FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Livelihoods of Albanian farmers supported through income diversification, tourism, and digitalization

Two new FAO projects support the Albanian agriculture sector by diversifying incomes (on- and off-farm) and building capacities for smallholder farmers, rural women, youth, extension services, and farmers’ associations. The projects also aim at enhancing the abilities of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to create a conducive policy framework for smallholders.

The some 350 000 smallholders and family farms are the backbone of Albania’s agriculture. Despite the sector’s high potential for growth, rural areas are characterized by poverty and unemployment. Often, a lack of knowledge hampers smallholders to apply minimum food safety standards and good agricultural practices and, as a result, farmers are restrained from managing their business effectively. However, two new FAO projects seek to create change in these areas.

The first will support rural income diversification in several areas, such as rural tourism or short value chains, by conducting specific and tailor-made trainings and networking workshops in three pilot areas. This will include the promotion of authentic products specifically produced by rural women and smallholders, traditional products incubators, as well as start-ups for rural youth. Similar approaches have been applied successfully in neighboring countries.

Preliminary assessments have shown potential for adding value to rural economies through further investments, such as: drying fruits (apples, plums, and cherries) in Korca; establishing an agri-business incubator for processing olive, tobacco, pottery, and soapmaking in Belsh; and improving the quality milk value chain in Malsia Madhe. These incubators and community enterprises can become the basis for joint decision-making in quality control and food safety standards, as well as marketing, including packaging and labelling.

Under this project, smallholders can also widen their knowledge on European Union food safety standards, good hygiene practices, and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) application.

The second project, implemented in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), will target more directly the development of small-scale farmers, especially youth and women. To this end, good practices on rural income diversification will be supported through small-scale investments under grant schemes, and vocational education and training schools.

During the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of digitalization. Smallholder farmers often face inequalities in terms of access and use of digital technologies. To bridge the rural digital divide, farmers need to be equipped with appropriate skills and digital literacy. Therefore, FAO will collaborate with ILO to work on skills needs assessments, gap analysis in technical skills, digital skills, and organizational capacities, as well as digital readiness in selected value chains and regions.

Both projects contribute to the strategic goals of the Ministry, including enhanced farm viability, competitiveness of the agrifood sector, and balanced territorial growth in rural areas, in addition to European Union integration objectives. They will also help Albania achieve national commitments related to Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8, connected to the UN Programme of cooperation for Sustainable Development 2017–2021. And, in collaboration with national partners in Albania and ILO, they will pave the way to ensure no one is left behind.

10 November 2020, Tirana, Albania