With much of Croatia’s population living in rural areas, the rural sector represents a substantial part of the national economy. Although agriculture is the mainstay of the rural economy, it is not necessarily the main source of family income: only 15 percent of rural households relies solely on farming for its livelihoods, as most farms are too small and their productivity too low to provide an adequate living.
There is widespread recognition that the rural economy is more than just agriculture. At the same time, there has been no agricultural strategy for rural development based on a broader framework for improving the livelihoods of rural people and achieving equitable and sustainable economic growth. In addition, a new Law on Agriculture (July 2001) assigned the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry a mandate for rural development. However, a wide range of initiatives continued to be implemented by other ministries and the international community. Many of these initiatives were poorly coordinated, geographically limited and driven by institutions with an urban bias. As rural development was becoming an important element of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), Croatia’s rural development policies and programmes also needed to be consistent with EU policy.
A well-conceived rural management strategy was required as a basis for the sustainable development of Croatia’s rural economy and the improvement of rural livelihoods. A TCP project helped prepare a mid-term Rural Development Strategy (until 2010) and was launched in 2002 with a budget of US$211,500. The project, which ended in 2003, organized a series of stakeholders workshops to create awareness of rural development issues. The workshops were held in regions representing the main agro-ecological areas. Through this participatory process, a strategy was formulated to help align Croatia’s rural development programme with comparable policies and institutions in the EU, as well as to serve as a stepping stone towards integration with the EU.
The strategy prepared by the project is serving as one of the most relevant base documents to prepare the National Rural Development Plan, which is the major programming instrument for the EU’s Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development.
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