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Plateforme de connaissances sur l'agriculture familiale

  Albanie

Family farming in Albania represents a rural way of working which is, in many ways, deeply rooted in the traditions and the savoir-faire of Albanian farmers. Considering the importance of the agricultural sector in the economy of Albania nowadays, as well as the specific weight of family farming in Albanian agriculture, the main challenge for today consists of modernizing the methods of production and increasing the productivity of family-run farms while preserving as much as possible the benefits of this type of agriculture – such as the intact agro biodiversity and natural resources that characterize most of the agricultural landscape in Albania. The sector has huge potential for boosting local economies, especially when combined with specific policies aimed at social protection and the well-being of communities.

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Agriculture remains the most important sector in the Albanian economy, measured by its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product, employment and macroeconomic stability. Evidenced by the fact that it is the only sector that has continued to grow during the last three years (about 3 per cent), agriculture in Albania has demonstrated a high capacity of adaptation and resistance to different crises, like the (rather prolonged) transition from centralized economy to market economy as well as the more recent economic crisis. 

The sector is strongly centered around family farming. More than 90 per cent of the 380,000 farms in Albania are below 2 hectares and account for about 95 per cent of the land used, being the only country in Europe to rely largely on non-intensive small-scale domestic production. As such, family farms are the most important contributor to food security by producing food for self-consumption as well as for the market. Their contribution to employment is significant as the majority of individual farms serve as a main (if not only) income source for the self-employed in this sector. Around 50 per cent of the population in Albania lives in rural areas. While it can offer a very successful business model, family farming at small-scale production like the model that dominates Albanian agriculture does not allow for the profitability that can be obtained through economies of scale. It becomes therefore imperative that Albanian agricultural products secure an added value that enables them to compete with neighboring products on the basis of quality rather than quantity.

Organic farming has come to increasingly be recognized as important in this respect. Albania has what it takes to develop its label of organic products. It possesses a relatively cheaper labor force in bigger numbers compared to more developed European Union countries given its predominantly rural population. And, as has already been mentioned, due to its rather primitive state inherited from the communist regime and its moderate development to date, it still has arable soil that is very suitable for organic production. Organic farming also plays an important role in relation to agritourist, which has just started to be explored in Albania.

However, the modernization of agricultural production, either in this form or in its more conventional manner, faces many challenges. Some of the most acute problems regarding family farming today are those related to the centralized agriculture and the communistic regime, like the fragmentation of land or the lack of professional knowledge among farmers. Today’s farmers in Albania have a low starting base in their professional training, due to the past regime which organized labour in agriculture through communistic-type cooperatives that sharply divided technical skills from manual labour. The lack of formation, in turn, does not allow for new and adequate technology to find its way, especially in remote areas of the country, where family farming occupies all agricultural land. Other challenges are related to the good functioning of free market mechanisms like the ones connected with the economy of scale, access to domestic and foreign markets through efficient collection and storage of products, or the lack of a suitable financial environment in the form of credits and other financing tools for the development of agricultural family enterprises.

These deficiencies are also an indication of the high production potential of family farming that is not exploited. There is an evident need to make family farming more dynamic and efficient, not only regarding its production but its organization as well. The lack of intensive farming practices in Albanian family farms has resulted in the conservation of local natural resources and of biodiversity countrywide. The majority of the farms use local varieties in their production, thus preserving, among animals, local small ruminant breeds which still represent more than 80 per cent of the small ruminant population in Albania or, among plants, local varieties of fruits, olive trees, grapes, and medicinal and aromatic plants. On the other hand, family farming in itself, as a unit, is much diversified, including all livestock products, fruits and vegetables, fishery in small water reservoirs, medicinal and aromatic plants, beekeeping and mushrooms, creating the right environment for developing polyculture agriculture.

Family farming is a social tissue that throughout history has preserved traditions, local identity and cultural heritage, contributing to the country’s stability. The social role that family farms play today has considerably changed. Until recently, staying in line with traditional and conservative sociology, the head of the household was usually the oldest man followed closely by the oldest sons. The wife generally took care of the housework, child rearing and financial matters pertaining to the farm. However, agricultural activities have changed over time and are actually much more diversified. The involvement of women and younger generations in rural family farming is increasing. Being a country with a very high rate of emigration, especially in the neighboring countries which were heavily hit by the recent financial crisis, like Greece and Italy, a large number of youth have had to return in recent years, finding employment opportunities only in the agriculture sector. At any rate, the need for the young farmers to take over is great, as it is estimated that currently 30 per cent of the employees in agriculture are above the age of 64 years, in itself a strong evidence of the wide presence of family farming in the country. The benefits of family farming in preserving traditional food products while contributing to a balanced diet are known. They provide an opportunity for conducting a lifestyle that is unique to village countryside. The existence of such elements in Albanian villages has come to be recognized as a strong incentive to the development of agrotourism.

Albania is gradually, but surely, turning its eyes towards agriculture, realizing the potential of the sector for the economic growth of the country. In light of the recognized challenges in this sector, the current government has for the first time dedicated an important part of its programme to the transformation of Albanian agriculture from a subsistence model to a modern and sustainable agriculture. Apart from policies which aim at environmental protection and the conservation of biodiversity, in order to enhance support for family farming the Government has improved the direct payment scheme to farmers through criteria which are closely linked with the regionalization of agricultural production. The shift is very important as the country’s geographical areas vary considerably in terrain and climate conditions, each region being suitable for the cultivation of specific products only. Family farming is the direct beneficiary of such oriented policies since most of the country’s land relief is mountainous and not prone to intensive agriculture.

 

Texte aimablement fourni par les autorités du pays.

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