Engaging community and youth in wetlands conservation in the Buna River Delta in Albania

The past year was an excellent opportunity for the Living Buna project partners to reflect on challenges and achievements of this 5-year long project and to translate its results into useful learning tools to share for the future. Via a Learning & Sharing grant financed by MAVA, IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) has led this project in partnership with INCA and PAP/RAC, and local management authorities.

Reflecting on the road behind, IUCN ECARO consolidated the acquired knowledge on environmental stewardship in the Buna River Delta, and communicated key messages by creating engaging stories and exchange opportunities. Their goal was to increase the feeling of ownership with the local community and especially assist youth to take an active role in environmental protection and governance. To achieve this, they have combined knowledge products and different communication material, and organised workshops and community event, with a specific focus on youth.

The activities commenced with an online youth forum in December 2021. The forum brought together young people from across the Balkans, both individuals and members of organisations, to learn about regional and local policies, strategies and initiatives for conservation. Presenters included IUCN global and regional representatives, the European Commission, and National Agency for Protected Areas of Albania – a Member of Biodiversity Task Force of South-East Europe, among others. The goal was for young custodians of the environment to interact with organisations, to learn and share information about conservation activities in the region. They discussed conservation action in the Balkans, introducing the guiding policies, such as the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, down to regional activities and projects in Albania to protect wetlands – and discussed how it all fits together.

IUCN ECARO developed two full PANORAMA solutions in 2022, to describe the solutions for conservation challenges related to Buna wetlands, described as (1) a programme that increases community’s contribution to conservation; and (2) a programme that builds protected area management capacity. Both are shared on the PANORAMA Solutions platform, supported by a brochure as a snapshot view of the solutions. They created an animated video to bring them to life and increase engagement.

The Buna Day Community Fair was held in June 2022, coinciding with World Environment Day, to gather local stakeholders, youth organisations, government officials and the civil society to share their learning and celebrate the conservation of the Buna River Delta. Organisations and individuals who have been given a kick-start in their conservation initiatives through the Action for Buna Small Grant Scheme stepped up and led several of the activities.

To learn more about their work in Albania, or in general, kindly contact IUCN ECARO at ecaro@iucn.org.

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