Apples all round for teachers and students in Resen

03 May 2013

High-school students in the town of Resen will soon be taking part in a groundbreaking initiative to help promote environmentally responsible farming and preserve the region’s valuable biodiversity.

The school has just entered into close cooperation with an interesting new UNDP-backed project to develop a model apple orchard on land owned by the school. And the students in the school’s agricultural department will be getting plenty of hands-on experience and practical training as future agronomists once the orchard is up and running—for the school has agreed to provide the personnel and equipment needed for the maintenance of the demonstration orchard.

The project has been designed as part of UNDP’s broader commitment to supporting the vulnerable environment of the Prespa region. This commitment has resulted in numerous initiatives, including a comprehensive set of measures to improve the health of the waters of the Prespa Lake Basin through the recently launched Restoration of the Prespa Lake Ecosystem project.

This major undertaking aims at reducing the pressures on the Basin from agricultural practices, forestry, polluted rivers, wastewaters and solid waste. One of the key priorities of the project is thus to provide training and awareness-raising for farmers in environmentally sustainable agriculture and the model orchard being developed in Resen is one of the measures designed to meet this training need.

“By developing this orchard as a pilot project we are first and foremost supporting the spread of Good Agricultural Practices in the region,” says Dimitrija Sekovski, UNDP’s project manager, “More environmentally-friendly farming will mean less pesticides in agricultural runoff, less dumping of biodegradable waste, less erosion and more responsible use of water and other local resources. The orchard will not only demonstrate the advantages of good farming practices, it will also be supported further down the line with a small-grants programme to help farmers make the shift from unsustainable traditional farming practices.” 

Naume Toskovski, the Director of the Resen high school, believes the model orchard will have a major impact on local awareness of farming methods. “One of the most important things we’re going to do here is to showcase better farming practices. And the way we’re going to do that is highly relevant to our local farmers because we won’t just be telling but showing. By applying traditional methods alongside new methods, farmers will be able to come and see for themselves the benefits of adopting more ecologically sound practices. I’m very excited to be involved in this project and I think it’s a fantastic learning opportunity for our students.”

An important additional aim of the orchard project is to help preserve the agro-biodiversity of Prespa by re-introducing many varieties of fruit traditionally grown in the region but no longer in commercial production.

“People have been growing fruit in this region for over a century,” says high-school agronomy Sime Kukulovski, “In the past there were more than a 100 different varieties of apples and about 60 varieties of pears grown here. But now there are just ten commercial varieties produced. We need to make sure these old varieties of fruit are still in production or we might never be able to bring them back.”

“Reviving traditional fruits is crucial,” Marjan Kiprijanovski, a professor at the Faculty of Agriculture in Skopje “Without this intervention there is a risk of irreversibly losing the autochthonous varieties as genetic resources. And with this measure we will also be tackling the over-use of agrochemicals in the farming of certain new varieties of fruit introduced in recent decades.”

The students of the school fully share their Director’s enthusiasm for the project. “Having a model orchard here is going to be great for the school,” says 17-year-old Akan Feim “It will be a chance for us to see all the things we study being put into practice and making a real difference to the area.”   

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