about 3.1 million people (according to the World Factbook the July 2006 population was 3,581,655 with a growth rate of 0.52%); the capital Tirana has about 700,000 inhabitants. It has a total area of 28,750 km2, of which 24 percent is agricultural land, 36 percent forest and 15 percent pasture and meadow. The remaining 25 percent is classified as other, which includes urban areas, about 135,000 hectares of lakes and waterways and unused rocky and mountain land. The average agricultural land per capita at 0.2 hectares is the smallest in Europe, even though agricultural land more than doubled from 1950 to 1990 due to drainage of marshland, terracing and cultivation of forest and pastures, and establishment of new irrigation schemes. Agriculture still provides the income base for most of the population and serves as an employment safety net. The rural population is estimated at about 54 percent of the total population while more than 60 percent of the labour force works in agriculture and related fields.

Figure 2. Map of Albania
Source: The General Libraries of The University of Texas at Austin

Land area, arable and pastoral areas
More than 75 percent of the total area is hilly and mountainous. The relief has a mean altitude of 708 metres above sea level: more than double that of Europe. Nevertheless, Albania's topography displays great variability. Altitudes range from sea level along the Adriatic to 2 751 metres at Korabi Mountain in the northeast of the country. Accordingly, the land used for agriculture is quite hilly, with only about 44 percent having a slope of less than 5 percent. Most arable areas are in the coastal plains and hills (see Figure 3). In addition, the Albanian southeast (districts Pogradec, Korēė, Devoll and Kolonjė) is distinguished by the presence of an extensive arable-agricultural area on high plateaux 700-800 m above sea level. Also more than ten valleys of main rivers flow from East to West side into the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The amount of arable land greatly increased between 1950 and 1990, with 17 percent of this increase gained through land reclamation, and the rest by pasture and forest conversion. Shallow soil and low fertility of the converted lands could not justify the investments made and they began to suffer from serious erosion shortly after they were opened up. For these reasons 19 percent of arable land is in the mountains, 37 percent in the hills and 44 percent in the plains. In general, the arable land at high elevations is of low fertility. Until 1938 pastures and meadows made up 44 percent of Albania's territory and were considered a basic national resource. An important part of these pastures and meadows containing plentiful herbage were unique for livestock raising, but these were subsequently converted to arable land. The main pastoral areas are now in the north and northeast as part of the Albanian Alps where the climate is wet and cold, and in the southeast and south with a dry and warm climate.

Figure 3. Land use
[Click to view full map]

Ruminant sector
Livestock rearing is a traditional economic activity in Albania. Before World War II it was much more important than crops. Nowadays, it accounts for 47 percent of agricultural production, a contribution that is higher than in other Mediterranean countries. Albanians have relied primarily on animal husbandry, which is attributable to the favourable pedoclimatic conditions in the region. In the twentieth century there were three different situations in Albania's livestock structure: (a) before World War II it was dominated by sheep and goats, raised mainly for milk and to a lesser extent, for meat and wool. On average there were three of those animals per head of population; (b) during the 50 year of the communist regime the number of sheep and goats increased by only 250,000 or 10 percent; (c) this compares with 2.6 fold increases for cattle and 5 and 8 fold increases for pigs and poultry, respectively during the first 10 years of the democratic system. However, livestock yields for the three periods (see Table 1) remained below their potential and below yields in neighbouring countries (also see Table 3 for various livestock data).

Table 1. Livestock yields over time





Cow milk (litres /head)


1 480

1 950

Sheep milk (litres /head)




Goat milk (litres /head)




Wool (grams/head)


1 600

2 300





Cows. Before World War II, cows were primarily used as draught animals. In comparison with 1938, the number of cows increased 2.2 times and in 2002 they increased 3.9 times. Milk and meat production, however, increased more, 5.5 and 8.5 times respectively. This increases reflects the significant efforts that have been made both by state and private organizations to improve the breeds and their feeding.
Sheep. Sheep have been traditionally very important to Albanian peasants. In 1990 and 2002 sheep numbers increased by 5 percent and 21 percent respectively compared to 1938. Milk production increased much more during this period but the milk yield per ewe remains very low (48 litres /head). Sheep depend entirely for feeding on grazing lands, especially pastures, both in winter and summer. In summer they also use arable land, after harvest. Flock size is small (about 20-30 animals), but in some areas larger flocks can be found belonging to one or more farmers.
Goats. Goat numbers fluctuated over the years as for sheep. Milk production remained the same during the same periods reflecting again the breeding programmes that are applied, especially with the introduction of the alpine breed. Milk yield per doe remains low (87 litres /head). Goats also depend entirely for feeding on grazing, especially shrub lands and coppiced forests. Fodder collected from lopping of oak trees is mainly used in winter.
Equidae. The numbers of donkeys, mules and horses are relatively small and they do not compete with sheep and goats.
The relative importance of livestock production has increased steadily since the socio-economic reforms of the last decade of the twentieth century, with its contribution increasing from 42 per cent in 1992 to 50 percent in 1999. Livestock production fits well into the smallholder farming system and has an important social security function. Households aim to produce enough milk and meat for domestic consumption, with a limited surplus sold where possible in the local market or to the increasing number of small processing plants. The small-scale nature of livestock production is illustrated from the 1998 agricultural census, which reported that about 302,000 households owned one or two cows; only 5,350 households owned more than two cows, and just 70 households owned more than 10 cows. Livestock also provides transport for people and goods and is often used for land preparation. Other factors explaining the increase include the availability of land suited for forage; the possibility to increase numbers without large expenditure; availability of labour for livestock care; ability to derive regular income from livestock products; and a growing demand for livestock products.
Cattle numbers are now about 4 per cent and sheep numbers about 22 per cent higher than in 1989. Cows now comprise more than 60 per cent of the cattle herd compared with 40 per cent in 1989, reflecting the increasing importance of milk production and greater reliance on forage-based production systems. Efficiency of production has also improved, as evidenced by milk yields increasing from 1 500 kg/cow in 1992 to 1 800 kg/cow in 2000. Overall, from 1989 to 2000, milk and meat production figures increased by 80 per cent and 33 per cent respectively, egg production more than doubled, and honey production increased more than ten-fold.
Export and import markets. Albania’s main agricultural exports are tobacco and fish products. The main agricultural import is wheat. The main trading partners are neighbouring European Union countries. The share of exports in GDP amounted to 10 percent in 1999, which is low compared to neighbouring transition countries. The composition of trade has changed notably and agricultural imports shifted towards primary products. The proportion of agricultural imports increased from around 22 percent in 1993 to 27 percent in 1999. These data suggest a trend over the last decade away from market production towards subsistence agriculture and a growing dependence on agricultural imports. The ratio of import/export of agricultural and food products was 10: 1 (average of years 2000-2002). The value of agricultural exports and imports in 2002 was (in percentage): Crops 38 and 26, livestock 18 and 9, agro industry 37 and 63, fishery 7 and 2. FAO in May 2004 indicated that cereal output was expected to be about average in 2004 after a relatively favourable growing season up to that point. Wheat output was forecast at about 285 000 tonnes and that of maize at 195 000 tonnes. With this level of production, the cereal import requirement for 2004/05 was expected to remain about the average of the past five years at around 370 000 tonnes.
Farming sectors
Under Albanian law, land has been granted to the owners as a family unit; it has been allocated to citizens and land titles have been issued, distributed, and registered for approximately 80 percent of all rural land. Issues of concern are small farm size and high level of fragmentation, with farms generally consisting of two to four or more widely scattered plots. Since 1991, the structure of agriculture has changed radically. Instead of large farm units, there are now 467,000 peasant families owning about 546,000 hectares or on average 1.17 hectares per household. About 70 percent of farms have less than 1.5 hectares of land. In general, these farms resemble each other because they grow the same crops (cereals, vegetables, potatoes, beans, tobacco and forage). In addition, they have some vines, fruit trees, olives, and citrus. Almost every family has 1-2 milking cows, 5-6 sheep or goats, 10-20 chickens, some swine, and probably transport animals. Only a limited numbers of farms, mainly in coastal plains or close to suburban areas, practice a more intensive agriculture that allows them to produce for the market.
Marketing. Marketing conditions for livestock products are poor. Cow milk is mainly used for drinking and only a small production is processed for yoghurt. Due to the lack of organized collection networks and processing centres, a relatively small proportion of it is marketed. The remaining quantities are used within the family or processed into yoghurt. Conditions for meat are similar; calves are sold in the village or in the nearest urban centre. Sheep and goat milk are mainly used for cheese, very little for direct consumption. For each district there are 10-20 processing centres, which collect 40-70 percent of the milk of the area. The other 30-60 percent is kept by the producers to make their own cheese products.
The situation is the same with the lambs and kids. A surplus of lambs in the market keeps the price very low. Farmers try to sell their products directly to consumers (families, restaurants, etc), some times without success. Marketing of livestock products in Albania is a big problem. Farmers claim that their products are biological (organic) and they are right, but still market outlets are few. If this is not solved soon, many young farmers will abandon stock rearing and follow other activities, which ensure a better income to them, or will emigrate.


Major topographic features
Albania is mountainous with more than 75 percent of its area being hills and mountains (see Figure 4). About 30 percent of the territory is between 0 and 300 masl, 42 percent from 300-1 000 m and 8 percent higher than 1500 m. The Republic encompasses a total area of 28,748 km2 of which 24 percent is agricultural land, 36 percent forest, 16 percent pastures and meadows, and 24 percent unproductive land, urban land, inland waterways etc.

Figure 4. Relief map
[Click to view full map]

Major soil types
The coastal zone to the west along the Adriatic sea, mostly occupied by fertile alluvial soils, is replaced by the sub mountainous zone in the centre, covered by hills with mainly flysch (sandstones and schists) and marls, while most of the eastern part of the country is covered by high mountain massifs mainly consisting of limestone.
In regions with hard rocks (carbonates, etc) the relief has rugged forms, sharp peaks, steep slopes and narrow valleys, which, in the limestone zones, assume the form of canyons. In regions with soft rocks (flysch, molasses [a soft Tertiary sandstone], etc), the relief has gentle forms, rounded peaks, moderate slopes and relatively wide valleys. Karst relief developed in limestone and gypsum terrain is very widespread. Relief of glacial origin is found in a few instances at altitudes of 1 500-1 800 m.
The soils of Albania are varied and create special zones according to the climate, flora, relief etc. The soil zones are divided into four according to their altitudes:

a. Grey - brown soils occur at altitudes up to 600 m. They include the zone of coastal lowland and hills, which make up about 15 percent of the country. Of these soils, 70 percent are under crops. In the lowland zone there are 84,000 hectares of alluvial soil and 15,000 hectares of saline soils.
b. Brown mountainous soils occur in the interior of the country, at altitudes from 600 to 1000 m. They make up 38 percent of the total area and 40 percent of the arable land.
c. Grey forest soils occur at altitudes from 1 000 to 1 800 m and make 15 percent of the total land area of which 10 percent is cultivated.
d. Mountain meadow soils occur at altitudes of 1 600 – 2 600 m and make 10 percent of the country area.
Little fertilizer has been used since 1991, resulting in a fall in organic content, nitrogen, and potassium compared to 20 years ago. Wasteful cultivation practices, and poor soil conservation practices have also caused soil degradation. Approximately 200,000 hectares have been affected in this way, most of it in the potentially highly productive coastal zones. A considerable amount of pasture was converted to crops and the pasture area has decreased from 700,000 hectares in the nineteen-sixties to about 400,000 hectares today, resulting in reduced fodder supply and an increase in marginal arable land.
Soil erosion has also increased, particularly on the less fertile soils and in the hilly and mountainous areas and appears: (a) as surface erosion, (b) as coastal erosion, (c) as riverbank erosion, (d) in the transportation of silt and (e) in the impoverishment of soil fertility. The main factors causing erosion are pedoclimatic (altitude, mountainous terrain, rainfall and bare slopes) and human (deforestation, irrigation with flow, a considerable decrease of investments to maintain agricultural land, and fires in pastures and forests). A study by the Albanian Research Institute of Soil estimates than 20 per cent of Albanian soil is likely to be eroded at a rate of more than 5 ton/ha/year; 70 per cent of territory is eroding at 30 ton/ha/year; only 10 per cent of the soil area is less affected by this phenomenon. This report shows that about 100,000 hectares of agricultural land are currently in the process of desertification caused by poor vegetation cover. (World Bank and FAO, 2002).


With the sea to the west and mountains to the east, Albania lies between two climatic areas: the Mediterranean coastal zone and the Continental internal zone. Pastures and forage production are hindered by some ecological limits: the concentration of pastures and forests is in the highest zones (1 200-2 600m), comprising 13 percent of Albanian territory; also a lot of marginal lands; the absence of possibilities and efficacy to cultivate forages higher than 1 000 m above sea level; the lack of precipitation at the right time with optimal temperatures for the good growth of forages, and the excessive and extended dryness in summer (Shundi, 1996). Climatic conditions vary greatly based on locations in four zones:

a. The southern part of the coastal plain is characterized by a relatively dry Mediterranean climate, hot summers with an average temperature of 26 °C. Winter is mild and wet with an average temperature of 9.8 °C. The average annual rainfall amounts to 800-1 300 mm, but only 12 percent of the total falls in the period June-September. In this area many crops are grown (cereals, industrial crops, vegetables, forages etc.), also citrus and olive trees.
b. The central and northern part of the coastal plain is 180 masl. It also has a Mediterranean climate with a hot dry summer. The average summer temperature is 23-24 °C. Winter is wet with the possibility of frost. Rainfall is higher especially in the North where it can be as much as 2 000 mm. Climatic conditions are suitable for crops such as maize, vegetables, forages, vines and fruit trees.
c. The hilly zone extends from north to south and lies 600 m above sea level. River valleys extend from east to west through the area. The average temperature is 3-4 °C lower than in coastal zones, with frequent frosts. It is suitable for growing wheat, potatoes, sunflower, tobacco, sugar beet, vegetables, vineyards and fruit.
d. The mountain zone, 800 masl, is characterized by a continental climate with rainfall of up to 600-1 000 mm. The northern part of this zone, in the Dinaric Alps, has the highest rainfall total with 1 500-2 500 mm. The highest temperature in July is about 25 °C; minimal temperatures in winter are to –20 °C. Forests and pastures cover most of the area. Areas of wheat, forages, vegetables, potatoes and fruit have expanded.

Albania is divided into four natural regions; it is like a great amphitheatre with numerous vertical extensions, where at intervals of 120-150 km the altitude reaches up to 2 750 m.
Average annual rainfall in Albania is 1 300-1 400 mm and 80 percent of this falls at November - March. The sum of annual active temperatures (above 10 °C) varies between 3 500 – 5 500 degrees Celsius, the hours of sunshine vary from 2100 and 2300 a year. July and some times August are the driest months, whereas November – December are the wettest ones. The driest area is the southeast part with 600 – 700 mm of rainfall annually.

Agro-ecological zones
Based on pedoclimatic conditions and topography, three agro-ecological zones are distinguished which have similarities with the four climatic zones described above. Albania has a vertical position, being longer than it is wide; it is longer from north to south (335 km) than it is wide from east to west (148 km), i.e. in the ratio of 2.3 to 1. In this direction, from north to south, there are also three strips of agro-ecological zones:

a. The lowland zone alongside the Adriatic Sea where plains range from 50 to 200 m above sea level. Alluvial soils dominate here and also there are different spots with saline soils. About 80 percent of annual rainfall (about 900-1200 mm/year) is concentrated during the October – March period. These pedoclimatic conditions help for good cultivation of most crops; irrigation is necessary during summer.
b. The hill zone is between the lowland and mountain zones at altitudes from 100 to 900 m and average rainfall is about 800 mm/year. Here field crops and fruit trees are grown but there is also low forest and shrubs.
c. The mountain zone where the summer is warm and the winter is cold, with more than 100 days per year with frost. Annual rainfall is from 900-1 500 mm with considerable snow. Cereals especially wheat, barley and rye are grown, and fruits (apples, plums, pears etc). In this zone forests and pastures dominate.

