“FOR THE BALKAN AND THE PEOPLE” Initiative: Bulgarian success story of the coexistence of nature and small local businesses


On 4th October, Forum Business and Biodiversity: Opportunities in Natura 2000 will present a successful model for development of economically poor, but rich in biodiversity areas in Bulgaria. With the increasing recognition of the economic and market value of biodiversity and ecosystem services new business opportunities are emerging.  Four years ago the Bulgarian - Swiss Project “For the Balkan and the People” stared to explore and maximize the potential of innovative pro-business models in remote rural areas.


The Forum will be opened by Deputy Prime - Minister Mr. Tomislav Donchev and Ambassador of Switzerland H.E Denis Knobel. Special guests are Mr. Jürgen Müller, Head of the Cabinet of Mr. Karmenu Vella - European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Mrs. Ivelina Vasileva – Minister of Environment and Water and Mr. Vassil Grudev – Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food. The Forum will gather various stakeholders as state institutions, policy makers, local authorities, NGOs, farmers and representatives of pro-biodiversity businesses.


Although focused on rather small-scale areas in the Western and Central Stara Planina Mountains, the project has recently received an international recognition - the prestigious Natura 2000 Award of the European Commission (Category Socio-Economic Benefits) for 2016. The project demonstrates in practice that nature conservation and economic development can go hand-in-hand for the benefit of both, nature and people in remote rural areas.


“Within the project, each personal success of family farm and local entrepreneur in the nine Natura 2000 areas in the Balkan Range is a powerful and eloquent example for the strong link between preserved nature and fair livelihood”, says Stoilko Apostolov, Project Coordinator. “Showing that Natura 2000 is not an obstacle, but an opportunity, we hope developing a viable model applicable to other Bulgarian regions, as well as in a more coherent Europe”.


As project team believes, this pioneering initiative would lay the foundation to further and focused national policies in support for pro-biodiversity businesses and small local endeavours, which sustain on nature while preserving it in the best way.


“For the Balkan and the People” is co-financed by the Bulgarian - Swiss Cooperation Programme through the Reform Fund Linked to Civil Society Participation. The project unites the efforts of 10 partners from Bulgaria and Switzerland: five Bulgarian non-governmental organizations (Foundation for Organic Agriculture BIOSELENA, Association of the Parks in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation and WWF – DCP) and four Swiss organizations (Pro Natura/Friends of the Earth, REDD, BirdLife Switzerland and SAVE Foundation), as well as Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, represented by the Executive Agency on Selection and Reproduction in Animal Breeding.