REFORESTATION

Our main focus is the reforestation with a goal to help rehabilitate 500ha of damaged forests in the Lurë-Dejës Mt. National Park. We rely heavily on the local community to execute our operations which creates a strong relationship towards our projects within the community and allows us to contribute substantially to the local economy. This approach is a main difference from other organizations and creates long-lasting results, read more.

KEY FACTS

Year Trees planted Area restored Survival rate Price per tree
2021 2,712 2.2 ha 78% €2.04
2022 10,000 6.64 ha 84.65% €2.13
2023 10,081 6.38 ha TBD €1.91
  22,793 15.22 ha 81.33% €2.03

Reforestation timeline

2023

10,081 / 6.38ha

For 2023, we set high goals for ourselves: another 10,000 trees to plant and expand our tree nursery. It was not easy, but thanks to our team’s dedication, supporters and new partners, we achieved all our goals and more.

The year began not with reforestation but with the expansion of our tree nursery in the early spring of 2023. The nursery is crucial for the sustainable production of saplings locally in Fushë-Lurë, providing trees grown from local seeds and adapted to the local climate.

We have been working with the AKZM and AdZM Dibër on the 2023 planting proposal (location, tree species, methods). During summer, we obtained permission for our planting operation.

10,081 trees planted

The planting area for 2023 is close to the previous planting areas. It also suffered damage due to a forest fire in the past. The area is significantly steeper than the last areas and features a stream (with rocky slopes) passing from top to bottom. The total area of the allocated zone is 14.72 ha. However, due to existing vegetation and terrain constraints, only around 9 ha is available for reforestation, out of which we managed to plant 10,000 trees in the area of 6.38ha.

We executed the planting operation in two phases, and this year, we managed to plant 10,081 trees within two weeks instead of the four weeks it took in 2022. We prepared the area by digging holes during the first week, and the team planted trees in the second week.

Unpredictable weather (rain, snow) caused the planting operation to be delayed by a week and put time constraints on the team as the temperatures dropped quickly.

Of 10,081 trees, 1,081 came from our nursery, and we purchased the remaining 9,000 trees from Fidanishte Xhepi Sh.p.k. in Fushë-Krujë.

We planted the first trees from our nursery

This year was special for us as we planted the first 1,081 trees from our tree nursery, a huge milestone for the project.

The saplings planted this year were grown from seeds collected in 2021 and planted in the nursery in the Spring of 2022. Saplings from the nursery are smaller than commercially available ones but have a massive advantage in acclimatisation to the local climate.

We planted these trees in a separate planting area, allowing us to monitor and evaluate the survival and growth rates easily.

Record number of local workers

We were pleased with ever increasing interest from the local community to work with us.

During our first planting operation in 2021, we had 6 workers, and 35 joined us this year. This huge increase has various reasons. However, the main one is that the project has gained the local community’s trust by operating consistently and transparently for the 3rd year.

During our planting operation, we provide equal opportunity for seasonal work to men, women and youth. At the end of each planting day, we pay salaries based on the amount of work done by each worker.

After three years of working with the local community, we have a well-trained, stable team of workers who work with us yearly (which also grows annually), with additional people joining us based on availability. This primary factor allows us to finish the planting operation within two weeks.

Bringing schools and students

This year, we introduced a new way to involve schools with kids from the village of Lurë and around Albania. The main scope was to have educational activities during the planting season as an additional program to the project.

We had an opportunity to show the kids the whole process, from the seeds - to saplings in the nursery - to planting trees in the National Park. We managed to have three separate events with three different schools. Read more, in Update #17.

The interest from schools was higher, but due to the rainy weather during the first days of November, we had to put many on the waiting list.

2023: An aerial view on the planting area (middle)
2023: An aerial view on the planting area (middle)
2023: 2-year Pinus nigra from our nursery to be planted
2023: 2-year Pinus nigra from our nursery to be planted
2023: Kujtim planting one of nursery trees
2023: Kujtim planting one of nursery trees
2023: Fatbardha during planting
2023: Fatbardha during planting
2023: Illir & Hekuran during planting phase
2023: Illir & Hekuran during planting phase
2023: Team assembled in the morning before heading to the planting area
2023: Team assembled in the morning before heading to the planting area

2022

10,000 / 6.64ha

Successful planting operation in 2021 and positive public feedback led to securing enough donations to challenge ourselves and plant 10,000 trees. We also established a Tree nursery pilot project to grow our saplings.