In Albanian agriculture there are substantial regional differences which reflect variation in climate and terrain, access to agricultural service and inputs, development of markets, and different levels of infrastructure development. To explore these differences, the districts have been grouped into four broad regions mostly representing the different agro-ecological zones (see Table 2); this grouping does not correspond exactly with the agro-ecological zones since many districts contain more than one zone. As would be expected, there is less agricultural land and more pasture and forest in the more mountainous regions; holdings also tend to be smaller there, although the farmers have access to unallocated pasture and forest land for grazing. Cropping patterns also differ; the most notable trend is the large percentage of non-cropped agricultural land in the more mountainous regions. Much of this land which is often steep, stony, and infertile was cultivated during the years 1960-1990 of the previous regime. Some of it is now used for rough grazing. Tree crops are grown in all regions; they are particularly important in the intermediate zones where olives, grapes, and various fruits are widely grown.

Table 2. Agricultural structure in the four Zones and their respective districts (year 2000)



Lowlands (Durrės, Fier, Kavajė, Laē, Kuēovė, Lezhė, Lushnje, Peqin)

Intermediate (Berat, Delvinė, Elbasan, Krujė, Mallakastėr, Sarandė, Shkodėr, Tiranė, Vlorė)

Southern Highlands (Devoll, Korēė, Kolonjė, Pėrmet, Pogradec, Tepelenė, Gjirokastėr)

Northern & Central Mountains (Bulqizė, Dibėr, Gramsh, Has, Kukės, Librazhd, Malėsi, Mat, Mirditė, Pukė, Skrapar, Tropojė)

Land Structure

Total Land Area (ha)






%Forest + Pasture Land






%Agricultural Land






Cropping Structure

Total Agr. Land






% Tree Crops






% Cereals






% Forages






% Other Crops






% Not Cropped






Agricultural Holdings

Total Number






Total Holdings Area(ha)






Area per Holding (ha)






Crop Input Use

%Irrigated Agr. Land






Fertilizer Use (kg/ha)






Tractor Avail.(ha/trac)






Crop Production

Wheat Yield (t/ha)






Maize Yield (t/ha)






Cereal Prod.(kg/holding)






Forage Yield (t/ha)






Forage Prod. (t/holding)






Grapes (t/ha)






Fruit (kg/tree)






Livestock Numbers + Outputs

Cattle (no. /holding)






Milk Yield (kg/holding)






Sheep + Goats (no. / holding)






Milk Prod. (kg/holding)[1]






Meat Prod. (kg/holding) [2]






Source: Agriculture Statistics Yearbook, 2000 [See Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 2000]

1from all livestock
2liveweight, from all livestock

Input use is lower in the mountain zones than in the plains, which together with poorer pedoclimatic conditions is reflected in lower crop yields and production.
Cattle are an important part of the household economy in all regions, although numbers and productivity are lower in the mountains due partly to limited availability of quality forage. Sheep and goats are generally more important in hilly and mountain areas than in the lowlands due to the availability of grazing, although flocks tend to be smaller in the mountains than in the hills. Despite the greater focus on livestock in the hills and mountains, meat and milk production per holding is relatively low partly due to the poor condition of the public grazing resources as well as limited quality forage production on arable land. However, the importance of livestock in the more marginal areas should not be underestimated.


Table 3 gives data for various livestock numbers, meat, milk and wool production as well as cattle, meat and milk imports for the period 1996-2005. The data were taken from FAOSTAT

Table 3. Albania statistics for livestock numbers, meat, milk and wool production, and cattle, meat and milk imports for the period 1996-2005












Cattle nos (,000)











Goat nos (,000,000)











Sheep nos (,000,000)











Beef & Veal prod. (‘000 mt)











Sheep & goat meat prod. (‘000 mt)











Cow milk prod. (,000) mt.











Wool prod. (,000) mt.











Cattle imports (head)











Poultry meat imports (‘000 mt)











Beef & Veal imports (‘000 mt)











Milk equivalent imports (,000 mt)











Source: FAO statistical database 2006; n.r. no records

Traditional systems (pastoral and agropastoral, mixed smallholder, landless systems)
Traditional systems continue to be the basis of rearing animals, especially sheep and goats. Nowadays the cattle breeds are mixed. During the period of normal pasture growth (April – October) they graze; when the vegetation is limited they are stall fed.
In Albania, the political – economical system changed in 1991 from a communist dictatorship to a capitalist democracy. Land ownership also changed along with grazing rights and livestock and the management systems in agriculture. Livestock production systems are not yet well defined and stabilized. In the traditional systems the following systems can be distinguished.
Pastoral system
The pastoral system includes transhumance and sometimes nomadic herding. The natural environment of Albania has two important implications for forage production. A positive one is the great variety of plant species and habitats that grazing animals can use resulting in an increased quantity and, especially, quality of animal products. A negative one are the feed gaps, a big one (3-6 months) in the hot and dry summer when herbaceous plants are dormant, and a small one (2-3 months) in winter due to the low temperatures when plants grow slowly or completely interrupt their growth. This difficult problem was solved by the Albanian farmers over the centuries through transhumance, by moving their animals from the lowlands, where they were kept in winter, to the summer pastures in the uplands and vice versa. This great tradition, also practiced in other Mediterranean countries, has declined since 1990 due to the emigration of people to the urban centres and abroad as well as to the unwillingness of young farmers to move their animals to the mountains any more, thus increasing grazing pressure on the winter pastures. An additional more important reason is the fact that, following the agricultural reform in the early nineteen-nineties, that involved the division and privatisation of land in the plains used in the past as winter pastures, the mountain farmers have difficulties in contacting the numerous owners in the lowlands to organize their transhumance. However, in the last five years, the number of owners with a hundred and more sheep is increasing, so transhumance is becoming more effective to practice. The summer-mountainous pastures are not so far from winter-lowland pastures and usually most of the transhumance takes place within the same district or to the neighbouring district. Transhumance time is only one day when it is done using trucks or 3 – 10 days when the animals walk.
This is now commoner than the pastoral system because in autumn-winter-spring the animals graze a combination of arable land and small remaining winter pastures in the lowlands; while from mid May – mid September grazing continues in mountainous pastures.
Mixed smallholder
This system is now typical. It is connected with the number of animals/flocks. Generally sheep flocks are small (about 20-30 animals), but in some areas larger flocks can be found belonging to one or more farmers (i.e. combined flocks with several owners); some goats are mixed with sheep in the same flock, but in most areas there are pure goat flocks; each farm keeps 1-2 cows and the typical stock farmer raises 10-15 cows for milk or 30-70 calves and heifers.
Socio – economic limitations
Pasture legislation was part of land reform privatisation which included: (a) the development of a comprehensive legal and regulatory framework for land administration and land market development; (b) the establishment of an Immovable Property Registration System for real property titles and registration; and (c) a comprehensive, donor-supported programme to provide first time registration to new land owners. In some areas local privatisation initiatives preceded the formal land privatisation process and land was distributed to individuals and families without formal Government sanction. The decision not to allow restitution for rural land does not apply to urban land, and thousands of competing claims in urban areas are further clogging the courts and slowing the issuance and registration of urban titles. This differing approach for rural and urban land presents a problem for security of title in rural areas surrounding the major urban centres where land is rapidly being reclassified as urban. These issues are leading to a great deal of uncertainty around land ownership and are increasing the risks of investing in land and using land to secure financial transactions. Other issues of concern are the small farm sizes and high level of fragmentation with farms that are an obstacle for commercial production, for mechanized cultivation etc. One initiative is using market transactions and information to engage communities in dialogue on the benefits of consolidations.
The degradation of natural resources in Albania is an important long-term constraint to sector development. Problems include: (a) uncontrolled deforestation; (b) large livestock numbers and consequent overgrazing, particularly in mountain areas; (c) soil erosion and degradation through cropping on marginal lands, especially on steep slopes before the collapse of the old regime, in 1991; (d) loss of scarce and productive arable land through rapid urbanization; (e) degradation of water resources and catchments; and (g) increased vulnerability to flood damage.


