Meet our people who are the best resource of the Albanian Network for Rural Development – ANRD
the journalist who abandoned his childhood dreams to dedicate himself to Rural Development
My name is Benito Prendi. I was born in Vau Dejes on March 14, 1988. I graduated with a “Master of Science” in 2012 in Communication Sciences at the University of Tirana, Faculty of Philology, International Journalism. Participants in various national and international trainings related to rural development and beyond.
As a large part of the kids, my childhood dream was to one day become a talented footballer. Things were on the right track, at the age of 17 I became part of the ADA team of Velipoja in the second category of the Albanian championship. Successive injuries caused me to interrupt even before starting my childhood dream. Terribly in love with football at that time, I wanted to keep in touch with sports. That’s why I chose to study journalism with the sole purpose of making sport the keyword in my life.
Upon completion of my studies in 2012, I immediately started working as a sports journalist at RTV Ora News. I remember the first week of practice when I went out on the field with a political journalist. I was going back to the newsroom, I was not doing the news I was on the field for but I was looking for and finding sports news just to catch the eye of the programming director, to tell him that I was there to do sports journalism. Thanks to perseverance and passion I achieved the goal, I started at the sports editorial office where I stayed for more than a year gaining an unforgettable experience.
Despite the work I did, the contacts with my hometown were so frequent and strong that one day I was abducted and returned to where I had taken the first steps of my childhood. With the idea that one day I would contribute a little to the country of birth, I returned and started working initially as an animator and manager of a library for children and young people in one of the religious institutions of the area. During this time I was fortunate enough to recognize the desire, passion of children and young people for books and reading. But what struck me was the inability of their families to buy or provide you with extracurricular books. Faced with this sad reality, I was always looking for opportunities to contribute somewhat to improving the lives of families in rural areas.
In the spring of 2017 he came into casual contact with the association Volontari nel Mondo RTM. After getting acquainted with the goals and vision of this association, I decided without hesitation to become part of it, because their goals and vision matched the ideas and purpose of my return. The work in the first years was tedious but to give a special pleasure when I met in the villages of Northern Albania generous, stoic people and preservers of local culture and traditions.
For about 3 years I was engaged in the role of Project Officer in the implementation of the project “Alliance for the Development and Evaluation of Family Agriculture in Northern Albania” funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation AICS and implemented by Volontari nel Mondo RTM. During the implementation of the project, I mainly dealt with the management of grants for the improvement of family businesses in the Municipalities of Vau Dejës, Puka and Fushë Arrëz. I had the good fortune to know closely the sad reality of these rural areas that in addition to countless problems offer a special feeling of hospitality and natural beauty to be admired.
The fruit of the successful work in these years was undoubtedly the support and development of small family business, the creation of some practical manuals on breeding and administration of pastures, as well as the creation of the geographical brand “Taste of the North”. A brand which promotes not only the products of Vau Dejës, Puka and Fushë Arrëz areas but also the culture, traditions and natural beauties of these areas.
The next commitment is the implementation of another 3-year project funded by the European Union and entitled “Rural You”. Since this project is entirely dedicated to rural youth, the idea is to give them the opportunity to build their future in their country of birth, for which I personally left the capital.
Altin Meshini, is born in Këlcyrë the 9th July 1972 and is today the Coordinator of the Pro Përmet Association. Like all his peers, at a young age, forced by economic conditions, he emigrated to Greece where he worked on various jobs to provide income for the family.
During this time his father, having worked as a dairy farmer before the 1990s, set up a small milk factory on the site of a World War II Italian bunker. After working for two years abroad, Altin returned in Albania and together with his father, started processing the milk which he collected from the local farmers. The commitment and willingness to work, made him very quickly acquire the craft of dairy farmer moving forward the dairy even after his father passed away. Today, Meshini dairy (Bunker), represents one of the highest quality workshops in the Përmet region. His vision and desire to promote the Përmet area, made him engage at community level and to establish in 2009 the “Pro Përmet” Association together with other 14 family-sized local businesses.
In 2016, thanks to his contribution and active involvement as a member, Altin was elected National Coordinator and Legal Representative of the Association after pursuing a degree in Business Administration at “Eqerem Çabej” University. Under his guide and thank to his diligent work and involvement “Pro Përmet” is today among the main actors not only in the region but throughout the country.
