Interview with WBC-RRI.NET representative of Kune-Vaini lagoon, Albania

As the WBC-RRI.NET project is approaching its end, POLICY ANSWERS asked project partners what the main activities of their region were, what impacts these had and how they have contributed to the development of the region. They also shared their thoughts with us on how the overall impact and contribution of the RRI activities to the WB region could be further enhanced. Here are the answers of WBC-RRI.NET´s representatives from Kune-Vaini lagoon, Albania.

Name: Kejt Dhrami
Institution: Co-PLAN
Region: Kune-Vaini lagoon, Albania

How do the activities conducted in your region contribute to the development of the Western Balkans?

Through the pilot of a small-scale citizen science activity, we managed to establish a modest scientific platform of local knowledge and co-produced information, aiming at ensuring better management of the target territory in the face of anthropocentric and climate-related challenges.

The focus on Ecosystem Services (ES) mapping and assessment, particularly in a sensitive area like the Kune-Vaini Lagoon, promotes environmental awareness and sustainable practices, while setting a precedent for other regions in the Western Balkans to adapt and follow. The initiative ultimately demonstrates how policymakers can work with communities for environmental conservation and socio-economic shared benefits. Therefore, the participatory approaches in these activities, including engaging local communities, fishermen, and businesses in the Total Economic Value (TEV) survey, were crucial in empowering local stakeholders and promoting knowledge retainment.

The project fosters a culture of research and innovation, bridging the gap between researchers and local communities through appropriate science communication. The exploitation of the results in regional conferences, roundtables, networks and through an array of (open) publication and media channels will likely promote and enhance science education/communication and citizen science actions in Albania and in the region.

Lastly, through assessing services like carbon sequestration and flood moderation, the project contributes to the broader regional efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation, as addressed by the Green Agenda.

If possible, outline those main activities that have been performed in your region with the most significant impact.

While the anchor initiative did encompass a diverse range of activities and instruments, we may summarize 2 main activity groups worth highlighting:

  • Participatory Mapping and TEV Survey Implementation
    Engaging all households, fishermen, and local businesses in mapping and valuing ecosystem services has likely had the most significant impact in the successful implementation of the anchor. This comprehensive approach integrates diverse perspectives, enhancing the accuracy and relevance of the ES assessment, and stands at the core of the citizen science initiative.
  • Stakeholder Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing
    The workshops and learning activities organized for stakeholder education, along with the dissemination of findings through various media channels, will likely have a long term impact on raising awareness and building local / regional capacity in environmental protection for vulnerable territories.

Based on your experience within the project, could you please mention some approaches that might enhance the overall impact and contribution of the RRI activities to the WB region?

Documenting, sharing and exploiting best practices and protocolled methodologies from the anchor initiative(s) can enable other similarly vulnerable territories in the Western Balkans to replicate and adapt fully or partially some of the actions, thereby amplifying the overall impact. These may include the co-design efforts; participatory mapping practices for several ecosystem services; the methodology for assessment of such services and the Total Economic Value survey layout; the protocols used for engaging local communities in citizen science and for monitoring knowledge transfer, etc.

Moreover, the enhancement of the Albanian anchor initiative would be achieved by leveraging modern technologies like GIS for mapping, mobile applications for community engagement, and data analytics for better interpretation of ES assessments. These could enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of RRI activities.

Lastly, working closely with policymakers to integrate findings into regional and national policies can ensure that the insights from these activities have a lasting impact on environmental management and planning. In Albania, the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, partner of, is already supporting the design of the new Management Plan for the Protected Area of Kune Vaini, capitalizing on the scientific knowledge platform established during the project. Forthcoming, other policy documents could be enhanced, like integration of environmental components to the upcoming S3 strategies that are in design phase; or developing a nation-wide assessment of ecosystem services, to better prioritize strategic investments in the future. In this regard, establishing mechanisms for continuous monitoring and evaluation of the impact of these initiatives, while meticulously engaging all relevant stakeholders of the quadruple/quintuple helix, becomes highest priority.

Our vision is that of climate change related regional institutions, local communities and research actors with enhanced R&I and STI capacities for evidence-based decisions on the management of protected areas in view of climate mitigation and adaptation, with a particular focus on mapping and assessing lagoon ecosystem services vis-à-vis climate change risks and losses. Participatory mapping and assessment for citizen science, R&I governance instruments and public engagement in R&I ensures the RRI in the anchor initiative. The time horizon of the vision and future scenario is the year 2024.

The objective is to co-design and establish a scientific platform for mapping and assessing ecosystem services in the lagoon, with information produced through citizen science and public engagement, involving all actors of the quadruple helix, and to be endorsed by the RAPA.

Participatory mapping and assessment methods used for ecosystem services citizen science will be tested, contributing to societal preparedness for socio-ecological resilience in a context of climate change/disasters, rather than merely for disaster response. These methods enhance societal knowledge on ecosystems [services] and their relation to climate change effects mitigation, while also producing local knowledge on how disasters have influenced or may affect the future of the territory and communities.

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