sustainable agriculture in Macedonia

Sustainable agriculture in Macedonia has generated major interest recently. The country’s varied and often rugged terrain means that farming can be rather unpredictable, but it also means that many farmers are eager to learn about new techniques and technologies that can make their lives easier and help to improve crop yields.

There are, of course, some obstacles to promoting sustainable agriculture in Macedonia, but they are comparatively few. The main issue is that pastureland is state-owned and tends to be in poor condition. The other major obstacle is that the vast majority of farms are relatively small, and so it is often difficult for farmers to attain economies of scale that can help them compete and save them money.

That being said, the United Nations Development Programme and other actors are taking many steps to promote sustainable agriculture in Macedonia. The high degree of international involvement has created what is essentially a multi-pronged approach.

The U.N. recently organized a series of training programs for farmers from Macedonia and other Eurasian countries to introduce them to more sustainable practices, such as selecting crops that are appropriate for the environment and relying less on wasteful irrigation practices. The training also included tips on how to save money and stay competitive in the global economy, even for very small farms.

Many of those present said that not only did they appreciate the advice they were being given, but also the chance to connect with farmers from other countries and share their experiences. Notably, some of the techniques that the farmers were trained in were actually developed by fellow attendees.

The farmers were also educated about grants and subsidies available to them if they are interested in implementing more sustainable practices. The availability of financial assistance will prove key to promoting sustainable agriculture in Macedonia, as the main obstacle for many of these farmers is the high cost of switching to some of these practices.

In addition to international actors, there are also many NGOs working to promote sustainable agriculture in Macedonia. Sustainable Agriculture for Sustainable Balkans is one such organization. Working together with the EU, it focuses primarily on collecting and distributing information that can help farmers make informed decisions about which techniques they might like to implement on their own farms.

CeProSARD is another key player promoting sustainable agriculture in Macedonia. Its mission is rural development, and in a country like Macedonia, that goes hand in hand with agriculture. In addition to funding research on best practices, CeProSARD also networks with farmers and other key stakeholders and advocates for meaningful change.

Macedonia is a good example of a country where external support can really help to promote change. The case of Macedonia demonstrates that key stakeholders are more often than not aware of an issue and want to rectify it, but may need guidance or support in order to do so. Supporting these actors is an easy way for the international community to bring about major improvements quickly and easily.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Economic Reforms in Macedonia Make Doing Business Easier

Unemployment remains high at about 23 percent in Macedonia, but the country maintains its macroeconomic stability. Since its 1991 independence, Macedonia has made progress in liberalizing its economy and improving its business environment. Economic reforms in Macedonia have focused on registering property, protecting minority investors and gaining credit access.

During the global financial crisis, Macedonia maintained its macroeconomic stability by practicing conservative monetary policy. Conservative monetary policy ensures that the domestic currency is pegged to the euro and that inflation remains at a low level.

Macedonia’s economic performance has been halted by internal political crises in the last two years. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), domestic private investments and public investments declined in 2016. The same year, public debt peaked at 50.5 percent of GDP before settling at 47.8 percent at the end of the year. Macedonia distributed a $495 million Eurobond to fulfill 2016 and part of 2017 budget requirements.

Doing Business, of the World Bank, evaluates economic reforms in Macedonia and their influence on the ease of doing business. According to the organization’s measures, Macedonia’s 2017 business reforms are as follows:

  • Getting Credit
    Credit access in Macedonia was strengthened by amending its laws to provide modern features for the collateral registry, to allow parties to grant nonpossessory security rights and to implement a functional secured transactions system.
  • Resolving Debt
    Macedonia made it easier to get out of debt by increasing creditors’ participation in insolvency proceedings and changing voting procedures for reorganization plans.
  • Protecting Minority Investors
    Macedonia reinforced minority investor protections by extending requirements for immediate disclosure of party transactions to the public, increasing access to corporate information during trial and expanding shareholder rights.
  • Enforcing Contracts
    Enforcing contracts has become more difficult with recent amendments to the Law on Civil Procedure that require mediation before a claim is filed. Required mediation lengthens the beginning phase of judicial proceedings.