Grazing lands
A large part (36 percent) of Albania is classified as forests, which include not only high and coppice forests but also shrub lands. The second major land use category (24 percent) is arable land and the third is pastures which are largely uncultivated areas covered mainly by herbaceous vegetation and small shrubs; a small but very important category of pastures is hay meadows. All the other lands such as rocky areas, water bodies and settlements are lumped together in a single group that occupies 25 percent of the country.
Under the Albanian National Forest Inventory (ANFI 2001) a new land cover-use map has been produced which allocates different proportions to the various categories from the above official ones. More specifically, forests were found to cover 53 percent of Albanian territory, pastures and meadows 17 percent and other areas 9 percent. Since this map has not yet been officially accepted, this Profile reflects the official agricultural statistics (see Table 4).

Table 4. Major land uses with their sub-categories

Land use

Area (in ha)

As percentage of the total


Arable land






Orchards, vineyards & olive groves














Shrub lands








Pastures and meadows






Uncultivated pastures



Cultivated pastures





Other areas






Source: Agricultural Statistics Yearbook (2000) [See Ministry of Agriculture and Food, 2000] and ANFI (2001).

Pastures and meadows
Officially, only pastures and meadows are considered as grazing lands in Albania. They are distributed throughout the country and divided into two groups depending on the season of use: Winter pastures, in the lowlands and used in winter including spring and autumn; and Summer pastures, in the mountains and used in summer for 4-6 months (May-October). The latter include all pastures in the sub-alpine and alpine zones and amount to about 61 percent of the whole area. Dominant herbaceous species in winter pastures are several annual grasses and legumes as well as perennials such as Dactylis glomerata, Festuca ovina, Poa bulbosa and Lolium perenne; while in the summer pastures only perennials such as Poa pratensis, Phleum montanum, Nardus stricta, Trifolium alpestre, Trifolium repens, etc. are found.
Improvement of state pastures includes watering points, rock collection to increase the productive area, shrub cutting, removal of weeds and fertilization (see Table 5). These improvements also include plantations of Robinia pseudoacacia for fodder.

Table 5. Number of watering points and area improved since the implementation of the Albanian Forestry Project









Improved area

State pastures






Communal pastures






Watering points

State pastures






Communal pastures






Source: DGFP (2003)

Pasture condition
Pastures are in relatively poor condition; this is based on the following criteria:

(a) there is a large proportion of unpalatable plants or weeds, both herbaceous (e. g. Asphodelus microcarpus, Urginea maritima, etc.) and woody (e. g. Phlomis fruticosa, Rubus sp., etc);
(b) a large proportion of pasture is bare soil, and
(c) there is conspicuous accelerated erosion, accompanied by landslides, especially in areas of flysch and marls. There is no erosion in pastures on karst areas, but a large proportion of the ground (almost 40 percent) is bare rock.

As a result of their condition, productivity of pastures and meadows is low. Under good soil conditions winter pastures yield no more than 1 500 kg DM/ha, and summer pastures no more than 1 000 kg DM/ha. Under fair to poor soil conditions, which predominate, the yield of forage is substantially less; the average herbage production is no more than 600 kg DM/ha or even much less (227 kg DM/ha) (USAID, 1996).
Pastoral wildfires are related to the degradation of pastures. The new Pastures and Meadows law prohibits burning of pastures and meadows but allows the use of fire in special cases under the authorization of the DGFP. This is a good provision since it may help initiate the use of fire for pasture improvement.
Grassland condition assessment
Pasture condition refers to grassland health or current production in relation to its potential. In Albanian pastures three classes are identified on the basis of the desirability to livestock of plants making up the rangeland vegetation, the presence of litter on the soil, the height and crown cover of the shrubs and the degree of soil erosion. They are as follows:



1. Good

- at least 70 percent of plants are desirable


- more than 2/3 of the ground covered with litter


- shrubs less than one metre high and with less than 40 percent cover


- no evidence of erosion


2. Fair

- at least 40 percent of plants are desirable


- 1/3 to 3/3 of the ground covered with litter


- shrubs less than one metre high and with less than 70 percent cover


- no evidence of accelerated erosion


3. Poor

- less than 40 percent of plants are desirable


- less than 1/3 of the ground covered with litter


- shrubs more than one metre high and with more than 70 percent cover


- evidence of accelerated erosion

Forests Grazing Management. In Albania, high forests are pure or mixed and consist of mainly beech, black pine, oak, maritime pine, fir and other broadleaves and conifers. They are managed in the classical way by thinning or clear cutting and natural regeneration. Coppice forests are also pure or mixed and consist mainly of oaks and beech. They are managed for firewood but also serve as fodder through lopping of oak trees. Shrubs lands consist of several species both evergreen and deciduous (e. g. Arbutus unedo, Erica spp., Quercus coccifera). They are used for firewood and grazing.
Officially, forests are not considered as grazing lands. However, both shrub lands, coppice and high forests are grazed. The only areas where grazing is not allowed are the “protected forests” and areas, which have been delimited in the high and coppice forests. Lopping of oak trees for fodder, especially for goats, in winter is common practice at least in coppice forests. Also, in some shrub lands, such as those dominated by Quercus coccifera, grazing is the only practice applied. Fire is sometime used to open up these shrub lands and make them suitable for sheep grazing.

Arable land grazing. Land ownership is about 0.2 hectares per capita on average, which means that there is no real incentive for cultivation, so a great part of the arable lands is under-utilized and grazing is the main activity. Even the cultivated area is grazed after the harvest. Straw is collected and stacked for use in winter. In addition, forage and hay crops are grown (about 40 percent of the total cropland: lucerne, maize, annual clovers and ryegrasses, etc.). It is a common practice to graze under trees after the fruit harvest.

Fodder Supply and Grazing. The developing livestock sector makes a considerable demand on feed and fodder supplies. Possibilities for expansion of natural pasture are limited, so increased feed must come from improved production of fodder such as lucerne, maize and other grasses, and improved utilization of industrial by-products such as olive cake, bran and soybean meal. Forage crops are now grown on 165,000 hectares, or 40 percent of the cropped arable land, with lucerne comprising about two-thirds of this area. Most is harvested by hand and there are problems with weeds and poor storage of hay. More emphasis should be placed on measures to improve forage quality, enhance management and feeding practices and increase availability of clean seed. Grazing resources including pasture, forest, and some agricultural land are fundamental for livestock raising. But many pastures and forests have degraded significantly over the last 5 to 10 years, particularly in land close to communities where over-grazing and over-cutting of wood have resulted in reduced productivity and soil erosion.

Legislation and government for livestock fodder and pastures
The Law on “Pasture and Grazing Land” (No. 7917 of April 13, 1995) is for land covered with grass and shrubs which is used for grazing and mowing and belongs neither to the agricultural land fund nor to the forest fund. It divides pastures and meadows into:

