Double interview: the view of local collaborators
Capacity building is one of the main tasks of IUCN’s “Institutional support for Protected Areas in Albania” project. International experts work closely on the ground with local partners, who are a valuable source of information and knowledge on the local context, to develop the capacity building activities. Through the project, local trainees are “learning by doing” while working on data collection and management plans creation. The local collaborators, Mr. Bajram Kullolli, Forest District Service specialist, member of the Plant Ecology Unit and Alsida Myrtaj, NGO “For a Healthier Albania” involved in the work of Socio-Economic Development Unit share their experiences.
- How are you engaged with the IUCN project?
Mr. Kullolli: I have been involved in various activities since the beginning of the project. I have participated in three “Local Participatory Workshops”, where I have learned methods of system analysis and group work techniques. In addition, I have undertaken training on the “Integrated Spatial Planning” software, which will be used to store the gathered data and for the monitoring process of the National Park Management, and I have also been trained on the use of GPS and GIS software. Moreover, I have been involved in the process of secondary data collection, which consisted in collecting and organizing data existing in different local institutions. The most interesting process has been the collection of primary data; for this, my team has spent many days in the field. During this process we have learned: methods for grass and woody vegetation sampling, how to define species, how to store vegetation samples and prepare herbariums, and techniques of habitat monitoring.
- What are the benefits of being a local collaborator?
Mr. Kullolli: First of all, I am very glad to be involved in the process of “Designing the Management Plan for the National Park of Shebenik-Jabllanicë”, since I had given my modest contribution to the preparation of documents for Shebenik-Jabllanicë area National Park proclamation. I also appreciate the technical knowledge which I can acquire from this project on computer software such as GIS, methods and techniques on vegetation sampling, and data storing and management. And finally, I like to learn new skills by working in a group.
Mrs. Myrtaj: What I like about my participation in this work are the new skills which I am learning by working with very experienced international experts. After more than a year working in the project, I feel that I have acquired new knowledge on socio-economic data collection methods and tools. I also appreciate very much the social and professional network which I have been able to create thanks to my involvement in the project. I believe that the experience obtained in this project will help me in my career pathway.
- Which challenges do you face during training?
Mr.Kullolli: It is true that we encounter certain difficulties. At times, time is lacking and I wish I had more time to dedicate to this project. Also, as my generation is not the one that used computers in the past, I do face some difficulties in learning new software and and the lack of foreign languages skills is a barrier for me. However, thanks to the very professional, friendly and warm help provided by our international experts and my strong motivation, it has been easier to overcome these challenges and achieve objectives.
Mrs. Myrtaj: Untill now I have not been facing any particular difficulty. Everything has flowed successfully, and there has been a very nice collaboration atmosphere among group members. I do believe such atmosphere will continue in the future.
- Once the training is completed, do you think you will be able to apply your new knowledge independently?
Mr. Kullolli: I feel like it is still early for me to give a confident answer to this question. In general I think that we need more training and working practice to obtain the required level of skills to carry out the processes without the help of experts. However, implementing the activities does not only depend on my technical skills, but also from other factors, like infrastructure, technical tools and office equipment. As a general conclusion, I think that it would be really great if our collaboration with national sector experts continues once the project ends.
Prepared by Mirjan TOPI, PPNEA