Most of the past year’s economic reforms in Macedonia focused on registering property, getting credit and protecting minority investors. According to the World Bank, Macedonia ranks eleventh out of the region’s top ranked economies and has carried out 41 reforms, the second highest number among the top 20, over the past 15 years.

Macedonia is the only upper-middle-income economy that ranks within the top 20 economies in the overall ease of doing business. Thus, reforms in Macedonia have made it easier to do business, leading to better quality of life for citizens.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

women’s empowerment in MacedoniaSince Macedonia’s independence, equal opportunity for both men and women has been at the forefront of the government agenda. In 2013, the Macedonian Women’s Rights Center organized an event, “Woman Has the Power,” to address economic discrimination and violence against women, ultimately trying to boost women’s empowerment in Macedonia. The event criticized the current economic injustices and financial insecurities that women face.

These insecurities stem out of the traditional role that men play in the Macedonian society. Women still cannot inherit property, which hinders the ability to access bank loans for businesses and entrepreneurship advances. “Woman Has the Power” introduced participants to U.N. agencies and E.U. mission representatives. In the case of successful women, this event enabled them to reach out to other women to give guidance and help.

In 2011, successful actress and movie producer Labina Mitevska, through Women Unlimited Macedonia, advocated against drug addiction, violence, corruption and prostitution in regards to women. Women Unlimited Macedonia was a platform created with the help of The Art of Living Macedonia for women to network, to discuss and gain support and to practice yoga and meditation. These efforts in individual organizations fueled government involvement and initiatives.

Implementation to create equal rights for both men and women continued in the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s commitment to end discrimination and violence against women. The National Strategy for Prevention and Protection against Domestic Violence, adopted by the government, focuses on domestic violence and placement of women in the social and economic sphere of society.

The National Strategy’s aim is to strengthen the capacities for courts to handle cases regarding violence against women, establish services for victims of such crimes and educate parents and children on prevention. These efforts were signed into the National Strategy for Gender Equality 2013-2020, in accordance with Step It Up for Gender Equality. The movement did not stop there to enhance women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

The International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) works to promote women for candidacy for Parliament and local government positions. Fighting violence against women who attempt candidacy, both the IFES and the Club of Women promote the presence of women in the government. One of the significant success efforts of the Club of Women was a mandatory quota of no less than 30 percent of candidates be women running for Parliament and municipal councils.

Successes such as these provide hope for women in Macedonia. Progress is not perfect and women are still the less represented gender, but through organizations’ efforts, there is potential for improving women’s empowerment in Macedonia.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in MacedoniaMacedonia, officially called The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia by the U.N., has a population of 2.1 million. The life expectancy for men is 73 years and the life expectancy for women is 77 years. The “healthy life expectancy” in Macedonia, the number of years a person can expect to live in good health, is only 63 years. This significantly lower age is the result of common diseases in Macedonia.

The most common causes of death in Macedonia are circulatory diseases and cancer. Circulatory diseases, specifically cerebrovascular diseases and ischemic heart disease, are responsible for more than half the deaths in Macedonia, with a mortality rate of 57.2 percent. Cancer is the second most common cause of death, with a much lower mortality rate of 19.7 percent.

An important trend to notice regarding common diseases in Macedonia is that the deadliest diseases are noncommunicable. Injuries and communicable diseases also contribute to death rates, but not nearly as many deaths as noncommunicable diseases.

Public health officials in Macedonia have put emphasis on addressing circulatory diseases in Macedonia, as they have a high mortality and disability rate.

