First regional conference on biodiversity conservation and animal welfare in agricultural landscapes

Serbia was a host to the First regional conference on biodiversity conservation and animal welfare in agricultural landscapes which was held from 6-7 December 2019 in Zrenjanin, Serbia. Over 120 participants and 25 notable experts from Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Germany and Great Britain have discussed how is conservation of wild species and their habitats related to the production of healthy food and conservation of natural resources.

“We are honored to have had the opportunity together with our partners to host this unique event in the Western Balkans region. First regional conference on biodiversity conservation and animal welfare in agricultural landscapes has gathered representatives of civil society organisations, public institutions, academic community and media in order to start a dialogue together about protecting wild species and their habitats and animal welfare in agricultural landscapes. This question concerns all citizens of the Western Balkans today – a question about what world and which natural resources we are leaving to generations to come”, stated Elvir Burazerovic, director of ORCA.

Main conclusion of the conference is that the region of the Western Balkans has an enormous potential for agricultural production which is in line with the principles of nature conservation. The consortium of organisations from Montenegro, North Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo*, gathered around organisation ORCA from Serbia had pointed out how important it is to include organisations, experts, farmers, consumers and economy in the development of agricultural policies that protect nature.

The mechanism that enables joint work of the above mentioned actors is the Regional Working Platform which was founded by ORCA and partner organisations. Platform gathers representatives of the Ministry of agriculture, Ministry of environmental protection, civil society organisations and scientific community and is supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Aim of the Platform is to analyse the current state, identify problems and propose solutions for nature conservation in agricultural landscapes of the Western Balkans.

First regional conference on biodiversity conservation and animal welfare in agricultural landscapes “Sustainable agriculture for Sustainable Balkans” was organised in the frame of the project of the same name - “Sustainable agriculture for Sustainable Balkans: Strengthening advocacy capacities of CSOs and developing policies in the Western Balkans” which is supported by European Union. Project is implemented by a consortium of partner organisations led by the Organisation for Respect and Care of Animals – ORCA (Serbia), which includes Center for Protection and Research of Birds – CZIP (Montenegro), Institute for Environmental Policy – IEP (Albania), FLOROZON (North Macedonia), and Aktiv (Kosovo*).

A review of topics and conclusions per panel

The results of the 10 successful advocacy campaigns for nature conservation and sustainable agricultural practice, conducted by civil society organisations supported in the frame of “Sustainable agriculture for Sustainable Balkans” project were presented at the conference. These campaigns have had a significant positive impact on the organic food production, protection of the cultural and natural heritage, farm animal welfare and producer and consumer rights in Serbia, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia. More information on

Examples of good practices of conservation of wild species and their habitats in agricultural landscapes of Europe and the region have been presented. More specifically, there had been discussions about the conservation of wild species and their habitats at the European level and outside of protected areas, support measures for farmers that preserve natural habitats important for birds and butterflies at their farms in Croatia as well as specific examples of the conservation of wild species in agricultural areas of Serbia. Conclusions of this part of the conference had indicated that if we wish to preserve nature and all benefits that it brings us and which are especially important for the production of healthy food, it’s not enough to preserve it only on a small percentage of the territory in protected areas. In the Western Balkan region, the project “Sustainable agriculture for Sustainable Balkans” is one of the rare initiatives that deal with this topic and it’s necessary that all actors who are working in fields of agriculture and nature protection invest more resources in development of this field that is important for production of healthy food, local economic development and protection of animals and nature in the Western Balkans.

Experts in area of rural development and nature conservation had actualised current challenges and advantages our countries have when it comes to producing healthy food and nature conservation in rural areas. Conference participants have had the opportunity to learn about the ways in which a country can monitor the state of animal and nature protection in agricultural landscapes as shown on the example of Germany.

The results of the work of the Regional Working Platform have been presented. Platform gathers experts, civil society and public intuitions in an effort to develop recommendations for the development of policies related to nature conservation in agricultural areas of the Western Balkans. It has been concluded that it is necessary for the policies of nature conservation in agriculture to be adopted as soon as possible in order to sustain the production of healthy food in line with nature conservation in the interest of consumers and farmers that are included in creation and implementation of these policies.  

One of the main conference topics was sustainable pasture management and how it influences economic development, conservation of wild species and farm animal welfare. Economic reasons why farmers in Great Britain are motivated to contribute to nature conservation and animal welfare on their farms have been discussed, as well as the ways in which animal welfare influences the production of healthy food and how in Vojvodina province, experts of the Institute for nature conservation of Vojvodina province implement projects aimed at nature conservation and local economic development. Sustainable pasture management represents one of the main ways in which the vision of preserved traditional agricultural landscapes in the Western Balkans which produce safe and healthy food in a cost-effective manner can be realised.

*This name is without prejudice to status and in line with United Nations Security Council

Please take a look at the photographs from the conference “Sustainable agriculture for Sustainable Balkans”.