Human rights, social integration, defense of ethnic minorities, professional training, employment, cooperation, equal opportunities, separate waste collection, environmental protection. All in one project. In Topoja, in the district of Fier, an initiative of international cooperation that speaks Pugliese is producing an unprecedented result for Albania.After 21 months of formation an association was formed composed of Roma and Albanians for the management of a collective service: the selected collection of metal, paper, plastic, glass. The proposal aims not only to become a pilot project to be exported to neighboring municipalities but an operational model to be applied to other areas of territorial development, such as tourism and agriculture. Based on a simple concept: integration goes from work.
In Bari it was presented "Development of human rights in Albania in favor of the Roma population, Fier District, professional training in the sector of solid urban waste disposal". In May of the 2010 a course began which formed a dozen young Roma people, already literate and experienced in collecting ferrous material. Two students were also selected to promote gender equality and two Albanians to encourage integration. Subsequently, a laboratory platform was set up for exercises in the town of Seman I where part of the Roma community is concentrated. The training phase was entrusted to composting experts from the Amiu of Bari, the company that deals with collection and disposal of waste in the Apulian capital, and to a professor of Agriculture at the University of Bari for the part relating to the technologies of production and use of compost from organic matrix, to hygiene and safety in the handling and processing of waste and compost production, to raise awareness of integrated waste management. The lessons ended with the establishment of an association capable of managing the separate collection service through the platform built on the outskirts of Topoja, providing an ad hoc statute in accordance with the Albanian legislation.
The project was proposed and implemented by Legacoop Puglia in collaboration with Amiu Bari, the Murialdo Social Center of the Giuseppini Fathers and the funds made available by the Puglia Region. This is how the Councilor for the Mediterranean, Silvia Godelli: “Puglia considers itself the 'sister' of Albania, from which we are barely separated by 80 km of sea, and this is a project that we hold dear. Even if it is a small project, its value and importance are very large. This initiative is part of a wider policy of intervention in support of human rights in defense of minorities and against all forms of discrimination which, among other things, saw the official adhesion of the Puglia Region in the 2010 to the Dosta campaign promoted by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to combat prejudices and stereotypes towards Roma and to promote integration policies through the knowledge of the historical, social and cultural reality of the Roma community ". The president of Legacoop Puglia, Carmelo Rollo, also speaks of “a very small project”: “Cooperation, by definition, does not allow for diversity and does not tolerate inequality but protects and spreads the value of democracy: with this project we have demonstrated it. Because 'there is no history alone', as our slogan says, in the 2012 that the UN has proclaimed the International Year of Cooperation ". A small project, considering that it involves a dozen people, but with ambitious goals.
Also for the Municipality of Topoja, which soon wants to become a point of territorial reference and that looks far ahead, to an inter-municipal coordination and connection office, and to similar cooperative and training projects in the agricultural, agri-food and tourism fields. The youngest Mayor of Albania, the 28enne Arben Voja, elected last May, speaks about it. In Bari he was accompanied by the two coordinators of the project, Vladimir Malo and Achille Sigliuzzo, by the project manager Xhevahir Ngeqari and by some Roma trainees. " "Albania News" has interviewed the mayor of a community that has 8.500 inhabitants and about 220 Rom. A small number only if it is not thought that there are many others all around: just 3 km from Topoja live other 3-400 Rom , in Levan there are 2mila without counting the thousands of families on the outskirts of Fier, just 13 km away.
It is the first initiative of its kind for Topoja, the first of international cooperation.
Yes, it is the first experience for this Municipality but it wants to be a pilot project for other neighboring municipalities and wants to create a network throughout the territory to develop the idea of cooperation. We hope it becomes a symbol.
Topoja is at 13 km from Fier, where in February Puglia started a counter to facilitate Italian investments in Albania. How important is cooperation?
Without cooperation, we cannot move forward.
How important was the integration of the Roma in this project?
Roma have always been marginalized. Work is a way to integrate them into society also because waste belongs to the whole community. Once again, cooperation proves to be a means of development, which gives work and dignity to workers.
The Roma community has many problems and one is to work. This project contributes to their integration. If they work, all other things follow. And this is possible thanks to the support you have given through this project.
The students say they are enthusiastic about the training received and the professionalized work. As is organized waste collection in Topoja?
Waste collection is a service of the Municipality. So far we have had a group to collect the garbage. Now, with this project, we have created a specialized group. Twelve people are more professionally qualified, have a clear idea of the organization. The project then led to the construction of a single platform for the collection of all waste in a single location on the outskirts of the Municipality. So far the waste was collected with tractors. Now it is hoped to equip the service with mechanical means.
This pilot project concerns waste. But that of environmental protection is only a first step.
Yes, the project creates a beginning. It's a small project but it means a lot. A first step to open other windows. Although it is very important, this is only a part of what can be done if we consider the objective of agriculture and tourism infrastructure, given that the 5m hectares, 4 km beach, three lagoons, 3 thousand hectares are available to the Municipality. of forest. There is so much to do in Albania, so much to improve: tourist facilities, ports, natural resources to be exploited. We hope for new projects, new collaborations.