Thanks to starting smaller in 2021, with only 2712 trees, we gained the necessary experience to execute more extensive planting operations. The logistics of sourcing and transporting planting material, management of digging, planting and cash flow planning must be executed well to deliver a successful planting operation.

We received positive public feedback through social media or our TV appearances in Albania, which led to new relationships with corporate donors (risr/ and Heldenwerbung GmbH) in early 2022. Our presence in Lurë connected us directly with the motorcycling community which regards Lurë as a prime spot for off-road riding due to the famous international Trans Euro Trail leading them through the Lurë National Park. By May 2022, we secured funding for a much larger number of trees than in 2021.

Based on the above, we decided to take up a challenge and set our 2022 goal to plant an ambitious 10 000 Pinus nigra saplings and use the remaining funds to start the Tree nursery pilot project.

The tree nursery pilot project was an incredibly important task to execute in 2022. The tree nursery is crucial not only because producing our saplings will significantly lower the reforestation cost by cutting transportation and sapling purchase costs. It will also produce saplings which fulfil the requirements of the AKZM for planting material allowed for the highest protected areas of the national park. There is currently no supplier in Albania which can provide such saplings and our tree nursery is the first one.

Read all the details about Tree nursery

2022: 2021 and 2022 planting areas comparison
2022: 2021 and 2022 planting areas comparison

2021

2,712 / 2.2ha

We have been active in Lurë since 2019, but unfortunately, due to the 2019 earthquake and COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our first planting operation took place in 2021 when we planted 2712 Pinus nigra saplings.

Our original plan for 2021 was to plant 5000 trees in two planting operations. The first half is in early Spring, and the second is in Autumn. The correct Spring season to plant Pinus nigra is around March and April, and for the Autumn, it is October and November.

The Spring planting

The Spring planting operation failed as we could not reach the planting area due to the snow blocking the access road. Lurë National Park is located at an altitude of 1300—1800 a.s.m.l, and the snow melts around the beginning of June, an important lesson to learn.

The season for planting Pinus nigra is in March and April, but the main areas suitable for reforestation are not accessible till the beginning of June. This makes planting in Spring tricky, especially in combination with unpredictable weather when snowfall and very low temperatures are common till the end of May.

All these difficulties with the Spring season lead us to the decision that it is better to skip the Spring planting season and focus on Autumn. The risk of bad weather and logistical challenges are just too high.

The Autumn planting

During the year we had enough time to prepare everything for the Autumn planting operation in. We did detailed research of the suppliers for the Pinus nigra saplings and personally visited all suppliers to check the quality of their saplings. We chose Xhepi Sh.p.k (Fushë-Krujë) & Lurimi Sh.p.k (Burrel) to supply our saplings with 50/50 split to evaluate the performance of the saplings during next 3 years. We had enough time to prepare everything for the Autumn planting operation during the year. We did detailed research of the suppliers for the Pinus nigra saplings and personally visited all suppliers to check the quality of their saplings. We chose Xhepi Sh.p.k (Fushë-Krujë) & Lurimi Sh.p.k (Burrel) to supply our saplings with a 50/50 split to evaluate the performance of the saplings during the next 3 years.

The 2021 Autumn planting was a huge milestone for the project and a wonderful 2-day event that brought together the whole team and many volunteers to plant the first 2712 trees.

2021 Spring: Liqeni i Madh
2021 Spring: Liqeni i Madh
2021 Autumn: Volunteers planting the first 2,712 trees in Lurë
2021 Autumn: Volunteers planting the first 2,712 trees in Lurë

Lurë-Dejës Mt. National Park

Lurë-Dejës Mt. National Park is one of the most beautiful and wild national parks in northeastern Albania, which protects an area of 202.42 km2. The altitude varies from 1,300—2,300 a.s.m.l. The most common native tree species to Lurë are European beech, Silver fir, Black pine, Red pine and Macedonian/Balkan pine. Especially protected is the Macedonian/Balkan pine, which is threatened with extinction and is only common in the west of the Balkan Peninsula.

Unfortunately, it suffered massive deforestation due to illegal logging and a series of forest fires which decimated its forests. These actions left up to 500ha completely deforested; most of this damage is in the highest protected areas of the national park, around the Lurë lakes. It is estimated that reforestation of the damaged areas would require planting around 1 200 000 trees.

