Winning hearts and minds in the National Marine Park of Karaburun-Sazan

A story from Karaburun-Sazan, Albania, prepared by UNEP/MAP and the Regional Activity Centre SPA/RAC for the observance of the 2021 edition of International Women’s Day to highlight the accomplishments of some of the everyday female heroes (among many) who embody the principles enshrined in the Barcelona Convention through their work.

Lorela Lazaj ©AdZM VloreKaraburun-Sazan National Marine Park covers the marine area along the coasts of the Karaburuni Peninsula and Sazani Island in Albania. It is a Marine Protected Area (MPA) which was created in 2010, five years before the creation of the National Agency for Protected Areas (NAPA). This posed management challenges, as only one office of the Ministry of Environment was to oversee conservation throughout Albanian territory, according to Lorela Lazaj, Director of the Regional Administration of Protected Areas in the Vlora region (RAPA Vlora).

“For five years, there was no good management in the MPA,” observes Ms. Lazaj, responsible for the management of six protected areas in the Vlora region. When the regional offices were finally set up within NAPA in 2015, a newly established team led by Ms. Lazaj committed to laying the groundwork for effective and sustainable management of the protected areas under their purview.

One of the main obstacles the team had to overcome was the scepticism of local communities. To demonstrate the importance of conservation to ambivalent fishermen whose livelihood depends on MPA resources, the team used their skills in communication for development: “Protected areas are not forbidden territory because by conserving biodiversity they can support livelihoods and generate greater benefits for the community ”.

Ms. Lazaj admits that convincing local communities was far from straightforward. “The most important thing is to build and maintain trust. If they feel that you are doing this with a good heart, they will believe you and be on your side, ”says Ms. Lazaj, adding that“ together with my colleagues we have succeeded in building an effective management model where women have a leading role plan and management in the protection and monitoring of nature ".

According to Ms Lazaj, "working in the field of environmental monitoring and management is sometimes considered more appropriate for men" but she confirms that the professionalism of her team has shattered this outdated stereotypical perception among communities living in the country within and around protected areas in the Vlora Region. Ms Lazaj also states that: "The MPA is not ours, this area belongs to everyone. So it is not just about management or regulation. It is about ensuring the good- to be for all, a good environment, food and resources for generations to come ”. The fieldwork ©AdZM Vlore

Despite the restrictions related to COVID-19, learning and dialogue continues so that different users of MPAs are more involved in the thinking that supports conservation and sustainable development work.

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The views expressed do not necessarily represent the decision or the stated policy of the United Nations Environment Programme.

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published on 2021/04/15 15:14:38 GMT+0 last modified 2021-04-15T15:14:38+00:00