High Nature Value Farming in Besaparski Hills (Natura 2000) (Bulgaria)


Besaparski Hills – a High Nature Value (HNV) is a territory located in the South Central planning region administratively divided between two districts (NUTS 3 level) - Pazardjik and Plovdiv. It is a Natura 2000 site designated as Specially Protected Area under the Birds Directive as half of it is Site of Community Interest under the Habitats Directive. The overall objective of its study is to identify and explore the implementation of various traditional agricultural practices (extensive grazing, low livestock density, no chemical inputs, late mowing etc.) towards nature protection and biodiversity conservation. The Besaparski Hills lay in the second by density of the population region in Bulgaria. The human activities are intensive and influence the biodiversity in the region. Threats identified before the start of the initiative that affect the quality of habitats are: enlargement of the vineyard, the use of pesticides in agriculture lands, after harvest burning of arable agriculture lands, uncontrolled deposit of waste, mining industry etc.
In 2007 Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds initiated a project to conserve grasslands, by encouraging farmers to adopt land management practices sympathetic to the needs of biodiversity and to ensure that the natural asset was recognized in the formulation of Bulgaria‘s agricultural policies. Later, in 2011, the Measure 213 “Agro-environmental payments” (part of the national RDP, specifically Axis 2 “Improving the environment and the countryside”) was implemented. The measure was directed to protect lands under Natura 2000 providing for compensatory payments to farmers whose lands fall within protected areas under Natura 2000, including protected areas for bird protection. The aim is to encourage the introduction of environmentally friendly agricultural practices in HNV areas.
The implementation of HNV farming practices in the region of Besaparski hills has lead to important technological, institutional and structural changes (facilitating the conversion of conventional to organic farming, stimulaing the diversification of agricultural activities, changing values and norms, policies and institutional arrangements). HNV farming enrolls actors at different levels who interrelate, interact and collaborate with one another. A special focus of the study is the involvement of the young farmers in the initiative. The research addresses complexity of HNV farming as an environmental solution with a broader impact on the economic and social sustainability of agriculture and rural development at regional level.


Image: Some of the produce grown from the Besaparski Hills