(a) State-owned pasture lands amounting to 38 percent of the whole area and are administered by the Directorate General of Forests and Pastures (DGFP) in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF);
(b) State-owned pasture lands for general use (communal pastures) amount to 54 percent, administered by the corresponding municipality and commune; and
(c) Privately-owned lands amounting to 8 percent of the whole area, including group ownership. This Law goes further than the forest law by decentralizing user rights to local government institutions and allowing participation of the affected population. Communes are fully responsible for the technical and financial management of communal pastures and can also establish ten-year lease contracts with people interested in using them. DGFP’s role is to approve changes in the use of communal and private pastures, provide assistance (extension services) against payment, and protect pastures and meadows from damage.
The Law on “Forestry and the Forest Police Service” (No. 7223 of October 13, 1992) defines the country’s forest estate (“forest fund”), which comprises State, communal and private forests. State forest management is the responsibility of the forest administration, though the law does not specify the methods. Management of private forests is not covered under this law. Communal forests are a newly introduced category that, while still State-owned land, can be jointly managed by communes and the DGFP. Various subsidiary texts to the forestry law have also been issued, including regulations for the exploitation of forests, decisions on the setting of stumpage and other forest fees, guidelines for auctions of standing wood, instructions for protection against forest fires, the principles for the selection and establishment of protected areas, and the use of forests for recreational purposes.
The DGFP is responsible for pasture and grazing management and for collecting grazing fees, but this centralized approach was rarely accepted by local users. Recent legislation allows the transfer of user rights and management of forest land and pasture to communities. About 250,000 hectares of pasture and 200,000 hectares of forest in 250 of Albania’s 315 communes have been identified as land that could be transferred. This does not include alpine pasture, which will remain protected land under the control of the DGFP. The IDA-Forestry Project (financed by Italy and Switzerland) includes a Communal Forest and Pasture Management component, which aims to:
(a) rehabilitate and increase the productivity of pastures near villages in order to meet firewood and fodder requirements; and
(b) assist in the transfer of land to communities, initiate participatory management of these areas with clear allocation of resources to local beneficiaries and achieve sustainable management through a system of user fees for maintenance of the resource and further investment. A total of 34 communes are now at various stages in the process. However, this is only a small proportion of the total number of communes, and substantial scope exists for including additional communes.
Pasture vegetation
The Botanical Department of Tirana University has grouped pastures on the basis of the predominant plant species (Shundi, 1987):
a. Pasture type with Andropogon spp. (distachyos, ischaemum and gryllus). These three species grow in winter pastures above 800-1 000 m above level sea, in poor and dry lands with pH 5.5 – 7.0. Associated species are Dactylis glomerata, Cynodon dactylon, Medicago minima, different Trifolium spp. (angustifolium, campestre, subterraneum ), Bellis perennis, Cichorium intybus. Grasses are 60 – 70 percent, legumes 10 – 20 percent, and plants of other botanical families 20 – 30 percent.
b. Pasture types with Cynodon dactylon and Lolium perenne. These plants grow in moister areas and not so dry climate, on not very productive land. Associated species are: Dactylis glomerata, different Trifolium spp. (pratense, subterraneum) and Lotus corniculatus. In this pasture type, the feeding value is better than pasture type with Andropogon.
c. Pasture type Festuca varia. These plants grow on calcareous slopes, dry and with low fertility. Associate species are: Festuca spp., Trifolium alpinum, different Listera, Hieracium hoppeanum etc. The proportion between Grasses – Legumes – Other Families is 8.0 : 0.5 : 1.5. Forage production is low and the forage quality is below average.
d. Pasture type with Nardus stricta. These plants grow on gentle slopes with medium moisture, where pH is 4.0 – 5.5.. The proportion grass – legume – other families is 7 : 1 : 2. Associated species are: different Agrostis, different Anthoxanthum, Genista pilosa, Trifolium repens etc. It is well known that Nardus stricta has forage low quality.
e. Pasture type with Phleum alpinum. These plants are typically of summer pastures growing in less productive lands. Associate species are: Festuca spp., Agrostis, Trifolium pratense, Lotus corniculatus. The proportion grasses – legumes – other families is 6 : 1 : 3. Forage production is higher and of better quality than in pasture type with Festuca because it grows on more fertile lands.
f. Pasture type with Agrostis capillaris. These plants grown in less productive lands than Phleum alpinum. For this reason, also forage production is less. The proportion grasses – legumes – other families is 6 : 1 : 3.

The first three types belong to the winter pastures and the last three types to the summer pastures.

Shrubs are spread over the most pasture surface, up to 800 – 1 000 metres above sea level. Dominant shrubs include: Arbutus unedo, Erica arborea, Myrtus communis, Quercus coccifera, Paliurus spina-christi, different Crataegus. Subshrubs that only grow 0.2 – 0.5 metres like different Artemisia and Astragalus angustifolius are spread in the summer pastures.

Table 6. Area, structure and carrying capacity of pastures


Area (ha)

Carrying capacity (sheep equivalents)








Head per ha


Head per ha


Head per ha










































Source: DGFP (2003).

Stocking rate
The number of livestock grazing a unit area of land per year, in sheep equivalents per hectare is calculated for the various types of grazing lands by assuming that they are grazed by one or more kinds of animals (see Table 6). This assumption had to be made since there are no data on how the grazing resources are allocated among the different species. By comparing the data of this table (Table 6) with those of Table 2 (and recalculating – see Table 7) it becomes clear that the stocking rate of pastures is higher that the carrying capacity by about 20% if only sheep are considered (4.35 vs. 3.66), by 87% if sheep and goats are considered (6.84 vs. 3.66) and by 310 % if sheep, goats and cattle are considered. These results (Tables 6 & 7) suggest that the pastures of Albania are currently grazed by more than twice as many sheep and goats than the carrying capacity estimated with production data collected in 1981.

Table 7. Stocking rate (sheep equivalents/ha/year) of the various land uses by different kinds of grazing animals (data from Tables 1 and 3).

Land use type

Only sheep

Only goats 1

Sheep and goats

Only cattle 2

All animals



















Only shrublands






Pastures and forests






1 Goats were taken as equivalent to sheep (i.e. 1 sheep=1 goat).
 2 Cattle were considered equivalent to 5 sheep (i.e. 1 cow=5 sheep).

Grazing pressure, however, is not the same everywhere. It is highest on the winter pastures and in lowlands near villages and much lower in mountain areas, particularly summer pastures, where under-grazing seems to have become a problem locally due to the emigration of people to urban centres and abroad. As far as wooded lands are concerned, the pressure is highest in shrub lands, where goats mainly graze and least in high forests while in coppice forests it is intermediate.

Forage availability over the seasons. Grazing animals have a more or less constant feed demand over the calendar year with the exception of the period of pregnancy when demand is slightly increased. For dairy animals, an increased quality and quantity of feed is also required during lactation. On the contrary, the feed supply of pastures is not constant over the year due to climatic factors. On the lowlands (up to 800 m), with a typical Mediterranean climate, plant growth is confined to the favourable period in terms of moisture and temperature, namely in autumn after the first rains and in spring, while in winter, plant growth is reduced due to the low temperatures. On the winter pastures forage is available during autumn and spring. The same is true in arable lands used for grazing or hay. In the highlands (above 800 m altitude), the growing period moves towards the summer months due to the cold winters but the availability of forage throughout the summer depends very much on the occurrence of rain. A different case are the forests including shrublands, where the main forage supply is based on woody plants. Evergreen shrublands can provide browse to animals year-round but deciduous shrublands and forests only do so during summer.

Integrated management of wooded lands
As in other Mediterranean countries, grazing of forests in Albania is the most important non-timber use, if not the only economically viable one. The practice is traditional suggesting that most of these forests have been evolved with the presence of domestic animals. Both the flora and fauna have been adapted to grazing. Therefore, excluding livestock from these forests may have negative affects on biodiversity and ecodiversity thus creating more problems than leaving them inside. In addition, it may increase the fire risk. In technologically advanced Mediterranean countries, where livestock were removed from forests several years ago, disastrous wildfires have become a big threat to the forests and other ecosystems during the summer period. Grazing in wooded lands has both positive and negative effects. Domestic animals are herbivores, which constitute fundamental components of natural ecosystems and indispensable instruments for their functioning (energy and nutrient cycling). Whether they are beneficial or damaging largely depends on management and especially on grazing intensity. The issue, therefore, is not to exclude livestock from forests but to harmonize forest and livestock activities by integrating wooded lands in livestock production so that sustainable management of the forest resources is achieved (Papanastasis, 1984; 2003). On the other hand, relieving the forests from grazing pressure cannot be accomplished if pastures and arable lands are nor properly developed as a substitute to wooded lands for forage production.

High forests. In general, the primary objective in management of high forests is timber production. Forage production can be only be a secondary use. However, grazing is not compatible with all high forests. Even-aged dense forests of shade tolerant species, for example, produce no understorey vegetation under proper management during their whole life, therefore they are not suitable for grazing. If animals are allowed to get into such forests they will destroy them. Even under improper management such forests produce very little understorey vegetation which is worth grazing; they will lose more energy finding and collecting than they gain from eating such vegetation. Typical cases of this category are the beech and deciduous oak forests. Uneven-aged high forests (e.g. fir), are also unsuitable for grazing because they consist of all the age classes including seedlings, which are very vulnerable to livestock damage. High forests with the above characteristics not compatible with livestock grazing are the broadleaved and evergreen forests and woodlands dominated by Fagus silvatica or Abies borisii-regis, or the creek and riverine deciduous forest, the classes 3, 4, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17 of the new land cover/use map of the ANFI project. These forest types should be fully protected from grazing. They amount to 350,762 ha or 23% of the total forest lands. They belong to forests (271,469 ha) and woodlands (79,293 ha). [Note: these data are from the new survey (see ANFI, 2001) and data may differ from those in Table 3. The same applies to data presented below].
On the contrary, even-aged open forests consisting of light-loving species produce enough understorey vegetation which can be used by livestock. Grazing, however, should be excluded during the early stages as well as during the regeneration period because seedlings will be chewed and damaged as well. Typical cases of this category are the pine forests (e.g. black pine). In these forests, grazing can be used as a management tool to remove understorey vegetation during the cultivation period thus reducing the competition for water and nutrients and preparing the seedbed for regeneration. In all these cases, grazing should be proper, namely the stocking rate should be equal to the grazing capacity. High forests belonging to this category in Albania are the classes 7 and 15. They amount to 62,127 ha or 4% of the total forest lands.
A special case is the so-called "Mediterranean forest" consisting of warm coniferous species such as Pinus halepensis, P. pinea, and P. pinaster. All these forests are quite open, because the dominant forest species are light-loving, thus favouring the growth of a lush woody understorey. Grazing in these forests is necessary in order to control the understorey and save them from wildfires. Mediterranean forests are the most flammable. In Albania, such forests belong to the classes 6, 9 and 14. They amount to 7,472 ha.

