Albania is considered a hotspot for illicit cannabis cultivation in Europe. Cultivation has declined in recent years but remains a problem. Particularly affected are remote areas: Smallholder farmers who lack opportunities and access to markets are more exposed to getting involved in illicit economies. Looking for a better income, they hope that cultivating illicit cannabis will lift them out of poverty. In order to tackle the root causes of illicit cultivation, the GPDPD, together with the Albanian government, is introducing a comprehensive approach to drug policy and development promotion.


Government officials are assisted in aligning drug policies and laws with human rights and development goals. Achieving Alternative Development requires not only a multidisciplinary approach, but also synergies between different actors in the field of development cooperation. For this reason, the GPDPD in Albania cooperates with other GIZ projects working in the field of rural development and organised crime, such as the GIZ Sustainable Rural Development Project in Albania and the Global Program on Combatting Illicit Financial Flows (GPIFF).


In areas affected by or at risk of illicit drug crop cultivation the GPDPD is implementing project measures in the field of Alternative Development. Jointly with its government partners in the country, the project has identified three main risk areas for cannabis cultivation in Shkodra, Dibra and Selenica. To increase licit incomes, farmers in these areas are supported in using available natural resources sustainably and obtaining fair market prices for their products. They are trained in agricultural techniques, methods and practice that will help them protect the forest and improve the quality of the products. Adding value locally is an important factor in increasing revenue, as there are more profits to be made from refined agricultural products than from raw materials. This range of activities can enable smallholders to farm not only legally but more profitably – and break the dependence from illicit economy.

Bees for Development 


As part of the Alternative Development programmes, sustainable beekeeping and the local production of honey are a promising measure to shift away from illicit cannabis cultivation in the mountainous region of Shkodra in northern Albania.  


The region is highly noted for its pristine nature, but limited road infrastructure impedes local development. Economic opportunities are very limited and relate mostly to agriculture. People living there have practiced beekeeping for centuries and the honey produced in this area is rich in nutrition and medical properties due to the rich flora.  


However, the local honey production faces many challenges. Therefore, the GPDPD, together with government partners, implements a project that helps local beekeepers to improve their practices, build capacities and increase their yield by improving the health of their bees. Healthier bees produce more honey and help the beekeepers to make a better living. It was estimated that these measures can directly increase the annual income of a beekeeper’s family by up to 2000€, a substantial amount when you are fighting for the survival of your family and trying to break the dependence on illicit incomes.

The mobile library initiative


​​In Albania, the fight against organised crime and corruption is a high priority. Therefore, the Albanian government has changed its legal framework to allow for the confiscation of criminal assets and their subsequent social reuse.


The GPDPD and GPIFF are supporting this European best practice in cooperation with two municipalities in the country: Confiscated cars that previously belonged to criminal actors are converted into mobile libraries and travel to remote areas where children can borrow the books.


Social re-use holds many opportunities - it has the potential to deter criminal activity and show the public that the fight against organised crime is a shared responsibility. With the help of the confiscated goods, new social institutions and cultural changes can be created. Alternative Development is a comprehensive approach to development, considering also social factors as education - the mobile libraries initiative fits in perfectly.