The potentials of the sheep meat and cheese in the Region of Kukes

Place: albania, Europe
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 0,00 | Period: From March 2013 To


Albania has a rather favourable market access for small ruminants’ products in terms of low tariff rates, but non-trade barriers represent a major problem preventing exports. Income per capita increase has resulted in increased demand for small ruminants products. Food safety and competitiveness of farming and agro-processing are covered by the strategic framework developed by Government of Albania (GoA). Small ruminants sub-sector is also part of this strategy. A number of donor funded projects support food safety and competitiveness of small ruminants’ products and a government subsidy scheme provides direct support to the sub sector both at farming and agro-processing level. However, the present level of interventions is considered as insufficient, therefore additional support is needed to secure the sustainability of this important portion of the Albania’s economy.


Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania - Albania

Lead applicant

Following its creation, PPNEA established as a highly active organization, participating in and organizing many environmental awareness campaigns in Albania as well as undertaking a vast array of different projects with focus on various environmental issues. Two decades after its creation the organization carries with it a vast experience in nature and biodiversity conservation issues, in environmental education, in promotion of a more sustainable livelihood and most recently has engaged in interdisciplinary projects regarding natural resources management. Since its creation PPNEA had a particular active role in the public space by means of environmental radio shows, documentaries and road show events. Also, numerous raising awareness activities were organized throughout the country. The organization has brought together national and regional organizations in different occasions by organizing seminars, trainings, workshops and conferences led the way for many years in strengthening the role of civil society and creating a network in order for the latter to be more able to advocate for the environmental problems the country faced. PPNEA is an active member of several environmental coalitions of core environmental organizations in Albania, continuing thus its vigilant and monitoring efforts regarding environment. The organization has developed a high research and environmental policy advocating profile. Hence, it influenced public attitudes and the process of political decision making for environmental protection and sustainable development. This has been culmated by the creation of two important National Parks in Albania, Prespa Park in 2000 and Shebenik – Jabllanica NP in 2008. Here is important to emphasize a recent achievement, after a long process of environmental evaluation, mapping and consultations PPNEA contributed to the proclamation of Korab-Koritnik as a Nature Park on December 2011. In terms of wildlife conservation PPNEA has been involved since 2006 and on, in a large scale initiative for the conservation of the critically endangered Balkan lynx. The Balkan Lynx Recovery Programme is implemented in two phase’s altogether, with the first phase being completed within the period 2006-2009, and the second phase being completed within the 2010-2012. The innovative work and methodology of the programme have become a reference point for wildlife monitoring, protected area management and conservation in Albania and the larger region.

Mountain Areas Development Agency - Albania

Initiative partner

The Mountain Areas Development Programme (MADP), an IFAD–initiated programme co-financed with the Government of Albania, Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Italian Cooperation and the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom, was designed against the backdrop of the financial emergency and resulting economic, political and humanitarian crises caused by the collapse of informal lending schemes that took place in Albania in the mid-‘90s. The programme, which became effective in 2001, and aimed at addressing the serious challenges facing poor people living in the mountain areas, such as low productivity, small farm sizes, limited access to financial services and weak market linkages. The overall objective of the programme is to raise the standards of living in the target populations through greater agricultural production and productivity, better household food security, increased incomes from agricultural and related rural enterprises, and improved infrastructure. The project was structured around a multifaceted strategy that included support to financial services, agricultural and agri-business development, and institutional strengthening.

Agricultural University of Tirana, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment - Albania

Initiative partner

Faculty of Agriculture and Environment aims at becoming a modern contemporary center for undergraduate and graduate studies, scientific research and training and preparing specialist in the field of agriculture and food. It aims at becoming a referring point for the rural and agriculture development by directly contributing to the European integration of the country. The mission of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment is to realize professional training of specialist in the field of agriculture and environment, promote respective departments and academic staff in facing time challenges such as: forecasting of food resources, sustainable development of agriculture, protection and regeneration of resources, traditional use of productive resources, provision of ecologically clean products, food safety etc., through active participation of students and academic staff in more advanced education, research and training programmes.

This is a multi country project involving local mountain Balkan communities in the following countries: Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Macedonia aiming the promotion of small ruminant products and protection of biodiversity through the implementation of sustainable livestock management for the production of high quality sheep/goat cheese and meat and sustain economic development of these areas. Ruda and Bardhoka sheep breeds are indigenous breeds of north Albania. Their distribution area is very large: in the Albanian territory it extends mostly in the district of Kukes, Diber, and Tropoja. They are also traditional in Kosovo, especially in the regions of Gjakova and Prizren bordering with Kukes region, as well as in south-eastern parts of Montenegro (see the map). The population of these breeds in the Region of Kukes is about 60,000 animals.

