Bosnia and Herzegovina: Preserving Forests and Creating Green Livelihoods
September 17, 2013
The famed waterfalls and forests in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Una National Park were once full of debris and other sad remnants of the war which wracked this area and other parts of the former Yugoslavia two decades ago.
But a conservation project has now given new life to the park and surrounding areas – creating new hope for those who live there.
“Less than 20 years ago there were war-related activities in this area, and this area was littered with waste and damage caused by irresponsible citizens. At the beginning, we had a lot of work which took us and our supervisors a lot of time and energy to clean this area - the roads, the paths, and the forests,” says Haris Hadzihajdarevic, an administrative associate at the park.
This is the future - not only for my children but for the whole region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is natural beauty which needs to be preserved for future generations.
The park, named for the river which runs through it, was supported by the government-implemented Forest and Mountain Protected Areas Project, financed by Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds and administered by the World Bank.
The Forest and Mountain Protected Areas Project is helping to protect the country’s natural forests and parks, and create eco-friendly opportunities for those who live nearby - like 34-year old Senad Tutic, who fled war in the area as a 12-year-old back in 1992 and who has recently returned to work as a park supervisor.
“This is the future - not only for my children but for the whole region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is natural beauty which needs to be preserved for future generations,” says Tutic.
Since the project’s implementation two years ago, trees, fauna, and fish are on the rise at Una Park. After years of deforestation, over hunting, and over fishing these activities are now strictly regulated and monitored by locally hired park rangers.
Based on the results of last year, we expect a higher number of tourists this year.
Dozens of other local residents have found work building ecologically safe walkways and benches throughout the forest and along the river. They have also built signs explaining various sites and locations.
Such measures are helping to attract a growing number of local - and international - tourists say Park officials, who put the number at 30 thousand per year, and rising.
“Based on the results of last year, we expect a higher number of tourists this year - an increased number of visits and a better financial outcome for the national park,” says Amarildo Mulic, Director of Una’s Public Utilities.
This increase in valuable tourist dollars, according to Mulic, helps pay for ongoing park maintenance and staff salaries, as well as for park- related information centers - which advertise for environment-friendly businesses in and around Una.
The forestry project also provided local businesses with small grants in order to expand on the budding enterprises now catering to tourist needs.
Smail Celikovic is using his grant to train local residents in cultivating natural herbs in the park, which can be dried and sold to tourists.
“Within the national park, where it is permitted, local residents will collect this herbal medicine and produce organic foods,” he says.
Jasmina Kurtagic received a grant to expand on carpet weaving and other activities practiced by members of the women’s association she belongs to, which operates near the park and sells homemade products to passing tourists.
“Now we have great cooperation. Some of our products are being sold at the checkpoints for the national park and the park also directs buses of tourists our way,” she says.
80-year-old Dmitar Reljic says he didn’t need help with his business - an old fashioned corn mill which also serves as a kind of washing machine.
“I worked in the water mill for 64 years grinding, so many people have come to me and I have learned to deal with people. I always try to welcome and please everyone,” he says.
He says his mill, located on the edge of the park, has been attracting curious tourists - and their money - for decades.