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How can the European model of the rural development SMART Villages help?

GoogleMeet, April 28, 2020

 ‘Smart Villages are communities in rural areas that use innovative solutions to improve their resilience based on local strengths and opportunities. In particular, Smart Villages mobilize solutions provided by digital technologies’ (ENRD, 2019).


Rural communities in Albania, same as in the region and worldwide, are experiencing a series of problems caused by the lockdown measures iimposed in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. Deterioration of the quality of life of residents in rural areas and the negative effects on agriculture and other sub-sectors are identified in the Open Letter[1]. However, austerity measures to deal with COVID-19 create many difficulties and challenges, especially for the most vulnerable groups of the society, which will be the most affected group by the crisis.

Social Inclusion Policy Document 2016-2020[2] identifies residents of rural areas and the self-employed on family farms in the agriculture sector as one of the groups with the highest level of poverty along with the unemployed, and people with the lowest level of education. Studies identify rural youth as one of the most vulnerable groups of the rural population. Low interest in engaging in agricultural work as a result of difficulty as a profession, limited access to market, or low income has led to youth unemployment, poverty, and limited future prospects. Moreover, one of the key problems also remains the lack of digital skills.

Being in quarantine and restriction of movements and economic activities, many young people or their families lose their source of livelihood. Digital skills combined with other interventions could be the solution to addressing some of the generated challenges.

The webinar aims to gain a realistic understanding of the difficult situation that rural youth, including young entrepreneurs, young people from hard-to-reach communities, etc., are experiencing at this time of crisis. Among others, the webinar aims to answer the questions: How can the numerous challenges facing rural communities, and especially rural youth, be addressed? How good European models and positive practices can help in addressing these challenges?

In this context, the European concept of rural development known as Smart Villages will be presented as an alternative to addressing some of the challenges. The Smart Villages model can generate benefits for rural communities, particularly the most vulnerable groups, or hard-to-reach communities, especially in times of socio-economic challenges such as the one we are going through.


[1] An open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama on the problems and recommendations to support the residents of rural areas in the emergency situation caused by Covid-19 (ANRD, April 2020)

[2] Social Inclusion Policy Document 2016-2020. Available at: https://www.undp.org/content/dam/albania/docs/report_shqip_web.pdf



Welcome, presentation of the Webinar’s purpose, agenda and invited speakers – Evelina Azizaj, National Coordinator of ANRD.









Voices from the rural communities of Albania: ANRD Youth Hub members present the challenges and difficulties generated by the COVID-19 pandemic for rural enterprises and communities, with a special focus on young people in rural areas.


Members of the ANRD Youth HUB

Rinaldo Gjolaj, entrepreneur, Alpine Bees, Malësi e Madhe

Elona Bejo, entrepreneur, Ferma Grand Albanik, Këlcyrë

Labinot Murrja, Local Guide, Dibër

Ejona Zaimaj, Entrepreneur, Amalthia Farm, Durrës (tbc)

Ardit Marku, Student, Vau i Dejës (tbc)





Young people in rural areas and digital skills – Ana Zacharian, Executive Director of Albanian Skills.




European model for rural development Smart Villages – Gent Imeraj, ANRD Youth Hub Guide




Open discussion with participants: recommendations and suggestions from young people on how can young people in rural areas be helped to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 and the lack of digital skills.




Conclusions and webinar closure