In 2007, the Ministry of Health in Macedonia adopted an extensive health strategy that outlined several plans for improving the healthcare system in Macedonia by 2020. Addressing noncommunicable diseases in Macedonia will require efforts on behalf of the government, non-governmental institutions, healthcare institutions and the citizens of Macedonia.

The strategy for reducing the morbidity, disability and premature mortality attributed to circulatory diseases will address primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention will include promoting healthy lifestyles that include regular exercise, proper nutrition and smoking reduction. Secondary prevention efforts include earlier detection for circulatory diseases. Tertiary prevention includes proper care and rehabilitation for patients facing these diseases.

On World Heart Day (September 29) 2013, Shaban Mehmeti, the Director of the Institute of Public Health of Macedonia, emphasized the importance of reducing the risk for cardiovascular diseases. Mehmeti pointed out that lifestyle changes can help prevent common risk factors for cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, being overweight and physical inactivity. Reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases will reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of life in Macedonia.

Macedonia’s cross-sectoral approach to addressing circulatory diseases along with the multiple levels of prevention will hopefully reduce the incidence of circulatory diseases and will also serve as a framework for addressing other common diseases in Macedonia.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in MacedoniaMacedonia – also known as the Republic of Macedonia – is located in the Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. Macedonia declared independence peacefully from Yugoslavia in 1991 and has a population of 2,100,025. The country has made process in improving its economy and business environment; however, corruption and weak rule of law are still problems in Macedonia. According to the CIA, some businesses in Macedonia have complained about unequal enforcement of the law. Here are 10 facts about the poverty rate in Macedonia:

  1. The unemployment rate in Macedonia was 23.1 percent in 2016, which had decreased from 24.6 percent in 2015. Macedonia was ranked 181 on the unemployment rate list comparing other countries around the world.
  2. According to the CIA, the unemployment rate may be overstated based on the existence of an extensive gray market, estimated to be between 20 percent and 45 percent of the GDP. This part of the data was not captured by official statistics.
  3. About 21.5 percent of Macedonia’s population is below the poverty line, which means more than 450,000 Macedonia citizens are suffering from poverty.
  4. About 9.1 percent of Macedonia citizens live on less than two dollars every day, and in the past 15 years, a total of 600,000 citizens have chosen to emigrate.
  5. The richest 10 percent of the population in Macedonia control 34.5 percent of the whole country’s wealth, while the poorest 10 percent of the population only control 2.2 percent of the whole nation’s wealth.
  6. Macedonia’s low tax rates and free economic zones help to attract foreign investment; however, foreign investment is still low relative to the rest of Europe.
  7. Macedonia’s GDP was $29.52 billion in 2016, which was ranked 131 on the GDP list compared to other countries around the world. However, according to the CIA, Macedonia has a large informal sector that may not be reflected in the data.
  8. Macedonia’s economy has been affected by its internal political crisis. Macedonia’s GDP growth was 2.4 percent in 2016, while it was 3.8 percent in 2015 and 3.6 percent in 2014. In addition, both private and public investments have declined in the past year.
  9. The inflation rate was negative 0.2 percent in 2016, which was ranked 28 on the list compared to other countries around the world.
  10. In 2016, Macedonia issued a Eurobond worth about $495 million to finance budget needs of 2016 and part of 2017.

Macedonia has been making progress to create a better business environment. However, due to internal conflicts such as corruption and political problems, Macedonia has consistently missed its fiscal targets in the past few years. As a result, the poverty rate in Macedonia is still high. Reducing the unemployment rate and increasing foreign investment are the two major things that Macedonia needs to focus on in order to reduce the poverty rate in the coming years.