Coppice forests. The primary objective in management of coppice forests is firewood production. Under certain conditions forage could be a secondary objective. Coppice forests can be grazed only when sprouts grow beyond the reach of animals, especially goats. The existing rule-of-thumb applied by the Forest Service, is when the young sprouts achieve a height of about 3 metres or a Diameter Breast Height (DBH) of 3-5 cm is a sensible one. In these forests, grazing should be used to reduce the number of sprouts per stump and unit area thus favouring some of them to grow tall and fast. Such management can speed up the process of converting coppice to high forests. A typical case of this category is the oak forest. The stocking rate again should be equal to grazing capacity. Under the ANFI project, forests that fall into this category belong to classes 1, 2, 5, 11 and 12. They amount to 627,271 ha or 62% of all forests.

Lopped trees. Lopping of forest trees, especially deciduous oaks, is a traditional practice in Albania, still widespread all over the country. Although the lopped branches provide both foliage to the animals and firewood to the people, the quality of the feed is not very high and the manpower involved is considerable. In addition, lopping prevents trees from providing acorns for regeneration in both high and coppice forests. In the long run, the foliage produced by lopping should be replaced by other kinds of feed of higher quality produced on arable land (e.g. lucerne) or by higher quality foliage of trees established artificially as fodder shrub plantations with Robinia pseudoacacia, Morus alba and Medicago arborea.

Shrublands. The primary objective in management of shrublands should be forage production with firewood production a secondary one. These areas are the primary grazing lands for goats and they receive a very high pressure in most districts of the country. A number of reports prepared by experts from various international organizations involved in forestry development of Albania have already stressed the need to allocate shrublands to livestock in a sylvopastoral management context. Shrublands are either dominated by evergreen species such as Arbutus unedo, Erica sp., Quercus coccifera, Phillyrea latifolia, etc. or by deciduous species such as Carpinus orientalis, Cornus mas, Fraxinus ornus, etc. or both. The co-existence of evergreen and deciduous shrub species is quite widespread in the coastal and central parts of Albania. Under the ANFI project, the forests falling into this category are classes 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23. They amount to 150,705 ha or 14% of the forest area. Under proper grazing management, animals including goats can not fully control the growth of shrubs. For this reason, livestock production in these areas should be combined with firewood production.

Sylvopastoral systems
Open forests (high or coppice) with less than 0.4 crown density produce more forage than timber, so the primary objective in their management could be forage production with timber a secondary objective. Such forests should be managed as sylvopastoral systems, combining forage and wood production.
Plantations. There are several areas in Albania that were planted in the recent past with fast growing species, especially pines. These plantations are usually dense, allowing limited amounts of grazeable understorey vegetation. Nevertheless, they can be grazed to control this understorey and save them from wildfires since the majority of them consist of pines, which are very flammable. In new plantations, grazing should be deferred until the saplings reach a height beyond the reach of grazing animals (e.g. goats), which could be at least two metres.

Grazing capacity of forests. Grazing capacity is the maximum number of animals that can graze a pasture without impairing its productivity. That implies that grazing management of pasture should be sustainable, i.e. it should have the capacity to carry the same number of animals in the future as currently or even more. In order to achieve such an objective, part of the annual production should be left ungrazed to sustain productivity. This could be 40-60% of the annual forage production depending on pasture condition and the type of vegetation of the particular grazing land. For calculation of the grazing capacity (see Table 7), only the grazeable portion of forage production should be considered, namely the average dry matter production per unit area at the end of the growing season multiplied by the so called "proper use factor".
In the estimations of grazing capacity, if the total annual forage production is considered allowable this will result in excessive grazing of pastures and forest lands and in their eventual deterioration. In Table 8 only the grazeable portion is considered (i.e. the “proper use factor” was utilized) and the total grazing capacity for forests including woodlands and shrublands and excluding the high forests which are not to be grazed (350,762 ha) is estimated to total 10,656,813 SEUM (Sheep Equivalent Units per Month – see Table 7). If we assume that all this area is suitable for 7-month grazing per year, then the total number of SEUM that can carry amount to 1,522,402 sheep and goats. The majority of these animals, namely 1,153,776 or 75% of the total, can be carried in shrublands, 176,300 or 12% of the total in forests, and the remaining 192,326 animals or 13% of the total in woodlands. In other words, the grazing capacity of shrublands is three times higher than the one of high and coppice forests. More specifically, the grazing capacity of shrublands is estimated to be 2.6 SEU/ha/year, of forests to be 0.4 SEU/ha/year and of woodlands to be 0.7 SEU/ha/year, or of the whole forest domain to be about 1.3 SEU/ha/year. The grand total for all land categories is 18,414,045 SEUM.

Other pasture information

Pasture area per capita. For smaller districts the pasture area could vary to some extent, due to the limitations of the area calculations. The pasture area per capita varies widely among the districts from 0.009 ha/capita to 0.83.
Pasture area per animal. The total numbers of livestock are taken from national statistics; the accuracy of this information cannot be assessed. This should be considered in interpreting the results. The pasture areas are from the land cover/use assessment, the pasture area the quotient of these two figures. It is noted that the pasture area per head varies considerably, which could point to an over utilization of the pasture resources in some districts.
Pasture area by management type. Most of the pastures are about 60 % summer pastures and 40 % are winter pastures. The vast majority of the pastures are natural pastures; about 1 percent of pastures are identified as cultivated.
Pasture area by phytoclimatic zone. The location of pasture areas is an important indicator of the carrying capacity. The pastures are almost evenly in the Lauretum (27 % of the total), Castanetum (27 %) and Fagetum (27 %), they are much less frequent in the higher elevations, in the Picetum (3 %) and Alpinetum (16 %).
Pasture area by mother rock categories. Information on the mother rock of the pasture areas is important in assessing the carrying capacity. The majority of pastures have limestone as mother rock (this relates in part to the fact that they are mostly at lower elevations) with 60%, another 20% is Ultrabasic and only 15 % Flysch.
Pasture area by soil categories. The main soil category is Grey Brown with 36 % and Brown with 20%.
Pasture area by soil depth categories. The soil depth information shows that a high percentage (almost 40%) has rather shallow soils; about 1/3 medium and only 15 % were classified as deep.
Pasture area by slope categories. Many of the pastures are on steep or very steep slopes (almost 80%), and only about 20% on rolling terrain, posing some limitation on the management of the pasture resources.
Pasture area by erosion level. The majority of the pastures (about 60%) show erosion signs, possibly indicating over utilization.
Pasture area by harvesting mode. The vast majority of the pastures are grazed by animals; in less than 2 % cutting hay was specified.
Pasture area by stone cover categories. Stone cover of pasture areas has a definite influence on the use by animals. Almost 40 percent of the pastures are classified as having medium or high stone cover.
Pasture area by altitude categories. About 50 percent of the pastures are at an altitude of less than 1 000m; 50 percent are above 1 000m.
Pasture area by grazing use categories. The grazing intensity has a definite influence on the sustainability of grazing, depending on carrying capacity and pasture conditions. More than 73 percent of the pastures are grazed moderately or heavily; 23 percent of all pastures are classified as being grazed heavily.
Pasture area by burning status categories. Fires can be a major problem in the management of pastures. The field survey showed that 24 % of the pastures showed signs of burning, a third of the burnt areas had been recently affected by fires.
Pasture area by distance from villages. Access to the next village is an important indicator of pressure on the land and for management; only 16 % of pastures are closer than one kilometre to the next village, and more than 40 % are further than 3 km.
Pasture area by accessibility level categories. Accessibility is a prerequisite for pasture management. The distance from village shows that a large percentage (73%) of pastures are more than 1 km and more than 30% are over 3 km.
Pasture area by water supply level categories. Only 25 % have a water source closer than 1 km and for almost 30% the closest water supply is more than 3 km away.
Pasture evaluation. The results of the pasture survey (ANFI, 2001) clearly show that most pastures are on limestone (60%) with steep to very steep slopes (78%) south facing (43%), and on shallow soils (51%) having low organic matter content (57%) and a relatively high level of stone coverage (40%). All these features indicate a below medium productivity since the shallow soil on south facing slopes cannot sustain a high production taking into account that a significant part of the soil surface is covered by stones. On the other hand, limestone produces soils with high fertility, with relatively high pH, which favour legumes, valuable species for the grazing animals. This fact together with the high rainfall mainly in the medium and high altitudinal zones partly counteract their poor physical conditions and make them capable of supporting a relatively high grazing load. Nevertheless, productivity data suggest that only 20% of the total pasture area has above medium productivity. These pastures are apparently the ones found in depressions and dolines where the soil depth and slope are favourable for a high pasture growth.

