Important legal notice
AGRILIFE- Agriculture and life sciences in the economy
SUSTAG - Sustainable Agriculture
Facilitating an Area-Based Development (ABD) approach in rural regions in the Western Balkans


The project is financed by the European Commission, Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) and the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) of the Joint Research Centre (JRC).


Aim: to develop a local development strategy in a rural cross-border pilot area together with local and national actors

Methodology: The project uses the area-based development (ABD) approach. This approach seeks to address a specific and complex development situation, particular to the area and setting it apart from other areas in the region. The location of the target area along relatively recently established borders that isolate the area somewhat from the current centres calls in particular for using such an approach. Following this method, sectors, groups, and administrative areas that have the highest potential of being affected by an intervention addressing the area-specific development situation, must be first identified. Within the range of possible interventions, development of the rural economy and possibilities of applying rural development-like measures will receive particular consideration.


Scope: This work should be perceived as a start of the area-based development process, which may take years to be implemented and produce tangible progress on the ground. However, it should not be limited to bare drafting of the ABD programme and handing it over to the local or national authorities. The ABD programme should be prepared within the framework of existing country programmes and linked with other initiatives that specifically support relevant policy and institutional reform processes at all levels. In addition, the JRC-IPTS and DG AGRI will disseminate the work and raise the awareness of potential donors with a view to finance individual actions, an important element of this project.

Implementers: The Agriculture and Life Sciences in the Economy Unit of the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Prospective Technological Studies , European Commission, with the assistance of the School on Local Development, University of Trento, Italy.

Project Steering Group: The steering group (SG) comprises officials from services of DG AGRI, DG ELARG and the JRC-IPTS. It meets at regular intervals in the course of the project and provides a forum where the management and contents of the project, among others the draft deliverables submitted, can be commented, clarified and discussed by all parties.


Project Advisory Board: The advisory board (AB) comprises representatives of the relevant international organisations, having experience in the field of area-based development. SWG-RRD, FAO, OECD, the World Bank and UNDP are represented. The AB advises the steering group on the contents of the project, and in this respect, gives feed-back on the draft deliverables.


Background & Objectives

Viable full- or part-time alternative income opportunities are needed in rural cross-border zones of the Western Balkans in order to prevent future generations being trapped in poverty because they cannot find alternative employment. Alternative income opportunities are also needed to prevent increases in inequality as modernisation of the agri-food sector sees land, machinery, and processing facilities concentrated among larger commercial farmers.

Under these circumstances, it is clear that adopting a sector-specific or target-group-specific approach may not be sufficient to address the situation. A more comprehensive and holistic approach that seeks to address the root causes of the problems in the area and helps countries to prepare for EU accession, is required. The ABD approach, under which an area, rather than a sector or a target group, is the main entry point, has potential in this respect. ABD programmes intervene in multiple sectors and try to mobilise as many stakeholders as possible. Through stakeholder participation, those sectors and groups where intervention is most likely to contribute to addressing the area-specific development problem are prioritised. This intervention must take place both at local and national levels. Within the area, all actors and factors need to be analysed and mobilised in order to achieve the desired outcomes. A comprehensive regional development strategy and implementation plan is usually the outcome of applying the ABD approach.

A number of international organisations have attempted to apply this approach in the Western Balkan countries. However, so far the efforts have been largely uncoordinated and limited to particular elements of economic development, rarely focusing directly and comprehensively on rural development, and even less so on implementation in a cross-border setting.

The project will thus focus on a selected rural and cross-border zone where application of the area-based development approach is seen as feasible. The overall objective of the project is to assess the development situation and needs, and propose the most appropriate interventions, through a participatory approach involving local and national actors. The end product should be a comprehensive development strategy and implementation plan with a list of detailed activities for the target area selected. Given the rural character of the target area, the ABD programme design will focus on the rural economy. However, links that are essential for the dynamics of this economy should not be overlooked within the holistic framework of the ABD approach.

The specific objectives of the project are:

  • to summarise briefly the main theoretical basis and practical experiences with the area-based development approach and select the target area

  • to carry out a baseline assessment of the development situation in the target area and identify the needs in order to facilitate rural development

  • to prepare an area-based development programme, containing a strategy and an action plan (identifying activities, actors, implementation and monitoring mechanisms) for the target area

  • to disseminate the strategy and the action plan, in particular through an international workshop with potential donors (international financial institutions and others), raise their awareness and, where possible, seek their commitment to participate in the implementation

  • based on the experience in the pilot target area, to develop a methodology on preparing similar ABD programmes for further use in other rural areas of the Western Balkans, where ABD intervention may be appropriate.


Selected Pilot Area


Bajina Bašta, Užice, Priboj, Čajetina, Prijepolje, Ljubovja (Serbia)

Pljevlja, Bijelo Polje (Montenegro)

Višegrad, Srebrebnica, Milici, Bratunac, Rudo, Goražde (Bosnia and Herzegovina)




Final Report, Annex AB, Annex CDEFGHI



Donor Conference – Belgrade, Thursday 5 May 2011

Presentations & Keynote address - Background literature - List of Participants

Short minutes - Speeches & Remarks

Conferences where the project has been presented:

* APF Agricultural Policy Forum

* 19th SWG-RRD Meeting. Bansko (Bulgaria) December 2010

* East Agri Annual Meeting.  Istanbul (Turkey) October 2010

* 10th SWG-RRD Meeting in SEE countries. Biograd na Moru (Croatia),  September 2010

ABD SEMINAR September 2010 – Brussels (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


Websites of Interest







OECD – LEED,3343,en_2649_34417_18647829_1_1_1_1,00.html


FAO Subregional Office for Central and Eastern Europe:

FAO Investment Centre:


UNDP Europe & CIS

World Bank

Fabien Santini, Silvia Saravia Matus, Sergio Gomez y Paloma
Joint Research Centre