“Women are more aware about gender equality in the forest sector due to trainings provided by ESP.” - Member of the Shkodër Forest and Pasture User Association
"Due to the knowledge exchange through trainings conducted by the Swedish experts, we are able to collect and analyze the data for the Inventory, without external assistance from our development partners, meaning that the Albanian experts could carry out this task by themselves." - Expert, Agricultural University of Tirana
"We have expressed our views during the drafting of the Forest and Pasture Management Plans of Korca Municipality and almost all of them have been considered." - Member of Forest and Pasture User Association, Korcë Municipality
A decade ago, the forests and pasturelands of Albania’s highlands were losing soil at a staggering rate of 20 to 90 tons per hectare each year—losses primarily driven by poor land management practices. This soil silted up the country’s waterways and reservoirs. It also undermined agricultural and forestry yields in the most impoverished areas of Albania, the very areas where most people’s livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on forests and pastures.
These on-the-ground challenges were compounded by unclear ownership of forest land, a lack of precise information about land use, and ambiguity surrounding management, policymaking, and control roles. This administrative uncertainty stemmed in part from Albania’s recent push to transfer state forest lands to local governments, which lacked the funds to sustainability manage them. At the national level, from 2007 to 2012, only 5% of public environmental expenditures were devoted to forestry.
The Environmental Services Project used competitive grants as its primary means of achieving more sustainable land management in Albania. It awarded a total of $8.34 million across 153 grants—primarily to forest and pasture user associations—to replant forests, build check dams, trim and thin forests to improve their health, and implement nearly 250 other sustainable land management practices.
The criteria for most of these grants were aligned with the EU’s Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance for Rural Development (IPARD), which focuses on sustainability and EU policy alignment in rural areas of countries in the process of joining the EU. By using these criteria, the project built crucial capacity, support, and know-how that positions Albania well to receive future funding under this mechanism.
The Environmental Services Project also pursued more sustainable land management in Albania by building a stable institutional environment to manage uplands and tackle erosion and land degradation. It assisted the country on the Albania Forest Information System, forest planning, land tenure, and empowering local beneficiaries.
As a result of the Environmental Services Project (2014-2021), forest user associations and other entities now manage 12,320 hectares of uplands in Albania using sustainable. This includes:
- 5,580 hectares benefiting from silvicultural practices
- 3,325 hectares benefiting from water points for better livestock husbandry
- 1,133 hectares stabilized with reduced soil erosion in from check dam construction
The overall improvements to ecosystem services from these practices yield a carbon balance of -811,262 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2-e) over 20 years.
The project also achieved substantial results in key governance, administrative, and planning capacity areas:
- The project’s technical assistance helped the country complete the Albania National Forest Inventory and the Albanian Forest Information System. For the first time Albania has established a national forest information system, which supports the forest data management and unification of forest cadaster data.
- Forest and pasture management plans were prepared for 191,066 hectares, with guidelines on sustainable use and participatory processes.
- Ownership of 1,084,871 hectares of forest and pasture lands was registered and transferred to municipalities as a result of technical assistance and collaboration with stakeholders. This progress toward clear tenure was key to securing future funding and more efficient management.
- Through the project, over 2,000 land users, farmers, government staff, and others received training on sustainable land management practices and other fundamental planning processes.
The project directly benefited 3,858 people through labor payments (1,058 of whom were women in a traditionally male-dominated sphere) and has generated an ongoing stream of non-monetary benefits from improved ecosystem services. The project also piloted the EU LEADER approach in three municipalities, helping communities prepare local development strategies and implement key investments that had a positive impact on the environment, ensured private business growing opportunities, and addressed several social aspects.
Through gender action plans and by including gender elements in grants and other project components, the project bolstered female participation in sustainable land management. ‘
- Women ultimately made up 50% of forestry association board members second round of grants, compared to a baseline of 31%.
- Women participated in the preparation of 94% of proposals.
World Bank Group Contribution
The World Bank contributed a total of $20,862,806 for the Environmental Services Project. The interventions were funded by an $8.34 million IBRD loan, a $2.88 million grant from the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund, and two grants of $1.97 million and $7.69 million from the Swedish Trust Fund.
The Environmental Services Project built on past work on forestry and natural resources from 1995 to 2013 by the Government of Albania, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. The project particularly leveraged a strong partnership with the Swedish Government, which co-financed preparation and implementation.
For implementation, the Environmental Services Project supported a project management team within the Ministry of Tourism and Environment. The Agency of Rural Development and Agriculture also received support to manage IPARD-like forestry grants.
The project objectives were aligned with the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Strategy on achieving economic growth, broadening and sustaining social gains, and reducing vulnerability to climate change.
Long-term engagement by the Swedish Government and Bank on forestry helped lay the groundwork for Albania’s Forest Sector Policy (approved December 2018) and Forest Law (passed in April 2020).
As mentioned above, the project’s IPARD-like grant process built key capacity and support that enabled Albania to prepare a forestry measure for the IPARD-III program for 2022-2027. This measure has been approved, providing a total of 7 million euros for further forest sustainability action. For the first time Albania has established a national forest information system which supports the forest data management and unification of forest cadaster data. Albania is the first country in Western Balkans to adopt the Forestry Measure under the IPARD program. LEADER measure is also adapted under the IPARD Program III.
The project has also elevated the reputation of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and Agency of Rural Development and Agriculture as the competent steward of the country’s natural resources, smoothing the way for future interventions.