Mike Liu

Photo: Flickr

Given its position among continental Europe’s poorest countries, it is unsurprising that poverty in Macedonia remains a persistent, pervasive issue. In a July 10 meeting, seven Central European member states called on the E.U. to accelerate the accession process of Balkan countries to the body, citing security concerns. The prospect of E.U. membership has been a main driver of reform in the region since the end of the Balkan wars, with Serbia and Montenegro currently in accession talks and Albania and Macedonia recognized as candidate countries. As the western Balkans look toward European Union membership, Macedonia must further pursue measures to eliminate poverty within its borders by addressing the following causes:

Despite significant economic growth over the past ten years, the rate of unemployment in Macedonia remains high, sitting between 25 and 31 percent until it fell to 23.7 percent in 2016. Though employment is growing, labor force participation has declined, and those who are unemployed remain that way for extended periods of time. Of the unemployed population, 81 percent of people have been so for the long term. In addition, labor force participation is declining, particularly among the younger population. The World Bank reports that this decrease has been occurring gradually since 2012.

Rising real wages, growth in unskilled labor markets and increasing relevance of education programs had a notable impact on decreasing poverty in 2016. Poverty in Macedonia has declined from 34.3 percent in 2013 to 30.7 percent at the end of last year. As the 2016 programs continue to grow, the rate is expected to continue to fall.

Government corruption 
While corruption is an internationally recognized vulnerability of the countries in the western Balkans, citizens of Macedonia have placed it among the most important issues facing their country, ranking it just below unemployment and poverty. Exposure varies significantly across regions, but, on average, 10.8 percent of Macedonians aged 18 to 64 have been directly involved in corruption or exposed through a member of their household. Such high prevalence is concerning, but what is more important is that nearly a third of bribes are offered by citizens without solicitation from public officials. Bribes requested by officials, directly or indirectly, account for about 50 percent of all those paid.

The fact that citizens are willingly devoting what is often a significant portion of their resources to corruption indicates a fundamental lack of faith in the government’s operating ability. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that 50 percent of citizens who participate in bribery intend to hasten procedure, 12 percent do so to ensure an outcome, 11 percent pay to receive preferential treatment and 12 percent pay bribes that lack a specific purpose. Improving the functions of Macedonia’s institutions will ultimately work to eliminate corruption, as the population begins to trust their bureaucratic services. However, corruption within the government remains a pervasive issue and must be addressed before such reforms can occur.

Political tensions
Macedonia has faced a tumultuous quarter-century since the breakup of Yugoslavia, leaving the state prone to internal political conflict which has led to instability and poverty in Macedonia. Macedonia’s democracy lacks healthy political-party competition, which has forced its government to often act as a clientelistic service rather than a presiding body. There has also been a resurgence of nationalism in Macedonia, prompting many international media outlets to declare a new ethnic crisis in the spring of 2017. While this so-called crisis ultimately culminated in unrest similar to many other periods in Macedonia, tensions along ethnic lines persist and are regularly exploited by the international community.

Macedonia’s ongoing efforts to bolster its labor force through developing opportunities for job-relevant education demonstrate that the state has recognized the importance of cultivating its human capital as a method for raising its international status as a trade partner and regional player. As the future of Europe moves toward the center of the world stage, the transparency of the Macedonian government and the country’s internal tensions will be under ever-increasing scrutiny, which will likely push Macedonia to seek improvement in both of these areas. While there is still progress to be made toward eliminating poverty in Macedonia, it is clear that the state has recognized the areas where it can improve, and, as pressures to join the E.U. continue to mount, Macedonia will only have further incentive to work toward this goal.

Alena Zafonte

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in Macedonia
A landlocked nation of mountains, lakes and historic buildings, the Republic of Macedonia is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Macedonia has the distinction of being among the few countries in the world of meeting the water access and sanitation needs for 100 percent of the urban population. In other words, everyone in its urban areas is provided with safe drinking water.

Water is used for electric power, agriculture, industrial and municipal purposes. There is no inexpensive substitute for this precious resource, so measures increasing water efficiency and reducing waste are desperately needed with the looming effects of climate change. According to the Green Growth study, by 2050, all water basins in Macedonia will see a decline in mean annual runoff despite having an increased water supply through 2020.