On the other hand, the pasture survey data indicate that the majority of pastures are in fair to poor condition. About half of them are inappropriately grazed (too lightly or too heavily), 24% of them are subjected to fire and more than 60% of them show signs of erosion - sheet as well as accelerated. These results are amply documented by the stocking rates for the 36 districts of the country which are on the average 6 times more than the grazing capacity estimated at no more than one sheep or goat per hectare and per year. This grazing load is not evenly distributed among the 36 districts, some of them being overexploited while others are grazed almost properly.

Finally, the pasture survey shows that very few pastures are now used for haymaking, that there is an imbalance between summer and winter pastures with the latter being less than the former and that most of the pastures are far from the settlements with poor accessibility and a lack of infrastructure, especially watering points. It should also be noted that although the pastures are dominated by herbaceous vegetation, they also have a substantial amount of woody species (25% on the average). This means that they can provide feed to both sheep and goats.


Development of pastures and meadows
Reduction or complete removal of grazing pressure from forests, especially productive (high) ones, can be done by the Forest Service by enforcing the forest law with police measures. Such measures, however, are unlikely to be effective but would create great social unrest among people living in or near the forests. The only effective policy is likely to be the development of alternative forage resources so that livestock are attracted to them and thus relieve the pressure on forests. Such alternative resources are the pastures and meadows, which are, like forests, under the responsibility and jurisdiction of the Forest Service.

For pastures and meadows to become capable of accommodating the feed needs of livestock as much as possible, they need to be properly developed, improved and managed. Such a development should be a priority issue for the Forest Service if it really wants both to save the forests and help the mountain economy.
Emphasis should be placed on the following measures (World Bank & FAO, 2002):

a. Improve grazing management, and the availability and quality of feed and fodder, which affect animal production, growth rates, and fertility and reproductive performance. Measures should be taken to improve forage production and preservation technology, management and feeding practices, and availability of clean seed for alfalfa and other forage crops planted on arable land. This should be an extension activity supported by rural communities that would jointly carry out fodder related improvement activities. The Pasture Management Programme could also be expanded to include additional communes. Limit the unsustainable use of grazing by allowing the resource to be controlled locally.
b. Provide adequate and cost-effective services including animal health and breeding to both subsistence farmers and developing commercial producers and improve livestock health by addressing the relatively high incidence of diseases that pose public health hazards. Veterinary services should continue to be demand-driven and largely provided by private providers, but with a public sector role in controlling epidemic and zoonotic diseases.
c. Further develop agro-processing that will increase the range of marketing outlets for farm products as well as the possibilities for product transformation and adding value.
d. Further investment in food safety is warranted, but needs to be designed carefully and should not deprive the rural and urban poor of access to animal products. Develop an affordable livestock product safety control system that does not price essential food out of reach of the poor.

Pasture survey
Before any development, pastures and meadows should be surveyed and an inventory prepared. This means that they should be mapped and evaluated for their productivity and grazing capacity. Nowadays, although these resources are considered separate from forests, their location and boundaries are known only by local people through tradition. The last assessment of their productivity was in 1981. It is evident that no proper management of these resources can be accomplished without a comprehensive evaluation of their current productive potential and their capacity for livestock production. Their survey, mapping and productivity assessment should be done by using, as much as possible, modern technology (remote sensing and GIS) so that the field work, which is very expensive and time consuming, is kept to a minimum.

No pasture development can be realized without the necessary infrastructure which includes access roads, watering points, animal shelters and huts for shepherds. Access roads are needed to move animals to the pastures on foot or by trucks, but chiefly for the transport of livestock products (e.g. milk) and shepherds. Watering points include spring development, transport of water, water basins and troughs. Such points are especially necessary in limestone areas where natural streams are rare and rain-water has to be collected. Animal shelters are needed in the summer pastures where weather conditions are extreme, severely affecting the productivity of the animals. In the winter pastures, shepherds normally have sheds to house their animals at night and in bad weather. Finally, huts are also needed in the summer pastures so that shepherds can stay and rest as well as protect themselves from bad weather. In the winter pastures, they are not necessary because these pastures are near villages where shepherds normally reside.
Although a considerable amount of technical work is already available, many more are needed for (a) the pastures to be properly developed and utilized, and (b) the young people to stay and work in livestock husbandry in the mountains and their quality of life to be improved compared to the lowlands and the cities. The problem is that such work is expensive. Nevertheless, it can be justified if it is included in the general development plans of the rural areas and especially the mountainous ones so that they serve other needs as well, such as communication between villages by vehicle (for the roads), control of wildfires (with the water of the watering points), etc. One way to reduce the cost of the technical work in pastures is to pre-fabricate and produce some of the inputs (e.g. water troughs, huts) in large numbers so that they are easily transported and set up in the places needed.

Grazing capacity. The current grazing capacity of pastures and meadows is quite low. By most local (Albanian) accounts (e.g. IFMP, 1994) and ANFI, 2001 estimates, the dry matter production is no more than 600 kg/ha on the average that amounts to 2,883,378 SEUM after taking into account a “proper use factor” of 60%. For a 7- month period per year, the SEU (Sheep Equivalent Units) which can graze in these areas, are about 412,000 which is about 0.9 SEU/ha/year, namely less than one third of the official estimate of DGFP based on data collected in 1981. This discrepancy is probably attributable to the fact that the official estimates of DGFP do not take into account the “proper use factor” and also they are quite old. Several Albanian foresters contend that the productivity of pastures and meadows has been significantly reduced over the last 20 years. It is necessary, therefore, to conduct a survey of the current production of pastures and meadows so that DGFP has more reliable data to determine the grazing capacity of pastures and meadows.

