During the last year the Rural Development Network of the Republic of Macedonia has implemented piloting LEADER approach activities in the Southeast Planning Region. LEADER approach, as one of the IPARD measures, promotes cooperation between the public, civil and business sector and encourages them to investigate new ways for joint efforts for improving their basic livelihoods. Hence, LEADER contributes to improving the quality of life in rural areas, both for the farming families and for the wider rural population.

Throughout 2014 year, RDN of RM has been supporting the stakeholders of 4 Southeast region municipalities – Strumica, Vasilevo, Bosilovo and Novo Selo, to develop their capacities for participatory planning and decision-making as foundation of LEADER methodology. The group composed of representatives of the public, civil and business sector has undergone a process of strategic planning followed with definition of mission and vision, strategic goals, priorities and defining the territory of the future Local Action Group (LAG) Belasica – Ograzden. The activities implemented in this region enabled simulation of the entire process of rural development projects’ implementation and provided a tangible, practical experience to future LAG constituents.

Within these activities, three pilot projects were realized: “Digital tourist map of the Belasica-Ograzden territory”, “Creation of visual identity of the Belasica-Ograzden LAG” which included a website, logo, posters and leaflets and “The LAG day event”. The Digital tourist map of the LAG Belasica – Ograzden enabled preview of this territory’s tourist attractions and landmarks. This map unlike classical maps, contains many layers, has thematic division and information in Macedonian and English about natural, cultural, sacral and gastronomic resources of the whole LAG Belasica – Ograzden territory, as well as information about local tourism businesses such as restaurants, hotels, motels, vehicles, tourist agencies, tourist info centers and other similar services related to the rural tourism development.

The promotional event of the LAG Belasica–Ograzden organized on September 28th 2015, at the village of Mokrino, was attended by nearly a hundred people from the region, including representatives of the four municipalities, the Center for Development of the Southeast Planning Region, NGOs, business sector, educational sector as well as the mayors of Vasilevo and Novo Selo. The project activities stimulate traditional food production, preservation of traditional dances, making traditional folk costumes and handcrafts which are expected to contribute to a wider promotion of the region’s resources and opportunities, and to help rural tourism and encourage and stimulate economic development in the region.

The Rural Development Network of the Republic of Macedonia within the USAID Adaptation to Climate Change in Agriculture project’s component for raising public awareness and strengthening Civil Society Organizations’ capacity worked intensely on the process of building capacities of the NGO sector. This sector is an integral part of LEADER methodology which provides participatory approach and inclusion of diverse rural stakeholders in the decision making process for issues with relevance to their local community. Hence RDN recognized the necessity for introducing the LEADER approach methodology to different rural stakeholders in rural areas.