Beginning of this month, 4-5 June, we have organized the Buna fair, with activities spanning two days gathering the local community, the youth representatives and schoolchildren, as well as the media representatives and our partners in Dajc and Velipoje, to celebrate the importance of wetlands in the frame of the World Environment Day.
“The Buna Fair was the opportunity for us to consolidate the knowledge on environmental governance in the Buna River Delta and help create a feeling of ownership, and mobilise local community and youth for wetland conservation”, said Elizabeth Drury Conservation Programme Project Officer at IUCN Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “We want everyone in the community to be able to contribute in some way. And that together, the community agrees on the solutions and ways forward. Sometimes it may be through individual efforts and the adaptation of more sustainable practices, other times through own engagement in the protected area Management Committee.”
The Fair opened in a lively setting of a beach bar with a wonderful summer stage, music and interesting stories shared by key invitees. A number of activities were organised under the EDU BUNEN campaign, led by the Mandarina Project, with an aim to discover and promote the eco-tourism attractions along the Buna River estuary. The gathered participants enjoyed a number of engaging success stories about ideas that grew to become good examples of the engagement of the local community and small businesses, and the support they have received through the Living Buna project. Some of the ideas focused on reducing the water usage on farms, others supported the restoration of wetland habitats or provided new economic opportunities by introducing nature-friendly eco-tourism approaches.
“We are building a concrete offer for tourists around the Buna River – starting in Velipoje, and hoping to develop a profitable model for the community. Our guesthouse is located 5 km from the Buna’s Delta, so we expect to attract birdwatchers and other nature tourists, at the same time offering them local produce from the community“, said Samela Vata, youth leader, introducing the recently opened "Farm 3B" Bed-Breakfast-Birdwatching as one of the project results. “We are convinced that this idea will have both the socio-economic and environmental success as it is based on our healthy coexistence with nature”.
“By promoting the good water management practices and through field interventions, we have improved the water quality for the Dajç community and the irrigation system in Darragjat and Shirq, while also reducing the probability of floods in those villages”, said Alminda Mema, Aarhus Information Center Shkodra. “Above all, we trust we have managed to inspire the local community to appreciate water more and use it wisely.”
Finally, the Fair ended with a number of engaging activities for the youngest. For a few hours, the Velipoje visitor centre witnessed a nature-themed scavenger hunt with prizes, discussions on the protected areas and wetlands, and the guided nature walks. For most of the schoolchildren, this was the first time to visit the nearby protected area. We hope, first of many.
Why is the Buna’s Delta important?
The Buna River Delta features a diverse range of unique natural habitats, including wetlands of international importance. Besides supporting a wealth of native and protected wildlife and vegetation it is also known for its distinct cultural landscape providing a home to around 36,000 people.
Unfortunately, the region’s economy is weak. Unsustainable farming practices, conversion of wetlands to farmlands, as well as coastal habitat destruction caused by increased tourism are impacting water availability and water regulation in the area.
Buna Delta and climate change
The Buna Delta is one of the most vulnerable areas to flooding in the whole of the Mediterranean when it comes to climate risk. The most recent data show that during a storm event or a flood event, some of these areas could be more than 5 meters underwater by 2100.
IUCN ECARO and Living Buna partners, supported by the MAVA Foundation, aim to help national and local organisations and individuals to understand the risks and find the solutions in nature, and identify strategies that can help the local communities build their resilience, and be better prepared to face climate risks.