The Centre for Protection and Research of Birds or CZIP is one of Foodnected partners in Montenegro, along with the Dr. Martin Schneider Jacoby association MSJA. Both are invested in the protection of Ulcinj Salina in Southern Montenegro, a place of rich biodiversity and of great importance for the local communities around it. Ulcinj is also one of Foodnected pilot sites.
Interview with Zoran Popović, expert associate for sustainable development at CZIP, about its involvement in Foodnected.
CZIP is a 21 years old environmental organization located in Podgorica, Montenegro. Its mission is the protection and research on birds and biodiversity. CZIP main focus has historically been on biodiversity conservation and nature education programs, both at a local level and through cross-border project with neighbouring countries (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Kosovo). Besides these activities, CZIP also participated in eco-tourism development, promoting eco-friendly activities as a sustainable way to develop the region. Within Foodnected, CZIP goes a step forward in the link between biodiversity and human activities.
“We have been cooperating with small-scale producers locally already, for example by providing farmers nature-friendly equipment to protect their crops or beehives from predators. Foodnected is yet our first project with a direct focus on food production. The MAVA Foundation encouraged us to participate, and we thought Foodnected could represent a great opportunity for local communities and the whole country”, says Zoran Popovič.
There are indeed many challenges regarding food production in Montenegro. After WW2, Montenegro and Yugoslavia more generally have been vastly industrialized, neglecting hectares of fertile land and loosing thousands of small-scale producers. “Montenegro is today massively dependent on imports. Even though we still have farmers in Montenegro with local traditional knowledge, the market conditions are very harsh on them.”
The situation for small-scale farmers in this environment is critical, Zoran adds: “Most towns in Montenegro have a farmer’s market where local farmers can sell their products, but because of the competition with large suppliers they struggle to be competitive. Even though they offer quality, home grown, locally produced products. Struggle to compete in terms of seasonality also. On the other side, small-scale producers are not supported enough through governmental programs.”
Foodnected represents for CZIP an excellent opportunity to tackle the challenge of food production in Montenegro. Zoran states: “The idea behind Foodnected is to find ways to support local communities and the traditional ways of production for agriculture, fisheries, and pastoralism. We are currently in the first steps trying to see what is possible, to present the Foodnected values to Ulcinj local communities and to see how that echoes with their own concerns and projects, but we foresee a much longer period of work ahead of us.”
As in the other pilot sites, monitoring questionnaires will be distributed to local stakeholders (restaurants, food producers, fishers), and their analysis will lead to the draft of a local strategic plan with ideas on how to apply Foodnected principles. This plan will be a support for discussion with local stakeholders and authorities through workshops and study visits to small-scale producers in other countries.