Waste Not, Want Not

Managing Waste for Better Business in Prespa

Natural beauty and rich ecological diversity combine to make the Prespa Lakes basin one of the most environmentally valuable regions in the country. Home to an abundance of rare endemic species, many of them endangered, the ecosystem of the region surrounding the ancient freshwater lakes has faced many challenges over the years, but none more threatening than the impact of human activity—primarily in the form of harmful practices in the local agricultural sector.

UNDP is strongly committed to supporting all efforts to promote environmental protection and sustainable development in this beautiful and vulnerable area in cooperation with local farmers and other stakeholders and authorities in the three countries whose territories share the Prespa lake region.


Major projects implemented by UNDP in the Prespa region over recent years—with the strong support and financial backing of its main donor, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), —include the development of an integrated ecosystem Watershed Management Plan identifying the pressures exerted on the water bodies by intensive farming and pollution from the region’s major conurbation, the town of Resen, and recommending numerous measures to help monitor and mitigate pollution in line with the EU’s Water Directive.

The long-term success of these efforts to conserve and develop the region, particularly to increase its tourist potential, depend on changing local farming practices. Agriculture has a highly significant role in the challenged local economy and employs some 60 per cent of the population. Lack of environmental awareness and over-use of fertilizers by farmers to boost production in the short term have an especially detrimental effect on the vulnerable ecosystem, and this has been greatly exacerbated by the lack of suitable systems in place for responsible waste management. 

Apple cultivation is the main form of farming in the region, with annual production amounting to as much as 110,000 tons. Strong fluctuations in the market demand for apples, however, mean that huge numbers of these apples are regularly discarded. 

This waste is neither treated nor recycled but simply dumped directly into the Golema Reka River and along the shores of the lakes, posing a serious threat to the environment.

UNDP, in partnership with the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency which provides the funding, has recently taken the initiative to tackle this problem head-on through a project for Biodegradable Waste Management in Prespa [pdf]. This project addresses both the need for greater public awareness and the need for the establishment of an efficient system to deal with biodegradable waste without harming the environment or the livelihoods of local farmers.

“Convincing people to deal with this massive waste more responsibly is a lot easier when we can show them the savings they’ll make from treating and recycling the apples,” explains Dimitrija Sekovski, UNDP’s Project Manager. “Recycling the waste will not only reduce the damage to the environment but turn the apples into compost and natural fertilizer. And the knock-on effect is that farmers will stop using such harmful chemicals to boost their production.”

Construction has already begun of a central composting plant in the region and several stations for collecting biodegradable waste.

We used to think that the cheapest way of dealing with the apples we couldn’t sell was just to throw them away and let them rot,” says local farmer Frosina Georgievska, “But now we can’t wait to have the waste system in place. Not only we will save money but we’ll also have a clearer conscience knowing we aren’t damaging the beautiful nature.”


Once the waste management systems are in place in the town of Resen and the village of Jankovec they will serve as the foundation for implementing a comprehensive management solution throughout the entire Prespa region.


“We’re very much hoping that other regions with similar problems will follow the example here in Prespa,” adds Mihail Volkanovski, the Mayor of Resen. "Then we can truly say this project has benefited the environment throughout the whole country".