“Pro Përmet” is a founding member of the Albanian Network for Rural Development (ANRD) and contributes to the development and empowerment of local communities. As a result of this constant commitment over the years, the association “Pro Përmet” cooperating closely with the organization Cesvi, the Italian Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Municipality of Përmet and the Agency for Regional Agricultural Development, made possible the construction of the first Incubator in the country for the production of typical local products. Built in a tourist area, the Incubator is of crucial help and support not only for the members of the association but also for local farmers. With the help of the Incubator, today many small farmers are now engaging in producing different types of “raki” (a local traditional spirit) from local fruits and herbs as well as using the desiccator implant to dry fruits and vegetables as well as medicinal herbs. Altin’s engagement in the community is also prominent within the Slow Food Përmet Movement. In fact, he and 67 other members often participate in various activities such as national and international fairs, information and awareness meetings, trainings and round tables. They also take care and organize important promotional events such as “Dita e Verës” (Summer Day Celebration) and he opening of the tourist season, all with a special focus on the promotion of slow, healthy and sustainable local food. Today Përmet, thank to those movements and associations as well as the inspiring work done by Altin and other members and supporters, help rise awareness about the importance of the preservation of typical local products and dishes. This attention to cultural and gastronomic peculiarities, positively and deeply influence the number of local and foreign visitors and tourists. The increasing number of travelers that choose to pass by or stop in Përmet are turning the area and the whole region into one of the south Albanian major destinations.
Altin Meshini is a successful family entrepreneur, who has turned his workshop into a landmark for local and foreign visitors. There you can find not only his products but also those of other members of “Pro Përmet” all served with grace and in a special welcoming way, maybe with a taste of raki, as tradition requires. Together with his workshop, Altin, is a showcase for the promotion of the territory and the friendly spirit that characterizes the region of Përmet, giving an important contribution to the sustainable development of this area
Work reflected in the human attitude
While he has spent 44 years as an agronomist in the village, this autobiography of Prof. Isufi starts with 3 years when he worked in the former cooperative of Kryevidhi. One of the achievements he proudly shares is “Organizing plant protection based on observation signaling”, a system that has spread throughout Albania. Then for the next 21 years, the professor devoted himself to working at the Institute of Plant Protection, Durres where he founded the Sector of Integrated Plant Protection. As a member of the Organic Agriculture Movement for more than 20 years, Prof. Isufi founded the Organic Agriculture Association “BioAdria” and the Institute of Organic Agriculture (IBB), a member organization of ANRD since 2017.
“All these activities have been in the function of the development of agriculture and the civilization of the village (what is called rural development)” says the professor with passion. He recalls how in cooperation with the COSPE association led by Ms. Rozeta Mihali they implemented the project on organic agriculture in the area of Zadrima. With the aim of supporting agro-tourism with certified products, a group of farmers was created, who are currently applying organic farming standards. Their farms supply products to the well-known agro-tourist farm “Mrizi i Zanave”. IBB provides advice, training and publications in support of good agricultural practices in organic farming.
The professor also promotes and supports the education of young people with the concepts of organic farming. He points to successful collaborations with ANRD member associations, such as RASP, in a project focusing on the creation of organic production modules in the Balkan region, which are used by young people in the Balkans dedicated to organic farming. Territorial marketing is another contribution of Prof. Isufi. The love and passion for the Durrës region constantly motivates him to promote the resources and products of the area. In October 2020, after a tireless work of Prof. Isufi with the Rural Development Association of Ishem Durrës, the fair of agricultural products of the area, traditional cuisine and handicrafts and artistic products was opened. IBB helped organize the fair, especially in identifying and labeling products and promoting them, etc.
In recent years Prof. Isufi gives his active contribution to the Albanian Network for Rural Development in unifying the interests and priorities of local communities.
At this year-end, the Network wishes from the bottom of the heart health and a clear mind for the professor to continue to give its valuable contribution to organic agriculture and rural development in Albania.
Pier Paolo AMBORSI
Pioneer of the Albanian Rural Development! Pier Paolo Ambrosi, born in Italy (Casaleone-VR) on 08.08.1948, is what can be defined as one of a kind.
Since young devoted to the solidarity and equal development of the different population in the world, he studied Franc Language at the University of Verona and right after his degree he started his long and fruitful career in the development world.
