In order to decrease human-bear conflict and ensure that small-scale pastoral and farming practices remain economically viable in mountainous areas, damage prevention measures linked to the brown bear were tested by environmental nongovernmental organizations (eNGOs) within the frame of LIFE Nature projects between 1994 and 2002. The high cost of electric fences, including solar panels necessary for their operation in remote areas, was covered by the LIFE projects. Feedback from their installation and operation revealed that almost the entirety of beekeepers who employed the measure were satisfied because it has proven effective (i.e., 94% of the group sampled). However, further spread of their use was not possible since state aid was not available.
To facilitate the long-term sustainability of this measure, Greek eNGOs initiated an extensive consultation and negotiation processes with national competent authorities, mainly the Ministry of Rural Development and Food so that financial support for the measure would be included in the Greek Rural Development Programme (RDP). Within their Rural Development Programmes, Member States or regions in European Union make available public funds additional to the system of direct payments to farmers. At least 30% of funding for each RDP must be dedicated to measures relevant for the environment and climate change.
The inclusion of damage prevention measures in the Greek RDP was the outcome of these initiatives. The stakeholders addressed through these prevention measures were beekeepers, farmers, and livestock breeders.
For the first time, a measure for electric fences for apiaries and sheepfolds was included in the National RDP of Greece in the programming period 2000-2006, which foresaw financial support for the purchase and installation of electric fences by local producers. A similar preventive measure was included in the next RDP programming period between 2007 and 2013.
• Financial support for the purchase and installation of electric fences by stock breeders and beekeepers;
• The application of the measure was promoted by the Greek Ministry of Agriculture and Food and it was backed-up by an awareness raising campaign by eNGOs, which was aiming especially farmers in areas within the brown bear distribution range, has included media work, printed material (e.g., leaflets, posters and technical guides), public events, workshops, and social media.
CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS
According to members of eNGOs, the existing compensation system should be linked to the use of damage prevention methods (i.e., local producers should be encouraged to use damage prevention methods, such as electric fences, in order to receive compensation for bear damage ).
According to staff of the Management Authority of the Greek RDP, future implementations of the measure should seek for a closer engagement of local governments and farmer associations and cooperatives and should also address the issue of permanent installation of electric fences vs. transhumance and beekeepers moving from one area to another, since currently only mobile fences were used
According to local producers, future implementations of the measure should address the big delay that was observed between approval of one’s application and payment (one year or even one and a half year). Some beekeepers were discouraged by the bureaucracy involved in filling their application for the measure and they resorted to the solution of buying an electric fence at their own financial cost. However, in this case they usually choose a less than optimal equipment for their fence, which may have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the fence.
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