Truffles are the most valuable non-timber forest product (NTFP) in Croatia’s River Mirna Basin Model Forest, providing a living income for approximately 1000 families in the area. Their complicated and unpredictable reproduction and their highly prized taste makes them a sought after ingredient for experienced chefs the world over. Collecting truffles requires training and experience. They are usually found in close association to the roots of trees and a well-trained dog with a pronounced sense of smell is key in harvesting them.
Historically, NTFPs have been gathered with little or no attempt at deliberate management. In the River Mirna Basin Model Forest, the exploitation of truffles is no exception. The increasing number of illegal truffle hunters, inadequate legislation and unsustainable collection practices has led to the devastation of this precious mushroom. Truffles are clearly the most valuable NTFP in the region, supporting a multi-million dollar industry in Istria. The Model Forest has developed a Sustainable Truffle Strategy that will enable the continued growth of truffles in this region while protecting its habitat and raising its commercial value.
The Strategy outlines the following goals:
NTFPs are an attractive resource in many Model Forests as they can contribute to the sustainable development of an area and provide an often needed alternative source of employment in forest-dependent communities. The Sustainable Truffle Strategy will challenge decision makers to adjust the legislation in favour of sustainable rural development. Ana Fornažar, General Manager of the River Mirna Basin Model Forest, explains:
Right now, truffle hunting is only legal from September to January. That’s great for harvesting the white truffle, but under current regulation, it is illegal to harvest the black (summer) truffle. Such legislation has a negative impact on the rural economy and moves the truffle harvest, and subsequently, the market, into an illegal zone.
By joining forces with experts, local communities and regional policy makers interested in the protection and use of NTFPs, the Model Forest will encourage the adoption of new decisions, regulations and projects, all based on recent practices and analysis of existing problems.
The River Mirna Basin Model Forest developed the Sustainable Truffle Strategy in partnership with the Istrian Region and the Croatian Forest Research Institute within the framework of MEDLAND 2020 – a project funded by the European Union to design a common integrated land management scheme.
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