He worked in different African countries and his passion for the filed work with missionaries and rural communities has been always shared by his wife and his family, supporting him in every challenge and adventure undertaken. Not to be surprised, his first son was born in Senegal, while his fourth and last son, during his long Albanian experience.
Pier Paolo Arrived in Albania in 1991 as 1st study mission from Caritas Italiana. An experience that should have finished in 3 months, but that continues still now, after 29 years, full of love, interest and respect for this special country.
He has been the first to start a community “furre buke” in the Region of Shkoder, as well as different cooperatives and crops cultivation in the centre of Albania, giving the 1st hints for the Albanian Rural Development that we all are experiencing now.
Community Led Local Development and LEADER Approach have been key words in his work with Caritas, LVIA and VIS, applied both in urban and rural context. Together with VIS, the first official urban plan for Tirana (more specifically for the area of Breglumasi) has been drafted and thanks to the support of the Italian Cooperation, the initiatives of VIS in Malësi e Madhe started in 2009, contributing to the strong development of the area, nowadays well known by the government and the numerous Albanian and foreign visitors.
Pier Paolo is a reference point in the cooperation and development world, with a key and irreplaceable role also in the introduction of Slow Food in the country and founding member of ANRD.
His deep knowledge of the Albanian History, his respect for each person he meets and the readiness of help whoever asks for support, his conviction that foreigners need to learn Albanian and not the contrary as well as his believe in the good heart of people, are an example of how all together we should contribute to the sustainable development of Albania.
A woman in love with the North! When you look at Rozeta, you can easily notice her smiling portrait and the dynamism that emanates from her. She has been working with dedication for more than 20 years with the Italian Association COSPE – Cooperation for the Development of Countries in Emergency Situations, which contributes to the development of rural territories of Northern Albania from the Zadrima Plain to the Municipality of Vau i Dejes, Shkodra, Fushë Arrëzit, Puka, Lezha etc. Born in Tirana, she graduated in Natural Sciences at the University of Tirana, later specializing home and abroad for the sustainable development of communities and the management of international projects.
The long and passionate work on the ground implementation of projects in rural territories has made Rozeta know firsthand and be connected with the whole economic and social development chain of these areas starting from the inter-municipal planning of regional policies and local strategies, capacity building for public institutions and those of agricultural vocational education, promotion of organic agriculture and its organized forms, rural tourism models as well as support for women and young farmers engaged in agriculture.
For the time being, her greatest passion remains the Local Genetic Bank of the Community, set up near the High Vocational School “Ndre Mjeda” Bushat, Shkodra, the first of its kind in Albania, in which an inventory of about 160 indigenous varieties of vegetables, beans, cereals has been created for the purpose of preserving, producing and distributing them to the surrounding farmers, contributing to the preservation of biodiversity and local tradition – an invaluable cultural and material heritage for the next generations.
Rozeta speaks lovingly of the rural communities and territories of Northern Albania she has worked across: “They are very rich in customs, history, communication models that respect the working man as well as help and exchange with each other. These areas conserve the traditions and knowledge of the past generations for agricultural works, following the lunar cycle for pruning, planting or other works, preserving their autochthonous seeds thus contributing to the diversity of products and local heritage of different varieties.
Her challenge for the coming years is to contribute that these rural communities be represented, supported, and have their voice in local institutions, as well as become more and more aware of the strong role they have for the development of rural areas.
Viola Bogdani is engaged at Dorcas Aid International Shqipëri since 2008 and actually she holds the position of a Programme Manager. Viola finished her college studies on English Language and later she did her MSC on Leadership and Human Resource Management. Dorcas is an international organization operating in Albania since the ‘90-ies and its activity is based in Korca, Elbasan and Tropoja. Among other sectors, the organization is included in rural development, farmers empowerment and mobilization and empowerment of local communities as well. The involvement of Viola in rural development has been related to her engagement in three levels: national, regional and international. Viola has been active and has contributed to the preparation of the Strategic Plan for the rural development of “Prespa e Vogël” area, as well as in the development of other initiatives and activities in the area since 2011. She has voluntarily supported the Albania- North Macedonia cross-border project “SWG-RRD”. In regards to this, Viola has been the president of the stakeholder working group Albania-North Macedonia for the period 2014-2018. Viola has offered special contribution to ANRD since 2017. She has been representing ANRD in the Gender Equality Hub, a non-formalized structure for women empowerment in rural development on Balkan level since 2018. Viola represents one of the five first certified trainers in Albania for the “LEADER” approach. She says that, if our local communities will embrace LEADER approach as one of the rural development components in Albania, they will be vitalized and developed economically as well as bocome more active, increase the capacities of local communities and take ownership of their regions’ development. Viola strongly believes in the power of cooperation of different actors in community and she thinks that real change happens only this way.
