The Supervisory Board of PONT recently conducted a tour of the Prespa-Ohrid ecoregion. This was a fantastic opportunity to further develop understanding of the issues and challenges unique to the region, as well as to build upon and foster new relationships. Some highlights of the multi-faceted visit include:
- research and monitoring activities of the Hydrobiological Institute Ohrid, demonstrated aboard the Institute’s monitoring boat at Lake Ohrid;
- excursion in Galicica National Park, with stops at the park’s visitor centres in Ohrid and Stenje;
- Environment Department of the Municipality of Resen presented management priorities for the Ezerani Nature Park and Lake Prespa Monument of Nature during a visit of the Lake Prespa Monitoring Station at Stenje in Prespa;
- a transboundary working lunch with the Mayor of Resen and representatives from the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment, National Agency for Protected Areas, and Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania;
- a visit of the local office (based in Resen) of the Macedonian Ecological Society, which was recently established to strengthen the partnerships with local stakeholders;
- managers of Pelister National Park presented the park’s natural and cultural values at the visitor centre;
- observation of the nesting colony of Dalmatian pelicans and a boat trip on Lesser Prespa Lake, organized by the Society for the Protection of Prespa;
- a meeting with representatives of the management board of Prespa National Park in Greece.
The Supervisory Board members all benefitted immensely from the tour, particularly in terms of putting faces to names, understanding the importance for the support of various leaders and developing a deeper appreciation of the differences between countries and the various grantees.
A key theme was PONT’s focus on capacity development, and the opportunity to ‘step in’ at the right time and explore different ways of supporting the grantees. A few things could be tried out to see how best PONT can influence without fear of making some mistakes during the first years – we view these as learning opportunities.
PONT must assess how best to assist PA administrations in the transition from predominantly forest- to a more conservation-centred management. The support of both government organisations (GOs) and NGOs is needed with PrespaNet being an important partner on a transboundary level.
The promotion of cooperation between partners is essential and PONT is in a position to play a major role, with the team having established itself well in the Wider Prespa Area. The PONT Supervisory Board has decided to focus its activities on the Wider Prespa Area for the coming years before committing to a possible geographical expansion. This means that in the mid-term PONT will focus its efforts on the 10-15 grantees who have been actively working in the Prespa area for a long time.