Saturday, 13 April, 2024

Ten Bulgarian municipalities had the opportunity to learn about the experience of their Norwegian colleagues

In the period 8-12.05.2023, a study visit to the "pilot" Bulgarian municipalities under the GALOP project was conducted in Norway. According to the plan of the partners from NSORB and KS the Bulgarian participants, implementing strategies and projects for the development of local potential under the Small Grant Scheme of the EEC FM, got to know firsthand the progressive experience of their colleagues from the "rural" and "fishing" municipalities of Inderøy and Ofiord.

Norway, although part of the EEC, retains its autonomy regarding the development of the primary economic sectors and conducts a targeted market, price and production policy in support of "medium" family farms and family enterprises. They are the backbone of Inderøy and Ofiord, of strong local partnerships and ubiquitous volunteering.

The mayor of the municipality of Inderoj (population of 7 people), Mrs. Ida Stuberg, introduced the participants to the local initiative "The Golden Journey". It is a formal partnership between the municipality, farmers, church boards and businesses for the creation and marketing of a specific tourist product. The municipality participates with its cultural institutions, the farmers with the offer of quality local "artisanal" foods, the church boards with the religious heritage, and the small local businesses with accommodation places woven into the landscape and in line with the imperative to protect the natural heritage. Everyone advertises everyone, quality "control" is informal but uncompromising, profit from own product without killing the neighbor/competition and damaging the community.

The family farms are mixed - so each farmer could specialize in offering a certain food product, both distinguishing himself in the list and enriching the palette of the "Golden Journey". The municipality, in partnership with the surrounding local authorities, uses the services of leading national agencies for skillful promotion of the general tourist product.

The participants in the educational institution were guided by the mayor of the municipality through some of the leading "stops" of the Golden Journey and familiarized with the local material and non-material specialties.

The municipality of Ofiord (4 inhabitants) with its dozens of kilometers of coastline and small islands along the largest fjord has bet on the utilization of specific local resources in fisheries and the production of energy from renewable sources. The municipality is located on the salmon migration route and develops both industrial fish farming and amateur fishing and photo hunting. A dedicated local company was created to promote local development with the participation of producers, the municipality, financial institutions and businesses. In Ofjord, through a joint venture (state-municipalities-banks), the largest park of wind generators in Western Europe was built, which fully meets the electricity needs of the municipality and neighboring local authorities. The dividend from the wind farm constitutes 300% of the revenue in the municipal budget and is invested in improving basic services.

Offiord's development policies were discussed at length by the participants together with the municipality's secretary and chief executive, Mr. Per Johansson. Big projects, however, do not displace local producers and their initiatives. The municipality promotes even the smallest island communities. The Bulgarian group visited the island of Stokoya, where the local community of 280 people created its own company, which has a "monopoly" in the development of tourism, the creation of places to eat and stay, the organization of cultural, sports, etc. events.

"By the community - for the community and ... guests". The degree of volunteerism and partnership, the aspiration to preserve the local family livelihood, as well as the absence of administrative harassment regarding the organization of the territory, veterinary-medical requirements and those for food production at home are remarkable.

The Bulgarian participants and the Norwegian hosts easily found a common language, our municipalities have natural, cultural and economic features, which in some respects far exceed those of the cold European North. Their utilization for the purposes of community development, however, remains our main "political" challenge.

Our challenge is against the backdrop of absorption of the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. What are the results:

In 15 years, farms in the European Union have decreased by 5,3 million units, which means a drop of 37%, informs Eurostat. The reporting period is between 2005 and 2020. The largest collapse in the number and largest consolidation of farms was found in Bulgaria and Slovakia.

The highest shares of specialized farms are found mainly in Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria (73%), Hungary (72%) and Romania (67%). I.e. there is a one-way development of mono-cultural industrial agriculture.