Increased temperatures mean greater evaporation of water from lakes and reservoirs, thus less water is available for general or industrial use. A World Bank study found that Macedonian crops are adapting to increased temperatures by demanding water a month earlier than they normally do. Additionally, water used for cooling purposes in the thermoelectric sector is greatly stressed, reducing its availability. By 2050, hydroelectric production is slated to sharply decline from about its current production levels of 1,500 gigawatt-hours to 1,100 gigawatt-hours.

Consistent with the international standards, Macedonia conducts tests on its waters for the presence of physical, chemical, biological and even radiological elements. Eighty percent of Macedonians have access to wastewater, yet only 10% of the sewage is treated with the rest being discharged into the three lakes and four river basins in the country. In these situations, water quality in Macedonia could use further improvements.

In 2014, the Woman Engage for a Common Future (WECF) Project devised Water and Sanitation Safety Plans to “encourage the population to promote local action for the improvement of water supply and sanitation systems.” This plan is to be done by engaging local residents, government officials, teachers, students, and the young of the rural populations of both Macedonia and Romania.

Problems remain, however. While 99% of Macedonian households have a central water supply system, an inadequate water infrastructure with aging water pipes has deteriorated the condition of the water supply system. This has had a disproportionate impact on both rural and urban areas: according to the U.N. Human Settlements Programme, 23% of residents do not have access to good water quality in Macedonia.

Of the water emerging from karst aquifers, 80% is inundated by rainfall runoff and surface water. In rural areas, additionally, usage of pit latrines is common and access to safe water sanitation is difficult if not unavailable.

In the past, the most frequent water-borne diseases found in the water supply facilities were diarrhea, intestinal typhus and paratiphuses, and infective hepatitis A. Water-related diseases with infective elements, such as leptospirosis and malaria, have also been found in epidemic, endemic and hyperendemic forms.

To efficiently preserve its water resources and promote its sustainable and safe use, Macedonia needs to invest in its current irrigation infrastructure, incorporate farmer training to minimize water losses, and find ways to prevent, detect and repair water system leaks.

Increasing water demands require greater public awareness of the limited resources and the state of water quality in Macedonia. Together with growing environmental protection, the level of public concern is also increasing. Macedonia is already one of the few countries in the world with very high access to safe drinking water. The country needs to maintain its commitment to improving safe drinking water access for all of its population by 2020.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Google

Top Diseases in Macedonia

Macedonia is a tiny, landlocked country just to the north of Greece in southern Europe. With just over two million people, the country is larger than some of the surrounding areas like Kosovo. The top diseases in Macedonia mirror the entire rest of the world, yet the percentages of people afflicted have changed over the years.

The average annual mortality rate per 100,000 people is 743.3. This rate is down from years past. Life expectancy is 75 years old, higher than the average worldwide. Females live longer than males by about six years. Better yet, the average life expectancy has grown by about four or five years over the last 25 years.

The top diseases in Macedonia include common heart diseases capturing the top three spots. The entire top five has not changed in 25 years with each only varying slightly in the percentage that has changed. Spots four and five are still held by lung cancer and diabetes respectively. Alzheimer’s disease made the biggest jump on the list with a 37% change. COPD and cancers round out the top 10 list.

The major risk factors in Macedonia are high blood pressure, poor diet and tobacco use. The percentage of disease attributed to these risk factors and the others is 50.5%. That percentage needs to be dropped with more of an emphasis on care and services being provided to avoid losing these many people each year. More risk factors include cholesterol, pollution and alcohol and drug use. There are some that can be cut entirely to save people from that. Pollution is a global issue that needs to be addressed in many countries around the world.

