FAO partners with Albania for sustainable and resilient agrifood systems and rural development
Tirana, Albania – The signing today of the 2022—2026 Country Programming Framework (CPF) by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) ushers in a new phase of the progress toward sustainable and resilient agrifood systems and improved rural livelihoods for the country.
The document articulates important markers in Albania's journey to transform its agrifood systems that began fifty years ago in November 1973 when it became a Member of FAO. Over the last five decades, FAO and Albania have shared a mutual commitment to fostering agriculture and rural development. This new framework sets out the work ahead to continue and strengthen these joint efforts.
Anila Denaj, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development remarked at the signing ceremony that “the Framework aligns with policy objectives of the National Strategy on Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries 2021–2027, which has a cross-sectoral approach. The Country Programming Framework aims to achieve improved sustainable, productive, and inclusive economic development; enhanced climate change adaptation and mitigation, an accelerated transition to a green and blue economy; equitable investment in people; strengthened equality and non-discrimination, increased women’s empowerment and human rights, and reduced violence against women and children. “
“The accord addresses crucial challenges and opportunities within Albania's agricultural and rural development landscape in close collaboration with the national counterparts,” FAO Representative in Albania, Raimund Jehle noted. “The CPF is focusing on innovative policy solutions, increased and equitable investment in people, and gender-responsive governance.”
“In this regard, we stand ready to support the transformation of the agrifood system as Albania progresses towards the European Union (EU) membership and realizing global commitments,” Jehle added.
Specifically, the framework agreement foresees the consolidation of important agrifood value chains, as well as the empowering of farmers and food processors to increase their productivity and enable them better access to natural resources. FAO will contribute to enhancing development policies and agricultural services to improve and diversify income opportunities for the rural population, including strengthening employment for women and youth. Further, the Organization will support the national counterparts in strengthening their capacities to apply evidence-based policies and practices for sustainable, inclusive, and competitive agrifood value chains and systems.
Agriculture in Albania
The Albanian agricultural sector is a significant component of the nation's economy, contributing 19 percent to its gross domestic product and employing about one-third of the workforce, which is the highest proportion in the Western Balkans. In the past 15 years, the gross value-added figure for agricultural products has more than doubled, indicative of positive sector development.
Despite these improvements, challenges persist. The need to strengthen food safety, add value to primary products, and improve coordination along the food value chains remain gaps to close in order to increase efficiencies and respond to consumer demands for safe, nutritious, and sustainable food and to harmonize with EU food safety standards.
Additionally, although Albania's agricultural trade balance has improved significantly in the past decade, there is still considerable potential in the value chain yet to be exploited. The aggregation, processing and distribution stage, where food moves from a primary to a final product, needs to transition to be more competitive, more innovative, and more environmentally and economically resilient.
Structural issues, however, continue to hinder the sector's progress.
The common current model of a fragmented land ownership structure results in small and scattered farm holdings—the average farm size is only 1.2 hectares. In consequence of this model, rural livelihoods tend to be precarious: about 43 percent of the rural population and primarily smallholder farmers, is at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The rural economy heavily relies on agriculture for income, yet off-farm employment opportunities are scarce. Additionally, women, who constitute a significant part of the agricultural workforce, often face unequal access to resources and decision-making processes.
Environmental challenges, such as climate change, water and air pollution, and land degradation, also pose significant threats to the sector.
The Country Programming Framework is designed as a supportive instrument, with FAO committing to providing technical expertise, policy development assistance, value chain development, resource mobilization, knowledge transfer, data analysis, and support for European Union accession processes. Furthermore, the CPF aligns with the Albania–United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022–2026 that emphasises Albania's priorities such as EU accession, achieving the 2030 Agenda, and reaching national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets.