Environmentally Sustainable Socio-Economic Development of Rural Areas

The ESSEDRA project – co-funded by the European Union through DG Enlargement – is coordinated by Slow Food, with the aim of facilitating the integration process of the Balkan countries and Turkey into Europe.

The Balkans is one of Europe’s least-known regions, still suspended in a seemingly endless European Union integration process. For centuries a crossroads for people, cultures and religions; it is still home to unique gastronomic traditions. These traditions could serve as an economic, social and cultural driving force for many rural communities impoverished by decades of abandonment, migration and scarce development prospects.

And yet these traditions, still remarkably authentic, are at risk of disappearing; suffocated by the lethal embrace of a globalization that considers traditional knowledge to be an old-fashioned legacy from the past. In reality, safeguarding them would contribute significantly to the process of integrating the Balkans, including culturally, into the EU.

Slow Food plans to do this by strengthening and amplifying the voice of civil society organizations (CSOs) that are working locally on agriculture, rural development and food quality. Naturally, this will involve dealing with related issues such as the protection of the environment and the landscape, safeguarding biodiversity, the fight against climate change and, importantly, the well-being of local communities.

The project’s objectives will be pursued by working on three different but interconnected levels:

  • Activities to advocate the role of small-scale farmers in biodiversity protection; to strengthen the capacity of CSOs to provide analysis, strategic advocacy and monitoring of relevant policies related to the food system and rural development; and to increase participation of CSOs in the public debate on sustainable rural development in the Balkans and Turkey, and influence the policy and decision-making process.
  • Support for small-scale food producers, the promotion of concrete models to preserve biodiversity and field research on agricultural products at risk of extinction.
  • Constant communication towards the wider public, involving the organization of workshops and educational activities; campaigns on responsible consumption; and the launch of a European Citizens Initiative to promote local food consumption, raise awareness among Balkan and Turkish citizens of the influence of public policies on their daily lives, and inform communities on how to effectively influence policy formulation and implementation processes.

The ESSEDRA project is led by Slow Food in collaboration with nine CSOs from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the UK. The local organizations use their experience in public campaigns and organize their own local events.


Project type
  • IPA
  • Other
Country of the coordinating institution
Geographical focus
  • Western Balkans
Scientifc field / Thematic focus
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Cross-thematic/Interdisciplinary
January 2013 - November 2016

Entry created by Anna Sirocco on April 20, 2016
Modified on April 20, 2016