Building capacity for sustainable wild harvesting of wild plants in and around protected areas of the Danube Region

Local collectors from Ivanovo, Bulgaria sharing their traditional knowledge of the use of wild plants with the workshop participants (during the study visit of Rusenski Lom Nature Park)

Local collectors from Ivanovo, Bulgaria sharing their traditional knowledge of the use of wild plants with the workshop participants (during the study visit of Rusenski Lom Nature Park)

October 2017— The project “Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region” (LENA) is now underway, promoting the implementation of sustainable wild plant harvesting activities. A series of capacity building workshops have introduced the FairWild Standard to project stakeholders, and translated materials into local languages of the region. The FairWild Standard itself is now available in Serbian and Slovenian - bringing the number of translations to 17 in total.

The LENA project[1] involves 13 partners from seven countries along the Danube. It aims to connect people to nature and support livelihoods and business opportunities for low-income communities based in and around protected areas. A series of activities are planned on wild harvesting, led by project partners TRAFFIC and WWF Hungary.

Four capacity-building workshops were jointly organized with local project partners and held at the designated pilot sites: Szatmár-Beregi Nature Park, Hungary, Rusenski Lom Nature Park, Bulgaria, Deliblato Sands, Serbia and Gorenjska region, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.

They aimed to identify the needs of local communities and to find innovative solutions to support their livelihoods and create business opportunities.

Around 80 relevant stakeholders participated in the events, including representatives from local collectors, processing and trading companies, university experts, protected area authorities and local politicians actively participated in the events. Discussions focused on issues such as the threat of losing valuable traditional knowledge, the vanishing number of collectors, necessary training on sustainable harvesting practices, business planning and relevant legislation.

The FairWild Standard and its Principles were introduced to the participants to demonstrate possible opportunities, solutions and best practice examples of successful sustainability frameworks to guide wild harvest and trade, including through the FairWild certification scheme. The informative “FairWild cartoon” was translated with the help of the local project partners and is now available with subtitles in Bulgarian, Hungarian, Serbian and Slovenian.

“Thanks to the support of our project partners, and the enthusiastic participation of so many organizations and stakeholders, these workshops have helped strengthen commitments towards harmonizing the relationship between local communities and their protected environments” said Kirsten Palme, TRAFFIC’s Programme Officer Medicinal Plants Europe and LENA project manager. “These activities will further contribute to potentially creating ‘green job’ opportunities and generating additional income while conserving biodiversity in the target areas through sustainable trade in wild plant resources”.

The recent meetings will be followed by a regional capacity building workshop in Budapest, Hungary at the beginning of December 2017. This regional event will bring together all LENA pilot activity partners and external experts to exchange knowledge and experiences and find transnational solutions for the shared challenges facing wild plant harvesting in the Danube.

Article modified and reposted with permission from TRAFFIC.

[1] Project LENA—Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region—is co-funded by the European Union funds (ERDF, IPA, ENI) and implemented through the Danube Transnational Program, with the support of the European Regional Development Fund, co-financed by the European Union and the Hungarian State.

Marcus Cornthwaite