Macedonia has come a long way with the life expectancy rising and many of the diseases dropping in frequency over the last 25 years. The top diseases in Macedonia list still hold a lot of what is already seen around the world. The country still has much it can improve upon, especially heart disease.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Macedonia
Tucked between Greece and the rest of Eastern Europe, Macedonia sees the majority of migrant foot traffic. Controversy and conflict with Greece have plagued Macedonia for generations. This well-known history between the two countries has continually contributed to the refugee crisis. These 10 facts about refugees in Macedonia show that the country is one of the largest players in Europe in terms of refugee numbers and routes.

10 Facts About Refugees in Macedonia

  1. In 2016, the border between Greece and Macedonia was closed off, effectively closing the major Balkan route for many refugees.
  2. Macedonia is a country vulnerable to severe floods and landslides, exacerbating the problem of an increased population in a small country. The EU Humanitarian budget has consistently contributed funds to Macedonia for a combination of the increased number of refugees and also because of the high rates of natural disasters.
  3. With the closing of the border between Greece and Macedonia, the influx of refugees decreased from 815,000 refugees in 2015 to only 89,197 in 2016.
  4. The European Commission has allocated 4.4 million euros to the country of Macedonia since the start of the refugee crisis. This allowed refugees to have access to basic necessities such as food and clothing.
  5. A third of refugees in Macedonia are children. UNICEF has begun to set up child-friendly spaces where they are supplied with warm food and clothing.
  6. The 2016 closing of the Macedonia-Greece border left many migrants stranded in transit centers in Northern Macedonia, where living conditions were less than ideal. This changed the minds of many refugees, as traveling further North seemed impossible. Rather than continuing further into the EU, many migrants instead settled in Serbia or Hungary, in search of asylum.
  7. Greece has continually blocked Macedonian hopes of joining the EU. This conflict not only made the refugee crisis worse but contributed to the closing of the Greece-Macedonia border.
  8. The closure of the Greece-Macedonia border left around 13,000 refugees stranded at the border. To intensify the closing of the Greece-Macedonia border, Serbia closed its border with Macedonia the same year.
  9. The closure of many Balkan borders left thousands stranded. The Vinojug refugee center in Southern Macedonia has turned from a temporary transit center into a permanent home for hundreds of refugees. With the help of organizations such as UN Women, the once-temporary camp is turning into a home.
  10. Airbnb began a program designed for individuals all over the world to house refugees and migrants. Although the program is in the early stages, it has already been tested in Macedonia to house relief workers.

These facts about refugees in Macedonia showcase how the situation remains dire. Although the state of the refugee crisis in Macedonia seems to be looking up, there is still much to be done. With the number of refugees declining, there is hope for the future.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

Macedonia is a relatively small country north of Greece with a population of just over two million people. Since gaining its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia has striven to improve its economic and democratic stability. As international aid and Macedonia’s own efforts to end food insecurity are at an all-time high, hunger in Macedonia has decreased drastically.

In accordance with the last set of Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations, only between 1.3 percent and 2.1 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. A new set of goals strives to eradicate hunger completely by 2030.

Although this percentage seems small, Macedonia’s history and present state of political unrest have made it difficult to resolve issues of hunger entirely. According to a study completed this year, one-third of the country’s population remains in poverty. This rate is even higher for families with children, an issue explainable by the country’s unemployment rate, which is the highest in Europe. To tackle the looming issue of unemployment and its effect on hunger in Macedonia, the Ministry of Education and Science has worked to improve children’s access to and the quality of education.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has taken a firm stand behind this cause and worked during the past decade to institute programs that enrich student literacy and numerical competency, help disabled students and provide more opportunities for minority individuals. Furthermore, the Macedonian government is pushing its students to study abroad and also welcoming individuals from other countries to attend its universities.

Statistics at the end of 2016 indicate a strong response to this push for better education to eliminate unemployment and poverty in Macedonia. The country’s unemployment rate was reported to be 23.1 percent, compared to its high, in 2005, of 37.27 percent.

Programs put in place have already increased work readiness and lowered unemployment, which will cut off the cycle that has continued sustaining levels of hunger in Macedonia.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr