The role of shepherds in maintaining the biodiversity of protected areas cannot be overstated, playing a crucial role in preserving the natural ecosystem and cultural heritage of these areas. With support from PONT and CEPF, civil society associations such as AlbNatyra are working together with the administration of protected areas to conserve nature in the Shebenik National Park, one of the largest national parks in Albania.
During a recent joint visit to Librazhd, PONT and CEPF staff met with Tafil Allkja, one of the twelve shepherds in the Shebenik area. With the support of AlbNatyra, Tafil has installed solar panels in his mountain stan to improve the conditions for his dairy products. His two sons, Kastrioti and Isa, help him care for their herd, which is mainly made up of goats and kids. While the other shepherds in the area have flocks dominated by sheep, Tafil’s unique approach to herding offers valuable insights into how to manage livestock in a way that minimises damage to the sensitive ecosystem.
The director of RAPA Elbasan, Fatmir Brazhda, emphasises the critical role of shepherds in maintaining biodiversity in protected areas. Shepherds can prevent overgrazing, which can damage sensitive ecosystems, and they also help to prevent fires by monitoring potential hazards and reporting them to the RAPA staff.
Ina, a young lady working on the AlbaNnatyra project supported by PONT, notes that shepherds are an interesting target group to work with. They often have a deep connection to the land and can help preserve cultural heritage by maintaining traditional practices and knowledge.
Gezim Shuli, the project manager of AlbNatyra and a local nature guide in the area, highlights the importance of the shepherds and their role in the hospitality offered to tourists who visit these areas. The shepherds’ knowledge of the land and cultural practices can be valuable for managing protected areas. AlbNatyra’s next project has a special component closely related to the shepherds of the area, recognising their critical role in conservation efforts. With the support of PONT and CEPF, civil society associations like AlbNatyra are recognising the importance of shepherds and working with them as partners in managing protected areas. Their work is an example of successful cooperation and a reminder that nature conservation requires collaboration and mutual support.