Status of Digital Agriculture in Albania

Status of Digital Agriculture in Albania

Agriculture, workforce, ICT infrastructure

Basic agriculture indicators in Albania (World Bank WDI database)

Albania is an Eastern European country, and a candidate country waiting to start membership negotiations with the EU. Its population is relatively young and predominantly rural; nearly 40 per cent of people live in rural areas. Agriculture remains one of the most important sectors of the Albanian economy, contributing 18 per cent of GDP and some exports. However, production is mainly characterized by very small family farms oriented towards subsistence. The sector’s problems are mainly linked to rural exodus, the limited size of farms and ownership of agricultural land, marketing of agricultural products, irrigation and drainage, low levels of use of modern technologies, and weak organization of farmers. In recent years, considerable numbers of tractors and other agricultural machines have been imported. However, the level of technology used is basic, and farmers remain in sore need of modern machines/equipment for specialized processes.

In 2019, 69 per cent of the population aged 16 to74 was using the Internet; and more than half of the households (57 per cent) had broadband Internet access, with yearly increases of 10 to 15 per cent since 2017 (see Figure 2). However, fixed broadband penetration remains at very low levels compared with other countries in the region and within the EU. Furthermore, there is a huge gap of fixed-line penetration between urban and rural areas. Mobile penetration is higher than fixed, with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) covering over 85 per cent of the population. According to the World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey, the level of digital skills among the active population is 4.67 on a scale of 7. Albania ranks fifty-sixth for the Global Competitiveness Index indicator “Future orientation of government” (with a value of 3.87 on a scale of 7).

Strategy, policy, legislation

The Government of Albania has identified digital connectivity and broadband infrastructure as a key priority in strategic documents such as the National Strategy for Development and Integration, the Digital Agenda Strategy Economic Reform Programme 2019–2021 and the National Broadband Plan. The second strategic priority of the Digital Agenda 2020, “Policy for the development of electronic communications in all sectors (health, education, environment, agriculture, tourism, culture, energy, transport, etc.)”, outlines the main directions for developing advanced electronic communication infrastructure, together with fast and super-fast broadband.

The cross-cutting strategy, Digital Agenda of Albania (2015–2020), aims to increase efficiency in agriculture (among other sectors) through ICT systems. This entails modernizing production by using ICTs to facilitate compliance, bring the quality of products and services in line with EU directives, and increase exports of agricultural, food and mineral products. Under Strategic Priority 1 of the objective "Minimization of digital differences between regions and cities", the Digital Agenda also aims to establish concentrated or regional digital platforms serving agriculture and tourism.

Albania is moderately well prepared when it comes to the information society and audiovisual media. In the coming years, in order to monitor its progress towards EU compliance and its alignment with the Digital Agenda for the Western Balkans, the country needs to improve the collection of statistical data on digital performance and digital competitiveness.

According to the IPA2 revised Indicative Strategy Paper for Albania (2014–2020), well-functioning and dynamic digital agriculture-related information systems (i.e. continuously updated digital land, farm and animal registers) are to be achieved thanks to EU support.

Services, applications, knowledge sharing

The Government e-Gateway connects various government systems and enables them to share information, and the National Spatial Data Information Geoportal has been populated with data from several institutions. The Immovable Property Registration II system (called ALBSREP) is in production nationwide and has been integrated into the Government e-Gateway; it makes 51 services of the Immovable Property Registration Office available online. Orthophoto maps (2015–2016) have also been produced for the entire territory of Albania and made available free of charge to government and municipal authorities.

According to the European Commission Albania 2019 Report, there has been no progress related to the building of a system to identify land parcels, or LPIS. The Integrated Administration and Control System has yet to be fully implemented, but certain elements thereof – such as a farmer register and an animal register – have been developed. There is no Farm Accountancy Data Network in place, but preparatory work on setting one up has started, and most of the data sources needed for its implementation are available. Under the Economic Reform Programme 2019–2021, Albania will further strengthen the process of cadastral, land and property registration, including clarification of land ownership, with a special emphasis on defragmentation and consolidation of agricultural land. The LPIS will serve as an efficient instrument for implementing the policy for sustainable administration of agricultural land. According to the most recent Sector Review of Agriculture Statistics, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is still working on models of the Integrated Administration and Control System and the LPIS. It is going to register all farms and work with the Institute of Statistics to prepare a questionnaire and a methodology. It plans to update the list of farms applying for subsidies regularly, but the relevant system is still in the preparatory stages.

The register of vineyards and olive trees has been completed with the support of the EU-funded regional Community Assistance for Reconstruction Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) project. In 2010, an administrative livestock register was established. It consists of two registers: an individual register of animals and an animal holding register. It is managed by the veterinary service and covers all types of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, equine, poultry and bees). In Albania, the Annual Agriculture Survey covers land use, crop production, livestock number and animal production, supply balance sheets, agricultural labour input and expenditure statistics. Prices on inputs are collected in quarterly surveys.

Recently, the Agriculture and Rural Development Agency opened the network of "Agro Points" or “Farmer’s Windows” (AGROPIKA). This is a direct service delivery unit that answers to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and provides farmers with information for applications, access to finance, extension support and other services. In total, 20 Agro Points have been opened, reaching each territorial branch throughout the country. “Farmer’s Windows” provide all farmers and interested parties with information about applications for national support schemes and donors, access to finance and extension support. In 2019, the Agency issued a call for National Schemes applications, which are filed online at 20 Agro Points and 16 Regional Agricultural Extension Agencies through the e-Albania platform, providing farmers with quality, timely and cost-effective services. The FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia is to launch a new project component to assist the preparation of the national e-agriculture strategy vision for Albania in 2020, following the experience of previous activities in similar themes in the country, for example the virtual extension communication network, the farmer single window and the national e-agriculture review.