FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Project promotes agrotourism and digitalization for Albanian smallholder farms

FAO helped to enhance diversification and competitiveness of Albanian smallholders through the promotion of agrotourism and digitalization in the agrifood sector. The one-year project, which ended recently, targeted three pilot areas in the country (Belsh, Melesi Madhe, and Korca).

For real impact, the project combined training and knowledge sharing leading to the development of a position paper on agritourism and a vision for the digital transformation of agriculture.

Local and national partners gained knowledge on diversifying their agricultural production and activities, whether on-farm or off-farm, which contributed to rural development and income generation of smallholder farms. Extension service specialists and small-scale farmers received training on how to optimize agrifood value chains, to diversify production, and market sustainable agricultural products.

These were preceded by an assessment of farmers’ needs in the three pilot areas that enabled FAO experts to better identify their potentials.

“Considering its untapped potential, an important focus area of developing the smallholder sector in Albania is agritourism,” said Morten Hartvigsen, leading FAO expert of the project. “Therefore, a position paper for agritourism policy dialogue was developed with the aim to accelerate the sector’s development.”

Several country-wide virtual workshops were conducted with the same goal based on the experiences gathered during a series of previous events in all three pilot areas, which collected information about agritourism development and its area-specific challenges.

At one of the workshops, Arben Kipi, Assistant FAO Representative in Albania, encouraged cooperation and to approach agritourism as a way for diversifying the rural economy and ensuring new opportunities to smallholders to develop agritourism with all potential partners involved. He also acknowledged the unprecedented opportunities, which the digital technologies can offer for accelerating agricultural development in the post-2030 Agenda.

FAO also assessed the level of digitalization of agriculture in the country, more specifically in advisory services.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the power of digital technologies in ensuring the continuation of professional and personal lives while respecting protection measures. The crisis also revealed digital disparities between social classes and geographical groups. To this end, FAO pays special attention to support smallholders and family farmers, rural communities, and youth.

”To develop a national digital agriculture strategy we need to have everyone around the table,” said Sophie Treinen, FAO regional focal point on digital agriculture. “We fostered collobaration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy, which is crucial for an effective national working group dedicated to the development of the national digital agriculture strategy.” Representatives from academia, private sector and the civil society are also part of the working group.

The future strategy will become an integral part of Albania’s Inter-Sectoral Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development.

The project was funded from FAO’s efficiency savings meant to support specific targeted activities at country level.

The project is part of FAO’s regional initiative on empowering smallholders, family farms, and youth. For its successful implementation, FAO partnered with the Albanian Rural Association Support Programme.

12 February 2021, Tirana, Albania