Vlorë: so close, so far

03/08/2017, Vlore, Albania, Elena writes:

Mirë u pafshim dhe rruga të mbarë *

During these last days of my internship I have been working on the draft of the project "Farmers emerge from invisibility", in the framework of the program Sustainable Agriculture for Sustainable Balkans. The core idea of the project is to organize events to involve farmers working “informally” in the villages in the district of Vlora. The first meetings will be aimed at understanding the realities of their communities and identify the most common issues, which will be then put together in a report. Once a relation of mutual trust is established, three cycles of capacity-building training, supported by technical assistance, will follow. The training will focus on: procedures to register their farming activity; food and safety criteria; national and international incentives and funds.

The objective is to create a network of small farmers who, as a group, will hold a stronger contractual power. Alongside these activities on the field there will be roundtables to which the main stakeholders (such us agro-food distribution enterprises, research centers, local authorities) will partake, to discuss and elaborate common strategies.

The material collected will constitute the core of two policy recommendations that, together with the report, will be presented to the decision makers during the final public presentation.

In fact, without adequate protection, these small producers will be swallowed by the negative effects of globalization as well as those of the European integration process. Keeping in mind the safeguard of biodiversity and food sovereignty, it is essential to preserve the traditional and cultural heritage constituted by these farmers and their products.

The fact that this work is receiving extremely positive feedback from the external expert that is coaching the associations in the drafting of the full application is giving me a lot of satisfaction, because this proves that, in these ten months, I have acquired new skills and knowledge, and am now able to think and write a well structured project. I have much further to go and much more to learn, but at least I know that now I have the means to find my bearings in a field that only a few months ago was completely unknown for me.

In addition to the farmers’ project, I am also following the progress of another project I wrote, Zero Plastike: a pilot project aimed at creating the first ecological neighborhood here in Vlora, where in the near future new recycling bins designed and made by the students of the industrial institute will substitute the old ones. This initiative is taking place thanks to the agreement reached with the Municipality, the recycling company and the two “plastic collectors” association. These actors, some time ago, while sitting around a table during the public presentation of the project, started an animated discussion which proves that the problem of plastic collection exists, is real, and involves significant political and economic interests. Its resolution would imply real openness and efforts on behalf of the local administration – as well as on behalf of policy-makers at the national level who, as mentioned in my previous article [1], in order to "give work" to recycling enterprises, focus on importing waste.

The project started with meetings in schools where, to our pleasure and surprise, we discovered that students were not entirely ignorant on the topic of recycling, reusing and reducing waste. Their interest and enthusiasm further confirmed the importance of creating an educational project with children and youth, the vital force of this world.

The installation of the new recycling cans will inaugurate our open-day cycles in the neighborhood, initiatives in which we hope to include all citizens, informing them on long term advantages of recycling (cleaner city, better working conditions for plastic collectors, etc.)

Unfortunately, I probably won't see the completion of these projects because my internship is coming to an end. In these final days, I have thought a lot about my Albanian experience, about what I have learnt, the relations I have built and so on. On the basis of these considerations, I can easily say that it has been a very intense and, in certain ways, difficult time; I wouldn't define it as dense of activities and external inputs but, precisely for this reason this, very strong. We are used (or at least, I was used to) being constantly stimulated by impulses coming from the external reality. In our daily lives we get caught up in a mad whirl of activities:  things to do, friends to meet... During my time here, I realized that my entire life I have never been alone, but constantly with and surrounded by people.

Spending these months far from home, on my own, gave me the opportunity to get to know different aspects and layers of my personality, to dedicate myself to creative activities for which I never had time.

I started to travel alone, to listen and observe more, and judge less; discovering this beautiful country and its surprising biodiversity, I started to feel extremely bothered by the engineering and architectural havocs that are disfiguring and violating these beauties, in the name of progress: progress of what, progress for whom, exactly?

I have started to gain some consciousness about what I want to do with my life, which compromises do I want to make and which do I not, what do I want to give priority to, etc.; and the results of this process have been revolutionary, or better, I may have found the courage to stop following the roadmap and finally start designing my own path.


[*] "Goodbye and good luck" in Albanian.
[1] Click here to see the article of the blog entitled "Overwhelmed by waste" 

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