On May 26th and 27th, the President of the European LEADER Association for Rural Development – ELARD, Ms. Kristiina Tammets, together with two representatives of the Estonian National Rural Development Network and the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs, visited Macedonia. The Rural Development Network of the Republic of Macedonia – RDN of the RM, as member of ELARD since 2011, organized this two-day visit, with the support of the USAID Adaptation to Climate Change in Agriculture project.

At the debate organized in Skopje on May 26th, ELARD, as a union of more than 1250 Local Action Groups from 22 countries, presented the experiences gained through the implementation of the LEADER approach in the EU countries and its role in these processes. The representatives of the Estonian National Rural Development Network and the Estonian Ministry of Rural Affairs shared the experiences acquired in the process of LEADER implementation in Estonia. Ms. Biljana Kostovska, head of IPARD Managing Authority within the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Water Economy of the Republic of Macedonia, presented the activities related to LEADER approach as part of the new IPARD measures within the new programming period 2014-2020. The president of RDN of the RM, Mr. Petar Gjorgievski, introduced the participants with RDN’s realized activities and support in the process of affirmation of LEADER approach in Macedonia and establishment of pre-LAG initiatives.

During May 26th and 27th, the Estonian delegation visited pre-LAG initiatives in Kumanovo region – LAG “Aber 2015” and LAG “Glasot na seloto”, in Strumica region – LAG “Belasica-Ograzden”, and also members of the LAG initiative in the region of four municipalities – Gevgelija, Valandovo, Dojran and Bogdanci. The delegation visited some of the historical and natural heritage of these regions, which represent potentials for development of future initiatives. Also, the field visit in Kumanovo involved a stopover at “Eco Green pulp” – a plant for paper recycling and production of tray – pads for eggs. The company is a member of the LAG “Aber 2015”, as a representative of the business sector. Another example of local initiatives was the “Local Campaign for Coping with Climate Change Effects”, implemented by NGO “Planetum” and the “Festival of Wild Figs” implemented by NGO “Slow food Ograzden”, both members of the pre-LAG Belasica-Ograzden. The guests were also impressed by the Gabrovo waterfalls and were familiarized with the project of the Center for Development of the Southeast Planning Region and the Municipality of Strumica which included arranging the surrounding area of the site.

The meetings realized over the two-day visit, resulted with opportunities for further cooperation in strengthening the capacities of the stakeholders of these pre-LAG initiatives through  transfer of knowledge and experience related to the LEADER approach implementation.