- Fieldwork - Sonnentor LTD and Agroproduk LTD
Using the business plan created in part 2, the students will visit either Sonnentor LTD or Agroproduk LTD (or any other Medicinal and Aromatic Plant company) to meet with farmers (stakeholders). They will observe the methods of cultivation in practice, and interview the farmers as to why they have chosen methods of cultivation that are not eco-friendly or sustainable. In their groups from part 2, students will then present their business plans and ideas to the farmers, and the discussion method will be used to discuss the real life challenges faced by the farmers and the limitations of the business plans recommended by the students.
Activities of harvesting, cultivation, processing and trade of medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) are major agro–forestry businesses, with huge potential for the sustainable development of rural areas of Albania. Organic farming seems to be one of the promising sub-sectors with huge potential for both farmers and processors.
Albania is one of the richest and highest quality sources of many botanicals, making it an already known source of supply – 15% of its 3250 species medicinal, aromatic, spice and tannin are of significant value. The MAP industry contributes to 18% of agriculture exports. Besides being a major revenue source for the economy reaching ~20 Million EUR/year in 2013, this sector plays an important socio–economic role, contributing up to 35% of household income, because it is estimated that about 80.000 people, especially from disadvantaged mountainous areas, are involved as harvesters or farmers. Recognizing the role and potential of this sub–sector, the Inter–Sectorial Strategy for Agricultural and Rural Development considers the MAP industry as a very important sector for rural diversification and is among the priority sectors to be supported through various instruments.
Most of the MAP businesses are made by wild products. However, there is increasing labour costs in collecting wild-grown MAPs due to overexploitation of natural resources in some areas and depopulation in some other areas, increasing procurement cost, competition between wholesalers and difficulty to match the market potential only with wild products are increasing the interest of the operators for cultivating some MAPs, especially herbs. Other factors, especially the high profitability and support by government subsidy schemes have drastically increased cultivation in recent years offering a considerable source of income for thousands of households. The cultivation surface has increased from 1877 ha in 2001 to 5000 ha in 2013 out of which 4000 ha are planted with sage and the rest with other plants such as lavender, thyme, and other plants.
There is potential for market expansion for many wild-grown MAPs but most importantly (for farmers) for many cultivated MAPs. However, this requires upgrading of cultivation, harvesting and post-harvesting technology. Organic farming seems to be one of the promising sub-sectors with huge potential for both farmers and processors.
Based on the need for resources on organic herb growing and good agricultural practices in harvesting of medicinal plants, this component aims at preparing such resources which are useful for students, farmers and operators. These teaching methods include Brainstorming, Problem Based Learning, Discussion and will be combined with case studies and field trips to two companies, Sonnentor LTD in Albania and Agroproduk LTD in Kosovo.