Outlook on Climate Change Adaptation in the Western Balkan Mountains

The role of indigenous communities

communities usually rely on local natural resources. According to Stojkov (2002), these communities are still marginalized. Their livelihoods are mostly maintained through seasonal small-scale farming and agriculture, their only source of income (Quave and Pieroni, 2015). However, studies show that these traditional communities inhabiting isolated rural areas tend to develop resilience, which is founded on their complex knowledge of the surrounding natural environment (ibid). This is very important for the

Balkans, especially due to their deep ethnobotanical knowledge that has proven to be crucial for local food security and health strategies (ibid). The autochthonous communities in the Balkans have been decreasing in recent decades. While some members of these communities reside on high mountain plains during the summer months (Aljazeera Balkans, 2012), there are increasingly fewer year-round settlers, as much of the population has moved to more urban areas in recent decades in search of better living conditions (ibid). It has been argued that the “[traditional communities] are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources” (UNEP, 2004). 22 In the analysis of policy documents for the Western Balkan countries, the direct participation of these communities in the adaptation regime was not considered in detail. Apart from representing reservoirs of traditional knowledge relating to the changing environments – such as the use of plants that may resist the changes in climate – these communities are the cultural and traditional heritage of the Balkan countries, hence they should be preserved and cherished. They represent a very distinct stakeholder group that requires a tailored approach. To preserve them, their voices need to be heard in decision-making processes and in the design of adaptation measures, where their way of life should be afforded special attention.

When discussing the indigenous communities in the Balkan region, a more appropriate term is “autochthonous”, which bears the similar meaning of pure and native (Stojkov, 2002). These autochthonous communities still exist in the mountain ranges of East Serbia, North-westernMontenegro, Northern Albania and North-western FYR Macedonia, where people exhibit traditional social behaviour and rituals (ibid). Similar communities also inhabit areas of Eastern Bosnia (high mountains) and Herzegovina. These

Prokletije mountains in the Dinaric Alps, Albania


Made with