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Climate and decent work solutions

Green jobs in Albania: “We have to learn from the mistakes of the past”

As world leaders meet in Paris to advance climate and decent work agendas, an ILO project has created much-needed jobs for Albanian youth – while cleaning polluted lakes and rehabilitating degraded agricultural land.

Feature | 09 December 2015
Youth unemployment is high in Albania. 34.2 per cent of men and women aged 15-29 are out of work. The lack of job opportunities and employment services push many young Albanians to the informal economy or to migrate in search of greener pastures.

“Multiple factors hinder youth to use their full potential. Seen from the labour market angle, they lack vocational education, experience and sometimes willingness to make educational choices that are compatible with labour market needs,” explains Teuta Zejno, National Coordinator of the ILO’s Local Level Responses to Youth Employment Challenges (LLRYEC) project.

Clearing discarded nets from Lake Shkodra
Launched by the ILO and the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP) in 2012, LLRYEC has provided technical and vocational training opportunities for youth in line with the actual needs of the labour market. The training often involves components related to environmental sustainability and rehabilitation, thereby addressing environmental and employment problems simultaneously.

Sustainable fishing and cleaning Shkodra Lake

The LLRYEC project focused on three regions of Albania where youth unemployment rates and informal employment are highest: Lezha, Kukes and Shkodra.

Shkodra Lake, located on the border between Albania and Montenegro, is the largest lake in the Balkans. It is home to over 200 bird species, including some rare and endangered ones, and 34 species of fish, 7 of which are endemic to the lake. Because it is an important staging and wintering station for waterfowl and migratory birds, Shkodra Lake is a Ramsar Wetland Conservation site.

For many generations, fishing on Shkodra Lake has been a traditional livelihood activity for local people. Nowadays, abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) pollutes the lake, trapping, entangling and possibly killing fish and marine animals. It is also a hazard for navigation and fishing vessels. In combination with illegal or unregulated fishing, ALDFG pollution has compromised fish populations in the lake. Needless to say, this has considerable socioeconomic impacts for the livelihoods of professional fishers who can no longer support themselves and their families.

Generations of fishing gear has been abandoned
The LLRYEC project in Shkodra provided vocational training for local youth who wished to work in the Shkodra Lake fishing industry. Participants are taught sustainable fishing methods and restoring the integrity of Shkodra Lake through removal of ALDFG and other debris. “Raising youth awareness about the importance of protecting the environment and promoting the equilibrium of the ecosystem could pave the road towards a more sustainable development,” says Zejno.

60 trainees aged 18 to 29 were selected to participate in the LLYREC training, which included classroom-based courses focused on fishing tools and methods, biological and ecological considerations and how to prevent fishing during the spawning season.

As part of the training, participants and members of the local “Fishing Management Organization” spent 50 days removing ALDFG and other debris from Lake Shkodra, covering a total area of 129 km2. The lake is now noticeably cleaner and safer for fishing vessels.

Following their participation in LLRYEC activities, 41 youth registered fishing businesses at the National Registration Centre. They are now committed to the sustainable practices they have learned.

“We have to learn from the mistakes of the past. If we avoid them and act now to protect the lake, this would for sure benefit coming generations that will earn their living in this area,” says Erjon Broja, a 28 year old LLRYEC programme beneficiary.

Thanks to LLRYEC , a total of 340 youth, including 20 with disabilities, gained new skills through on-the-job employment training programmes implemented in collaboration with the National Employment Service. Over 75 per cent were subsequently employed.

Programme benificiary Erjon Broja
The LLRYEC project built on the work of the UN Joint Programme on Youth Employment and Migration (YEM, 2008-2012), which was jointly implemented by ILO, IOM, UNICEF and UNDP. YEM worked at country level to integrate youth employment into national policies and strengthen the capacity of policymakers and labour market institutions to implement youth employment policies through training and workshops.

Looking Forward

Albania’s 2014-2020 National Employment and Skills Strategy sets out a clear 7-year policy framework that includes the continued strengthening of labour market policies and services, new employment offices, and reform of the technical vocational training and education (TVET) system. The idea is that training opportunities correspond to the actual needs of employers.

The first new employment office is currently operational in Tirana, Albania’s capital city. From January to July 2014, 6,344 people found jobs through these offices, and throughout the 2014-2015 academic year, the number of students enrolled in vocational education and training programmes increased by 40 per cent.

Living on chestnuts

LLRYEC activities focussed also on other economic sectors. In Kukes, they focused on creating jobs for in chestnut production. Chestnuts are a significant source of income in the region, and local people say that “chestnuts are their bread and butter”. They are also culturally significant: there are legends about the army of Illyrian King Gentius surviving on chestnuts.

The chestnut forests of the region were suffering from disease and neglect. Local youth are largely uninformed about how to care for and protect the chestnut forests or derive a profit from the chestnuts they produce. Leaving behind this green capital, many choose to migrate to urban areas, where they face an uphill battle to enter the labour market.

LLRYEC provided youth with skills for chestnut cultivation and entrepreneurship. Youth were taught about sustainable harvesting and forest management, empowering them with knowledge and skills to effectively manage and foster this valuable resource. Following the training, seven participants created a cooperative to manage a local 350 hectare chestnut forest.

The forest, once neglected, is now seen as a valuable business asset. Forests act as a carbon “sink,” pulling the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change out of the atmosphere. Forest protection therefore plays a significant role in protecting the climate.