Slow Food’s project ESSEDRA (Environmentally Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Rural Areas), funded by the European Commission, started in December 2012. In May 2013, the project’s operational phase was launched during a conference titled “Food biodiversity preservation as a main tool for rural development and small scale farmers’ support” in Belgrade, Serbia.
Many traditional food products (whether breeds, varieties or processed food) are at risk of disappearing, victims not only of social change, globalization and industrial agriculture, but of inappropriate and unnecessary rules and regulations, introduced unthinkingly as part of the process of EU accession. The same process offers the prospect of support mechanisms for traditional farmers and artisan producers, but these need to be activated and effectively delivered.
The three main outputs of the Essedra project are the study on relevant legislation and policy processes, the inventory of Western Balkans and Turkey’s agricultural endangered products and the training of the partners’ staff. The activities aim at advocating the role of small-scale farmers in biodiversity protection, promoting concrete models and actions to preserve biodiversity, and at exchanging the best practices and knowledge at a multiregional level. The overall objective of the project is to support the EU integration process by strengthening the capacity of and giving voice and visibility to Civil Society Organizations in the Balkans and Turkey working in the fields of agriculture, rural development and food quality. The overall purpose is thus to involve communities in protecting the environment, especially in safeguarding biodiversity, to halt climate change and to secure the sustainable well-being of local communities. Thanks to this project the capacity of the network to influence policy formulation processes will be improved, as well as the dialogue and collaboration between the stakeholders.
There are four EU partners - Slow Food, EFNCP (European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism), Fundatia Adept and SF BG; the last two are based in Romania and Bulgaria respectively and bring recent experience of the accession process and its impact on Slow Food products and their producers. From the IPA Countries (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance - EU candidates) the members are Volontariato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo in Albania, Okusi Hercegovinu in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slow Food Bitola from Macedonia, Mutfak Dostları Derneği in Turkey, Natura Balkanika in Serbia and Udrugu Kinookus in Croatia.
The project partners unify the experience and knowledge of strong, well-established European organizations with two associations from the new EU countries based in the Balkans (Bulgaria and Romania), and six organizations from IPA Countries. The stronger organizations will become mentors and facilitators for other organizations, which need to improve their skills for policy research and stakeholder analysis in order to be widely engaged in advocacy and policy dialogue.
The experiences of Bulgaria and Romania will mainstream the lessons learned during the pre-accession process in the network. The partners have been identified among the organizations, which proved to be the most reliable and pro-active and to have a clear understanding and knowledge of their countries needs and constraints.
One of the results of ESSEDRA hoped for is that citizens will become aware of their role in environmental preservation through informed every day decisions and activities, as well as their improved participation in Civil Society dialogues.
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Partner 1: European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism Ltd., UK
EFNCP is the only European organization dedicated to the maintenance of low-intensity farming systems of high value in terms of biodiversity. The organization also delivers high levels of public goods and ecosystem services.
Partner 2: Association of Slow Food Convivia in Bulgaria
The goal of the association is to discover, document and restore the rural culture including food traditions in different parts of Bulgaria and promote it as a part of the national heritage and an instrument for sustainable development of local communities.
Partner 3: Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania
Romania has many of the most important High Nature Value farmed landscapes surviving in Europe today. Since 2002, Fundatia ADEPT has been working with farmers, local communities, universities, other NGOs, and government at all levels in order to solve the range of problems threatening the survival of these remarkable landscapes and of the small-scale farming communities living within them. ADEPT is carrying out an integrated programme linking economic and social benefits with biodiversity conservation, and raising local capacity for good management in the future.
Partner 4: VULLNETARIZMI NDERKOMBETAR PER ZHVILLIM NE SHQIPERI, VIS ALBANIA
VIS Albania is a branch of international VIS – International Volunteers for Development, with headquarters in Rome (Italy). VIS is present in Albania since 1995. Since then, VIS strategy has been oriented to sustain first of all Albanian children and youth, creating opportunities of care, formal and informal education and vocational training. Actions have been continuously developing in order to reach in a more qualified way a greater number of beneficiaries.
Partner 5: Udruženje Mladih za promociju tradicionalnih proizvoda “Okusi Hercegovinu” Mostar
Okusi Hercegovinu is a network of associations of producers (cheese, honey, organic agriculture etc.) and individual small producers that plays a significant role in the promotion of the Herzegovinian agro-tourist product through the set-up of a great number of fairs and activities regarding valorisation of typical and traditional products.
Partner 6: Slou Fud Bitola
Slou Fud Bitola works to built a new gastronomic culture based on traditional Macedonian cuisine, various agricultural products from local farmers and knowledge to new generations.
Partner 7: MUTFAK DOSTLARI DERNEGI - MDD
Mutfak Dostları Dernegi-MDD (founded in 1991, Istanbul) is one of the leading gastronomy NGO’s in Turkey and the principal idea of its founding members was to promote, protect and support Turkey’s unique cuisine.
The main objectives of MDD are to reveal and develop the richness of cuisine, beverages and food presentation manners through scientific research; as well as organizing seminars, panels, gastronomy fairs, lotteries, ballets, concerts, conferences, excursions, contests, exhibitions, implementation works and similar activities to promote local cuisine both in Turkey and abroad.
Partner 8: Association “Natura Balkanika”
NB is a non-governmental, non-partisan and non-profit organization funded in Dimitrovgrad in 2000. The fundament of NB is the opinion that the conservation of nature has to be done through the conservation of the whole web of life – human and natural.
Partner 9: Udruga Kinookus
KINOOKUS (Cinetaste, founded in January 2010) is an association of 15 young professionals in the audio-visual, educational, scientific, artistic and managerial fields, coming together over projects that bring multidisciplinary and holistic approaches to questions of land and food, to new models of culture and society, and to the innate complexity of human condition.