Which tree species we plant?

Lurë-Dejës Mt. National Park is a protected area under the management of Agjencia Kombëtare e Zonave të Mbrojtura (AKZM). The AKZM sets requirements for the planting material allowed to be used during planting operations within the national park.

Conifer species allowed to be planted in the national park are Pinus nigra, Pinus Peuce and Abies alba, and as for deciduous species, it is Fagus silvatica.

Furthermore, there are requirements based on the planting area regarding its location within three protected zones. Our goal is to plant in the highest protected zone where the saplings must be produced from the local seeds and grown at a similar altitude as the planting area. Such saplings are currently not produced in Albania or within the Balkan peninsula. This is why we established a tree nursery in the Lurë area.

Our planting areas are currently located within the 2nd protected zone of the national park, where we are allowed to plant Pinus nigra saplings from Albanian suppliers located in lower altitudes. We plant two-year-old, potted/containerized saplings.

In our experience, using old and larger saplings does not produce good results as those plants are prone to damage due to snowfall. You can read detailed information about our planting material selection process in Update #10: Choosing the right planting material and supplier.

Fushë-Krujë: Pinus nigra sapling, 2 years
Fushë-Krujë: Pinus nigra sapling, 2 years
Burrel: Pinus nigra sapling, 2 years
Burrel: Pinus nigra sapling, 2 years

How do we plant?

Support and involvement of the local communities are crucial for successful and sustainable reforestation projects. We, therefore, award most of the work to the local team instead of volunteers.

Local workforce

We use the local workforce as much as possible during our reforestation activities. The local team plants 90% of the saplings. Our local team is responsible for a wide range of activities, from preparing the planting area, digging holes for the saplings, transportation and planting of the saplings.

This allows us to contribute significantly to the local economy, and more than 50% of the planting costs are dedicated to the workers. We provide much-needed jobs in the Fushë Lurë, which despite being seasonal jobs, are at least regular.

We are proud that our planting team includes many women because whole families are joining during our planting operations.

Volunteers

We organize weekend activities for volunteers and our partners to allow the public to participate in our reforestation project and demonstrate our processes and techniques. Due to its duration, we are limited to four events during the Autumn planting operation.

Limited use of volunteers ensures that the local team is allocated promised work and the planting quality is not compromised as the local team has more training and experience.

2022: Fushë-Lurë local team
2022: Fushë-Lurë local team
2022: Local team at the planting area
2022: Local team at the planting area

What are major risks?

Our planting areas are remote, which minimizes risks from human interventions and grazing cattle. Two significant risks to reforestation efforts are forest fires and Processionary.

Forest fires

Forest fires are a severe risk anywhere in the Balkan peninsula. In the past years, the has been an increased number of forest fires throughout the region, causing substantial damage. In Lurë majority of the fires are caused by human actions. Fighting the forest fire in Lurë is also complicated due to poor road infrastructure. Most of the national park is only accessible by 4x4 capable vehicles. The lack of government funding into fire fighting infrastructure does not improve the chances of adequate fire protection.

Processionaria

Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is a widespread pest in the Balkan peninsula, Italy, Spain and many other southern countries. In the past, the pest was managed by the local workforce. Now, however, there is no coordinated strategy in place in Albania.

Processionary is a moth that lays eggs on the branches of pine trees. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae nest on the branches and start feeding on the needles. The larvae are covered with hairs poisonous to humans and animals, making managing the pest very difficult.

The pest affects mainly Pinus nigra forests up to an altitude of around 1500 a.s.m.l. Our current planting areas are at the altitude of 1300 a.s.m.l. which makes trees we plant suspectable to infestation in the future.

Processionary is absent in higher altitudes (highest protected areas) of the national park, which is why we want to focus our work there. Furthermore, Processionaria does not affect Abies alba and Pinus peuce is affected only minimally, which is yet another reason to work in higher altitudes where we are required to plant a combination of Pinus nigra, Pinus peuce and Abies alba, which we are producing in our nursery.

Processionaria: Opened nest showing the caterpillars
Processionaria: Opened nest showing the caterpillars
Processionaria: Burning branches with nests is one way of pest control
Processionaria: Burning branches with nests is one way of pest control