Europe and Central Asia
13 Feb 2015

Working with four villages to end soil erosion in an entire river basin

The Drini River basin provides multiple services to the inhabitants of northern Albania. Shown here at the border of Albania and F.Y.R.O. Macedonia. Photo: Mehmet Metaj; Albaforest
By Shaun Hurrell

The entire catchment area of a river and its tributaries is a large, complex, interaction of ecosystems. In Albania, the Drini River basin is a Key Biodiversity Area that provides multiple services to the inhabitants of northern Albania. But currently rain is washing bare soil away into the river, and all of the beneficial ecosystem services along with it – like nutrients to provide crop fertility, water storage by forests, fresh water filtration and flood protection.

Soil erosion is a big problem in the Drini River basin. Photo: Mehmet Metaj; AlbaforestNational water policies in the Mediterranean are mostly exploiting water – with efforts to increase water supply for a growing population and increase the number of hydroelectric dams. Recognising the need to take the needs of biodiversity and ecosystems into account (which also benefits local people), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is funding projects that take an holistic approach to water management. In Albania, CEPF fund a project led by Albaforest (Centre for Forest Studies and Consulting) to undertake Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) of the Drini River basin.

Albaforest are tackling the big task by starting small - they are piloting four micro-projects aimed at preventing soil erosion in the basin; which will then be used to inform IRBM for the entire catchment. They are planting 60,000 trees, seeding grasses and herbs, trialling the installation of small anti-erosion structure and improving the management of grazing pastures.


Working with local villages to plant 60,000 trees to prevent soil erosion. Photo: Mehmet Metaj, Albaforest

Any attempt to restore or conserve a large area must involve the local communities of people living there. This is why Albaforest decided to pilot the micro-project in selected areas that involve four villages - the variation in activities having been adapted to the local context and needs.

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“We are strengthening a solid foundation of knowledge of the river basin and the natural and socio-economic forces that influence it,” said Mehmet Metaj, Albaforest’s Project Manager.

A fundamental goal of CEPF is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation, and through Albaforest’s integrated approach in this project, local NGOs, stakeholders, land-users and the community representatives from the four villages are all being trained through workshops, courses and field visits. Through this process, local people will be taught the know-how and techniques needed to effectively rehabilitate the basin together. This is important for the future of their land, and for demonstrating the benefits of IRBM to the Albanian government.

“Information, sensitisation and awareness among communities (mainly women, young people and children) is the only alternative to preventing further soil erosion and ecosystem degradation in our country,” says Mehmet.

CEPF is working with projects in specific areas of the Mediterranean to best manage river basins with this integrated approach. Grantees from Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Morocco using IRBM have the ability to learn from each other, exchanging advice on conservation management to avoid desertification of the region.

BirdLife International - including its Middle East office and the BirdLife Partners DOPPS/BirdLife Slovenia and LPO (Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux, BirdLife in France) - is providing the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (CEPF Med).

Find out more at

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Conservation International (CI), the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. Additional support in the Mediterranean Basin is provided by the MAVA Foundation. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at


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CEPF project title: Integrated Drini River Basin Management

Grantee: Albaforest (Centre for Forest Studies and Consulting)

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