This is a traditional method of animal management, hence no major innovations are implemented as the project itself tries to preserve local practices. However, some experimental work has been done by crossbreeding the Ruda and Bardhoka breeds with a few other local ones. It appears that the derived characteristics are not justified in terms of milk and meat productions, therefore it is recommended that Ruda and Bardhoka breeds are preserved as they are due to their better qualities.

Bardhoka sheep Bardhoka sheep
Ruda sheep Ruda sheep

The region of Kukes has a good reputation for local sheep breeds; the most important are the “Ruda” and “Bardhoka” breeds. Dairy, meat and wool products from these breeds are very appreciated and asked in the main markets of the country, especially for lamb meat and sheep cheese. The indigenous Ruda and Bardhoka sheep breeds and the natural pastures in the district of Kukes are an important potential for a diversified quality of SR products. Ruda and Bardhoka sheep breeds are well adapted to the local climate and the local management practices. All SR farms in the district of Kukes are registered in the national system (RUDA database) of animal identification & farm registration (I&R) as well as animal health control system (EPI). The system mostly used by SR farmers is agro-pastoral. There is an unused summer pastures capacity in Kukes.

Natural pasture in Kukes district Natural pasture in Kukes district

The main results relate to improved wellbeing of the local people by increased income deriving from the cheese and meat trade at higher prices. Local lamb meat is well known for its special quality. The meat is produced with forage from grazing directly in natural pastures. The meat from highlands is highly appreciated for its good taste and quality. The sheep cheese has a very specific taste and is highly required by the consumers. The special taste comes from the traditional processing method, from animal feeding and especially from the good quality of natural pastures. All fresh meat and cheese products are certified for their quality by the local veterinarians. A detailed description of traditional cheese and dry meat processing methods is available. 

Forage from grazing directly in natural pastures Forage from grazing directly in natural pastures
Traditional cheese produced from the sheep milk Traditional cheese produced from the sheep milk
View from natural pasture View from natural pasture

The main beneficiaries are hundreds of inhabitants of this region. The total number of the population living in the area is about 110,000 people. The population is relatively young with an aging coefficient of 7.5. The area is characterized by a relatively low level of urbanization and strong trends of migration, directed mainly towards other urban centres of Albania and/or also abroad. The majority of population resides in rural areas, representing about 76% of the total population. The region is composed of 3 municipalities (Kukes, Has, Bajram Curri) and 24 communes. The average unemployment rate across the region is near 30% compared to a national average of about 14%. Fifty-six percent of the population is in receipt of social aid compared with a national average of 22%. The active labour force of the Region represents about 12% of labour force of the country. 

People involved in the initiative People involved in the initiative
View from the private farms acting in Kukes region View from the private farms acting in Kukes region

The human resources involved include mostly the hundreds of farmers and shepherds of the area. They have been supported by the extension service staff including veterinarians of the Ministry of Agriculture. Tertiary sector is also involved, mostly traders and the transportation sector.

Extension service staff Extension service staff

The main difficulties include mostly the health problems of the animals:
 The main diseases affecting small ruminant health are brucellosis, contagious agalactia and footrot.
 Zoonoses and parasitic diseases constitute a major disease burden for public health among farmer households;
 Farmer communities have insufficient information and technical knowledge on to judge whether they are provided with adequate amounts, type and quality of animal health care.

Kukes region is characterised by high degree of biodiversity and by a variety microhabitats. The high biodiversity value of this specific area can be explained by the fact that there is an intersection of the four main eco-regions of Albania. The overlapping parts of these eco-regions results in high abundance of common and rare species of fauna and flora.  The main intersecting ecoregions are 1) Illyrian deciduous forests; 2) Pindus Mountains mixed forests; 3) Balkan Mixed forests; 4) Dinaric Mountains mixed forest. But there are several threats to biodiversity as follows:

Lack of know-how on sustainable high natural value farming.  
Forest illegal timber cutting due to high unemployment and inappropriate use of natural resources
Lack of management policies for farmers living within protected areas.
Lack of funding for  monitoring the status of natural habitats.

View from Kukes biodiversity View from Kukes biodiversity

Opportunities and certain comparative advantages for Kukes are in the rise, especially as a result of recent geopolitical changes in the larger cross-border region and the ease of border crossing between Albania and Kosovo. Kukes region has become a major entry point, especially through Kukes town, of Kosovo people to Albania and to a lesser extent of FYROM citizens as well. This has triggered other development opportunities for Kukes region as distances have become much smaller and business and people mobility much easier and cheaper. Kukes will have to grasp this opportunity and use it to its benefit by developing local capacities and know-how for putting successfully the region’s resources in a competitive market and promote cross border cooperation initiatives. 

The most prominent activity in the Kukes region is the organization of a fair festival to promote traditional values of animal products produced in the area as well as their high gastronomic values. Thousands of visitors from Albania, Kosova and FYROM attend.

View from the meeting organized in the fairs View from the meeting organized in the fairs
View from the project dissemination in the other regions View from the project dissemination in the other regions