Briefing Note: Forestry Issues- Albania

Subject matter: Communal Forestry

The Government Policy of transferring ownership and responsibility for protection and management of communal forest and pastures areas is not complete. The transfer of the forest and pasture resources in ownership to Local Government has taken place without a transfer of capacity and financial resources. Lack of clarity in roles, responsibilities and property rights, limits invertment in the protection and sustainable management of these areas;

    Issue 1 . Lack  of technical capacity in Communes to manage transferred communal forest and pasture areas;

Need for recruitment of forest & pasture capacity/expertise at Commune level;

  1. Need for corresponding financial support;
  2. Need for clarity of roles and responsibilities – the new role for the state forest staff needs to be communicated widely;
  3. Need for advisory (Extension ) support to the new forest owners to ensure knowledge & skill in line with Government Policy on CFP areas- creation of a Forest and Pasture Extension Service ( FPES) within the Ministry;

Issue  2.  Unclear property rights influences priorities for protection and sustainable utilization at the local level

  1. Need resolve the Registration process and payments for registration of transferred land with the Ministry of Interior , Agency for Land Transfer, by the Communes receiving forest property in ownership;
  2. Local rights and traditional ownership arrangements are not formalized and limit the incentives to protect beyond immediate need and currently limit economical benefit sharing ;

Issue 3. The lack of financial support to forestry through incentive/subsidy schemes to promote implementation of government policy

  1. Need for targeted subsidy/incentive schemes to promote investment in forestry both financially and from contribution of local effort ( labour);

        Issue   4. Lack of coherence in legal framework for forestry with overlapping responsibilities, roles and rights and unclear benefit sharing arrangements;

  1. Need to reflect new ownership arrangements in Forest Law as well as local rights and benefit sharing beyond immediate/domestic needs. Currently economic benefits can only legally be derived from working through associations;

Discussion & Recommendations

      Issue 1.   Lack of technical capacity in Communes to manage transferred          communal forest and pasture areas;

It is believed that only some 100+ out of 315 communes have recruited forestry specialists, then only a limited number of staff with unknown qualifications.The lack of sustainable forest management (SFM) capacity at LGU level is considered to be too comprehensive for being met with only additional extension  advisory support. Achieving the required capacity/competence is beyond what is defined asextension and additional assistance is required in the short term to bridge the transition period capacity gap. 

The mechanism for support including financial support would have to be negotiated between MEFWA, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance. Options could include: transfer or secondment of staff; subsidising the position in the commune ; the state foregoing the percentage share of revenue from fees and tariffs in transferred areas if sufficient capacity is employed by the Commune; or additional budget for the commune based on forest area.

Training: Recruitment of a forest specialist alone would not be enough to meet the communal needs for forest management and it is recommended that a training programme is developed for Commune staff as an initial investment in capacity.

Roles and responsibilities: The current DFS staff are uncertain in their role and require direction and priorities in the management of state forests and support to Communes and forest users. There should be a clear separation of roles between extension and state forest management with dedicated staff to delivery of forest and pasture extension services to communes.

State Extension support: In order  to be effective and clarity of mandate, the new extension service needs: a clear mission statement; a clear strategy for implementation; a service delivery and results orientation; job descriptions for its staff; and an annual appraisal system.Its impact should be measured by external auditors who assess its value for money service delivery performance.

To establish a “fit for purpose” extension service, requires a major investment with new structures and grouping at the Regional level. These  should be staffed with Subject Matter Specialists reflecting the core thematic areas of support required to ensuresustainable management of communal forest and pasture areas. These should cover:

  1. Forest Administration and Management;
  2. Sustainable Utilisation of forest and pasture products;
  3. Forest Developmnet;
  4. Pasture Management, and;
  5. Information, Communications and Technology in the field of socioeconomic development;

Role of non-state actors in Extension: The Ministry, through 2 externally financed projects have supported the establishment of local forest and pasture user associations and strengthening their representation through regional and national level structures. These are currently providing limited services ( training and awareness) to users and communes. In partnership and through financing this platform could be further developed to ensure efficient receipt of extension services at  the local level. Good examples of such partnerships (non-profil and commercial) are available in a number of European member states. Closer to Albania, Montenegro is currently drafting new forestry legislation that provides sustainable financing to the representative private forest owners association;

Issue 2. Unclear  property rights influences priorities for protection and sustainable utilisation at the local level;

Once transferred the property in question requires registration with the lmmovable Property Registration Offis; Payment of fees by communes has been an issues given the size of areas involved, many are officially incurring late registration penalties. As this sffectively a government to government transfer, the fees should be waived for the state forest lands transferred to communes. This requires to be raised with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Finance.