Vegetation improvements
Despite their low forage production, the productive potential of pastures and meadows is quite high. This is exemplified by the great species richness that most of them have, the presence of several palatable species (e.g. legumes) and the favourable soil and climatic conditions. For this potential to be exploited a number of vegetation improvements are needed. They include the following:

a. Weed control. Pastures are full of weeds due to the mismanagement applied so far and still being applied. These weeds are both herbaceous and woody. Examples of herbaceous weeds are Asphodelus spp., and Urginea maritima in the winter pastures and Helleborus cyclophyllus in the summer pastures as well as several thistles in both of them (e.g. Cirsium, Carduus etc). Examples of woody weeds are Phlomis fruticosa, Paliurus spina-christi and Rubus spp. in the winter pastures and Juniperus nana and Astragalus spp. in the summer pastures. All these weeds need to be controlled in order to increase productivity. Control can be manual or with machines. Also, in some cases, fire can be used. Burning to control weeds is used by shepherds but this is not regulated and often causes more damage that good. With weed control, pasture production may be doubled.

b. Fertilizers. Fertilization is an easy and relatively inexpensive method to increase forage production and improve its quality. It can result in doubling of the current production and greatly improve milk and meat production. Currently, there is no such practice in Albania but it could be considered in the future as a very effective method, particularly in the private pastures where grazing management can be also controlled.

c. Reseeding. Reseeding pastures with palatable species is potentially a very good method to increase forage production up to three times compared with the current level. It requires, however, good soil preparation, and the use of the most appropriate species adapted to each environment. Its problems are the high cost and the need to defer grazing until the sown species are established. It can be used only on pastures on level land and gentle slopes with good soil depth (more than 30 cm).

d. Shrub planting. Introduction of palatable shrubs to pastures can serve two objectives: a) to provide forage during the critical period of the year, when herbaceous species grow very little such as when conditions are cold (winter) or dry (summer); and b) to control soil erosion. Since both objectives are important, fodder shrub plantations should become a basic activity of the Forest Service to upgrade pastures. Suitable species for plantations are: Robinia pseudoacacia (already used), Medicago arborea and Morus alba (the shrub variety Kokuso 21). All are fast growing and very palatable. They can be used either for direct grazing of for cutting-and-carrying so that they are used as supplementary feed. If such plantations are properly developed, they can also provide feed for the winter after cutting and drying and thus substituting the current practice of forest tree lopping that Albanian farmers use all over the country. The feed value of these shrubs is much higher than oak or beech leaves and farmers can be easily convinced to use fodder shrubs instead of forest species. The only problem is the high cost of establishment of fodder shrub plantations. To reduce this cost, seedlings of shrubs can be given free of charge to farmers in order for them to establish them on their own land (pasture or agricultural land).

All the above vegetation improvements, combined or applied alone, can result in at least a doubling of the current production and, consequently, the grazing capacity of pastures.

Management plans. The most inexpensive and effective method of improving pasture productivity is proper grazing management. Such management involves: a) employment of a stocking rate equal to grazing capacity, namely grazing the pastures with the proper number of animals, b) use of kinds of animals suitable to pastures ; c) grazing at the proper period (season) of the year; and d) grazing for as long as available forage exists (duration of grazing). The latter two conditions refer to the grazing system that should be applied to a particular pasture.

Development of agricultural areas
Even if pastures and meadows are properly developed and used, the pressure of livestock on high forests will not be completely relieved. This is because pastures and meadows as well as shrublands are insufficient to cover animal needs in feed for the whole year round. They require an additional source of feed for the critical periods of the year. The source of this feed is the agricultural lands.
In Albania, agricultural lands are vital for the welfare of animals; these include arable land and abandoned agricultural areas. The former are grazed by livestock, especially cows, after harvest or between two successive crops while the latter are grazed almost the whole year round. The grazing capacity of all these lands is estimated to be 3,948,100 SEUM after considering their average forage production to be 400 kg DM/ha/year. This production is totally available to the animals, because agricultural lands are not managed on a sustained yield basis as are forests and pastures. As a result, the “proper use factor” is not needed. By accepting an average grazing period of three months per year in agricultural lands, the number of SEU that could be maintained in these areas is about 1,316,000.
In addition to being grazed, agricultural lands are also used for the production of hay (e.g. Lucerne) and residues (maize, etc). This hay is also essential to animals, particularly cows, for the winter period. Finally, agricultural lands are also used for the production of grain (maize, barley, etc) that is a very important supplementary feed for livestock during winter.

Opportunities for improvement of pastures (Papanastasis, 2003):

a. - Grazing should be considered as the most important non-timber use of forests and treated as a tool for their conservation and sustainable management. This philosophy should be incorporated in the forest law by revising it so that grazing by domestic and wild animals becomes an integral component of management.
b. - Of the 1,026,410 ha (see Table 4) of forests, woodlands, thickets and shrublands, recorded as semi-natural vegetation; 373,142 ha (Table 3) of high forests consisting of coniferous and broadleaved species, or 23% of the whole forest area, should be totally protected from livestock grazing. The remaining 77% of forests woodlands and shrublands should be allowed to be properly grazed.
c. - Shrublands amounting to 221,217 ha (Table 4), should be primarily managed for forage production but without damaging their capacity to also produce firewood as a secondary product.
d. - Lopping oaks or other tree species to collect foliage for animals in winter should be gradually stopped and replaced by other sources of similar or better feed. Such sources could be artificial fodder shrub plantations in private, communal or public lands or hay fields in abandoned agricultural areas.
e. - Pastures and meadows should be surveyed, improved and rationally managed to: (a) protect them from degradation, (b) restore their productivity and (c) relieve the grazing pressure from forests. This development should be done in the framework of new and integrated management plans. Similar actions should be taken for the "refused" lands, too.
f. - Agricultural areas, and especially the under-utilised or abandoned ones, should be actively incorporated in livestock production by developing improved (artificial) pastures and enhancing the cultivation of forage and grain crops so that high quality feed is produced to be used by animals in the critical periods of the year.
g. - The current excessive number of livestock can be reduced if a rigorous breeding programme is applied to replace a significant part of them with fewer but more productive breeds. This can be done in sheep and goats but especially in cattle.
h. - Intensive short courses and seminars on pasture and range management should be organized with the assistance of international organizations for training of foresters already employed by DGFP while the subject of range management should be included in the curriculum of the Faculty of Forest Sciences at the Agricultural University of Tirana. In addition, pasture and range research should be initiated in the Forestry and Pastures Institute of Tirana.


The Directorate General of Forests and Pastures (DGFP) is responsible for pasture management and their cadastral register.
E-mail address: and the pasture officer:

The address of the Forest and Pasture Research Institute is: Rr. “Halit Bega” Nr 23, Tirane-ALBANIA with e-mail:

The address of the Crop Research Institute with a Forage Crops Department is: “Crop Research Institute, Fushe Kruje-ALBANIA”.


Agolli, S. 2000. Review of Albanian Agriculture – Facts and Figures. Tirana

Agricultural and Food Statistics of Albania: 2003. Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Tirana

ANFI, 2001. Albanian National Forest Inventory, Terms of Reference. Tirana

DGFP, 2001 and 2003. Annual report of forestry activities, Directorate General of Forests. Tirana

IFMP (Integrated Forest Management Project) 1994. FAO Investment Centre Report (on Albanian Forests)

Papanastasis, V.P. 1984. Forestry and livestock grazing: A policy perspective. Policy analysis for forestry development. Proceedings of the International Conference of IUFRO, Thessaloniki Greece.

Papanastasis, V.P. 2003. Special study on grazing impact on wooded lands, including firewood consumption assessment. ANFI. Tirana

Shundi, A. and Buzi, Th. 1991. Experimental results in improvement of mountainous pastures in Albania.. “Herba”. FAO, Nr. 4, 1991; p 50-53.

Shundi, A. 1987. Pastures-chapter in the textbook Phytotechnia. Agriculture University. Tirana

Shundi, A. 1995. Surpassing Ecological Limits for the Rangelands in the Mediterranean Basin (Albania). Proceedings of 5th International Rangeland Congress, Salt Lake City, USA.

USAID, 1996. Silvo–pastoral management. United States Agency for International Development. Tirana

World Bank & FAO, 2002. Albania-Rural Development Strategy Underpinning Growth and Sustainable Development.


This profile was prepared by Prof. Andrea Shundi who was the main lecturer for grasslands and forage plants at the Agricultural University of Tirana from 1980-1992. He also participated, with papers on rangelands, in various International Congresses (Montpellier-France 1987, Palmerston North-New Zealand 1993, Salt Lake City-USA 1995, Townsville-Australia 1999) and Meetings of the FAO European Grassland Network (Montpellier-France 1986, Bari-Italy 1990, Chania-Greece 1993). He has been resident in USA since 1999.

Prof. Dr. Andrea Shundi
107 Nuttree Way,
Durham, NC 27713

Acknowledgements: the author would like to thank his colleagues Prof. Th. Lako ANFI project Tirana and Prof. Vasilios Papanastasis, Aristotelian University-Greece, for sharing results of their studies and providing comments.

[The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries]

[The profile was edited by J.M. Suttie and S.G. Reynolds in August, 2004 and modified by S.G. Reynolds in october 2006]