Prof. Dr. Tatjana Dishnica has a special connection with rural areas, almost throughout her life. Her academic and professional journey has connected her with the rural areas in different ways. Initially as a student at the High Institute of Agriculture, then as an agronomist in production where she worked for thirteen years in the rural areas of Berat. While she was working, Tatjana began performing experiments for completing her dissertation. During this time, Tatjana met many incredible rural people and among them extraordinary women, which were always cheerful despite the hardship and extremely fatigue in agricultural work. As director of the Agricultural Research Institute and extension services, Tatjana contributed for twenty years in many directions. Such a long-term commitment allowed her to network, collaborate and exchange with hundreds of researchers and extensionists from rural areas across the country. In recent years, Tatjana returned to the Agricultural University of Tirana as a lecturer. This shift in her professional journey, while she finds herself among students, future agronomists or economists – has renewed Tatjana’s commitment to sustainable rural development. Throughout her dynamic and admirable professional engagement, Tatjana has been involved in numerous collaborations with local and international experts, in training, professional memberships, publications, conferences in Albania and abroad, etc., all in the field of agriculture. Lately, Tatjana gives a vital contribution also in civil society sector. She runs an organization, a member organization of ANRD, that focuses in support of rural women. As Tatjana currently takes care of the trees and flowers of the garden of her childhood home, her relationship with agriculture and plants will last a lifetime. An active life, nearly 45 years in the service of rural development, that contributes considerable to the country economy, irrespective of the little attention paid to the development of rural areas. According to Tatjana “no one so far has been able to find the real key to unlock and solve the problems of this important sector of the economy that is blessed by the geographical position of our country”.
Despite her profession as a teacher, Liljana ISAKAJ has been working as a coordinator for ADAD Malore for many years. ADAD is a member organization of ANRD, with 25 years of experience and consolidated profile in mountainous areas development such as Dibra, Korca, Kukes, Malesia e Madhe, Shkodra etc. Liljana has been at the forefront of many initiatives and projects that have supported farmers in mountainous area in terms of production, processing, promotion, diversification and evaluation.
Liliana not only represents a member of an agricultural family but her work and dedication to helping rural women have made her the epitome of a rural woman. Programs such as the “Assessment of Women and their Typical Mountain Area Products” included under the brand “Heart of the Mountain” make her feel proud to have contributed to the economic empowerment of rural women and girls. Being gender sensitive, as March started and Women day approaches, ANRD wants to thank Liljana for her contribution to rural development and especially to rural women. Liljana’s story inspires and encourages all actors to empower rural women and girls for sustainable development and a better and peaceful future.
President of “Albanian Alps Alliance” organization. Petrit is a project leader, lector of different conferences, trainings, forums, etc. He, self-tried to create “a significant painting for the North Albanian Alps”. Professional guide, licensed for ecotourism and nature tourism (wildlife research), referenced by the most prestigious tourist guides on the Planet. Author and co-author of several articles of didactic-scientific and informational character in domestic and foreign print media (maps, guides, scientific articles, etc.). Implementer – author of personal photo-exhibitions on the natural values of the mountainous region in Albania, England, Germany, Czech Republic. On December 11, 2019, World Mountain Day, Petriti said in the media: “#MountainsMatter these years is the call to the young people of the mountains, #MountainsYouth”.
Nikolini is engaged as Project Coordinator at Agrinet Albania which operates in the field of agriculture, supporting of small and medium farmers as well as in the field of rural development. He is currently pursuing post-graduate qualifications for a doctoral school in the field of plant protection. Nikolini has a special contribution in helping and supporting farmers in the Korca area. Nikolini has also played an important role in mobilizing local actors in the process of consolidating the Egnatia forum, as an important part of the rural movement for effective policies for the sustainable development of rural communities. He says “To feel fulfilled in yourself you must always be engaged towards the need of development”.