New Thracian Gold
The beautiful Eastern Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria are home to one of Europe’s most important biodiversity hotspots, where wilderness, unspoiled nature and numerous archeological sites can be enjoyed, and friendly locals are known for their hospitality and delicious cuisine. However, the area is also facing poverty and abandonement by the local inhabitants.To reduce poverty, conserve biodiversity and strive for new welfare, the Avalon and Ark Foundations recently started a project in this region.
Wilderness, organic farming and ecotourism
The three main pillars of this project are: restoring wilderness, promoting organic farming and creating ecotourism. The combination of these three components should result in an economic added value for the total region. Farmers are not only encouraged to convert their businesses to organic farming but also to add bed & breakfast facilities or eco shops to their farms.
More experienced bed & breakfast owners get support when they want to organize alternative tours for tourists or work with specialized (eco) guides. Local entrepreneurship and cooperation between the three components is highly encouraged because the production and selling of organic products and the alternative tourist branch can bring economic stability to the region.
To achieve these goals, a local team is operating within this project. The Bulgarian team members organize meetings, develop new business possibilities, publish various communication materials, etc. Their aim is to help local entrepreneurs with capacity building and improve their entrepreneurial skills. The team also stays in close contact with local and regional policy-makers to inform them about progress and create a positive attitude towards the project.
The three most important objectives are:
- restoring/preserving one of Europe’s largest naturally grazed nature areas, mainly by re-introducing native species of herds and teaching local people how they can help preserve this beautiful and unique landscape
- implementing organic farming, including setting up a demonstration farm and a production line of organic products and establishing contacts between suppliers and customers
- promoting sustainable tourism by developing communication means (map, guide, website) and helping local inhabitants find possibilities for creating more sustainable tourism.