Kupres Conference 2019: Staffing and demining are key challenges in the forestry value chain of the Balkans
The Fourth Conference on Forests and the Forest Value Chain was organised by ŠGD Hercegbosanskešume d.o.o. and the Croatian Wood Cluster on 4-5 April 2019 in Kupres, Bosnia i Herzegovina (BiH). As in previous years, EUSTAFOR’s Executive Dierector represented our association at the conference and presented current policy developments in the EU relevant to forests and the entire forest-based sector. This year, challenges related to a deficit in staff and a skilled workforce as well as the recovery of forest land from landmines were the main highlights of the conference in Kupres.Even though 55% of BiH’s territory is covered with forests, and both forestry and wood processing take a important place in the national economy of BiH by providing significant employment opportunities to the local population, the wood sector is still underdeveloped and does not fully benefit from the availability of raw materials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighboring countries. The sector has been strongly hit by a serious shortage of qualified workforce which is due to emigration, both from BiH and from the entire region.
While explaining the main challenges for the sector, Mr Branko Ivković, CEO of ŠGD Hercegbosanske šume d.o.o. Kupres, a member of EUSTAFOR and a coorganizer of this conference, underlined the unique opportunity the annual Kupres conference provides to various stakeholders to exchange experiences, ideas and develop new projects. Kupres summits do indeed bring attention to relevant topics, from forestry and rural development to biomass and the role of the bioeconomy. Further topics include demining and branding, while special emphasis is placed on sectoral education, which is the basis for progress in forestry and the wood industry in the region of Southeast Europe.
Bosnia and Herzegovina should not only be known as a producer and exporter of raw materials, but should also be known as a place of production of top-end products by forest-based industries. Wood industry and forestry must achieve a better perception with the public. For this, clusters (organized efforts) can play a key role. The forestry profession needs greater openness towards new technologies, because modern raw material extraction machines and geographic information systems can greatly simplify business processes, reduce the demand for labor and improve planning. However there also significant impediments for the development of the sector. Some 33,000 ha of mine-contaminated land are a serious ecological, social and financial problem for the local community. Speaking about the perception of the European public, the Executive Director of the European State Forest Association, Piotr Borkowski, stressed that the average citizen is not aware at all of the scale and seriousness of the problem. Mr. Borkowski emphasized that EUSTAFOR will undertake lobbying activities towards EU institutions in order to get the topic of demining into EU regulations. This should open the possibilities for co-financing from funds, especially in the new financial perspective.
An important topic concerned forests and environmental protection. Climate change affects the quality of life and the quality of forests, which today are a home for biodiversity. The adaptation of forests to changing climatic conditions is indispensable. So far BiH has invested over 80 mil. EUR of its own funds in environmental protection. It remains crucial to educate the local community about the benefits of environmental protection and forest protection.
The conference was jointly organized by the ŠGD Hercegbosanske Sume and the Croatian Wood Cluster, and supported by EUSTAFOR and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Federation of BiH. Also, sponsors from URBAS, GRUBE, KBE Bioenergie, Polytechnik, STIHL, PALFINGER iGauss and partners gave an important contribution to this year’s conference, which brought together over 200 participants from forestry and the entire wood value chain.