Incentive to protect and manage forests sustainably is limited by clarity on local rights and traditional ownership arrangements. These   local rights and traditional ownership arrangements are not formalised and limit the incentives to protect beyond immediate need and currently limit economical benefit sharing;

Proper management, protection and utilization within sustainable yield limits depends on the collaboration of the local population at the local level. The incentive to protect and invest in the resource requires secure property rights where there is a perceived return on investment of affort, sometimes economic, often non- economic. Secure property rights can range from user certificates, to contracts, to concessions to private ownership. Different users met have different levels of expectations of this. Opportunity for these first steps are available with Council of Ministers decision #22 of January 2008 (section 16), but this needs to be applied in practice to provide more enabling conditions for extension.

Secure title to land may be a condition for EU rural development subsidies, grants and other financing mechanisms. These could be potentially foregone by forest users/ forest sector if this issue is not addressed;

         Issue 3. The lack of financial support to forestry through incentive/subsidy schemes                  

               to promote implementation of government policy;

In addition to knowledge and skill transfer, behaviour is  also influenced through the targeting of financial incentives through targeted subsidy schemes, investment and grant packages or market based mechanismas  such as commonly used in European agricultural, and currently applied in agriculture extension in Albania. Direct financial incentives other than provided through projects such as NRDP are not available to forest users and limited to communes other than through individual initiatives. The forest sector users nd limited to communes other than through individual initiatives. The forest sector requires a financial incentive scheme targeted  to support the implementation of Government Policy regarding communal forest and pasture areas. For this to be considered seriously, two conditions need to be met.firstly proper valuation of forestry in the National economy ( contribution to GDP particularly through fuelwood energy), secondly, closer integration and  harmonizing with Ministry of Agriculture support to rural development with a view to EU accession requirements. It is expected that the new Forest and Pasture Extension  staff would perform a role in the preparation, technical assessment and monitoring of such schemes at different levels.

Greater investment in the communal forest and pasture sector includes consideration of financing of the role of non- state actors in the provision  of extension services. The demand for services in relation to the State’s ability for effective outreach to the users of forest and pasture areas dictates that other actors have an important role to play.

Issue 4. lack of  coherence in legal framework for forestry with overlapping responsibilities, roles and rights and unclear benefit sharing arrangements;

Following from secure property rights follows the right to economic benefits in support of local economic development and bring trade in forest products to the formal market and be part of the national economy as well as properly reflected in the GDP of Albania. For equitable benefit sharing from investment in sustainable forest management will require review and revision of the legal framework to bring forest users into the formal economy.

The forest users associations operation are governed by the legal framework relating to Non-Profit Organisations in Albania and the public procurement rules in communes. This has caused financial problems in terms of fees to be paid, social costs,value of work undertaken. This should be reviewed as it is currently limiting financially for the associations, limiting incentives for its members to more commercially oriented organizations;

It is clear that is limited awareness of laws and decisions, ( the CMD#22 for example), and efforts to comply with the decision have been limited. The legal framework needs improvement as well as better clarity and understanding among stakeholders. Activities that were started in 2007 and 2008 involving studies and working groups should be restarted with clear timetables and results framework;

The relationship between the communes and the user associations also needs clarification in the legal framework and consideration for protection from political interference in the functioning of the associations.

The changed ownership arrangements with communes should be reflected in the Forest law as well clarity over local rights and benefit sharing beyond immediate/domestic needs.

Simplify regulatory mechanisms: The mechanisma for regulating use of the forest and pasture resources should be simplified, the management plans in particular to make them more accessible to less highly technically qualified staff of the commune and the individual groups of forest users at commune and village level. Many European countries follow the use of minimum environmental standards ( water quality, health & safety and nature conservation ) as a threshold for closer scrutiny and approval of works, or use the criteria of market based systems of certification which often follow nationally agreed minimum standards. These should be harmonized across sectors– forestry, water , environment. Awareness of the requirement of standards and criteria are often the focus of extension support and services.