Author: Elena Sokolevska (Connecting Natural Values and People Foundation (CNVP)
Editor: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)
On 15 June 2022, the Maleshevski Mountains reference region (North Macedonia) of the MOVING H2020 project organised its second participatory workshop in the city of Berovo. Members of the regional Multi-Actor Platform (MAP) assessed the vulnerability and performance of the rural tourism value chain. It brought together representatives from business, the public sector, NGOs, researchers, producer associations, etc.
In order to gather more information, in the interview phase and in the workshop, this regional MAP involved new regional actors and young people with great enthusiasm for change who lead organisations and companies in the region. The experience-sharing approach prevailed in the workshop.
The main challenge has been to involve women in MAP tasks. We faced a gender imbalance as in the previous workshop. We have managed to involve two women, and their example and commitment to rural regional development is a success – expressed the MAP’s coordinator Elena Sokolevska from CNVP.
This second regional participatory workshop with local stakeholders included the discussion of the responses from the previously conducted interviews, as well as practical elements, gaps and potentials for improvement to make the value chain more sustainable and resilient.
Within the value chain of rural tourism in Maleshevski Mountains region there are different locations and activities to consider: Berovo Lake, Pehcevo Waterfalls, hiking and mountain biking tours, Eco-farm Berovko, Maleshevski ecological products, milky farm of Malesh, Grain Malesh, etc.
The partner coordinating this regional MAP, CNVP, wants to connect the processing, distribution and marketing stages of its rural tourism value chain. In particular, public tourist offices, tourism businesses, accommodation, restaurants, the forestry sector, etc.
It is also important to consider that the consumption stages include local, national and international visitors and tourists.
According to scientific research from a few years ago, Maleshevski mountains region is on the first place in terms of oxygen concentration in Europe and fourth in the world.
Strong environmental values in the region are led by 500 weekend houses by the Berovo lake, 100 weekend houses around Pehcevo waterfalls, an offer of rural accommodation with excellent facilities, restaurants, mountain trails in the length of 280km among the indigenes pine dominant forests.
Therefore, the economic benefits arise mainly from accommodation capacities, traditional food in restaurants, offers and sales of quality organic products from regional mountain resources, festivals and sporting events.
Cheese and honey are the main products for which the Maleshevsky Mountains region is popular. Juices and jams of aronia, raspberry and wild strawberries produced in the region are nationally distributed and recognised by consumers. Alternative medicine products, produced in the region, include the healthiest forest species (Pinus Sylvestris, Taraxacum officinale, Epilobium angustifolium, Sambucus nigra, etc.). In recent years, with the help of digital technology, great progress has been made in the promotion and sale of these products
The 30-40% of the population of the Maleshevski Mountains region lives thanks to the economic benefits arising from the value chain of rural tourism. There is a greater demand for tourism in the summer period from both national and foreign visitors, although other periods also arouse interest depending on the product-landscape that they intend to consume.
The local government, in collaboration with the Faculty of Tourism and Management in Skopje, awarded 15 scholarships to young students as the future of rural development and sustainability in the region. However, more investment is still needed for young people to work and stay in the region.
Among other challenges, it was pointed out that although the infrastructure for tourism development is adequate, there is a lack of maintenance. A problem in the region in recent years is the lack of an adequate irrigation system, inappropriate water management use, frequent human-induced forest fires and the lack of regional interest in the conservation of value chains.
This regional MAP will continue to work until 2024 on the MOVING project to analyse this value chain associated with rural tourism. In the coming months, it will organise a workshop with young people and will carry out a foresight exercise to draw up a strategy for greater resilience and sustainability.