Collaboration with the local community is a key issue in the success of every biodiversity conservation project. For that reason, the communication strategy within Fish for Life project has started from a sociological research performed by thecolleagues from Invisible Nature, based on two methods: focus groups and PEST analysis.
The aim of focus groups in the project area was to identify the attitudes, interests, needs of local communities in the area, regarding social, ecological and environmental issues. Focus groups were organized between May and August 2018 in four villages from Fish for Life project area: Albeni, Pociovalistea, Bengesti and Bumbesti-Pitic.
The selection of participants for the Fish for Life focus groups was based on the following principles:
- Gender and age diversity;
- Different occupations, to collect as many different experiences as possible on the project's topics of interest;
- People living in the Fish for Life project area.
A first conclusion of encounters with locals is that, although for at least 10 years there have been made significant investments in awareness actions at a national level, the level of information regarding Natura 2000 network (in particular site Natura 2000 Gilort River) and what this protected area invloves, is still very low.
There are no such communities in which people meet frequently either to spend time together or to discuss social, environmental or economic issues from the area. Civic or volunteer spirit is quasi-absent among adults, the only people involved in a small number of voluntary actions are students (especially through school).
The main environmental issues identified by focus group participants in site Natura 2000 Gilort River are illegal fishing, deforestation, micro-hydropower plant, the existence of thresholds, gravel pits in the area, unpurified wastewater discharges and uncontrolled waste disposal. People also have a very good understanding of how these actions affect the natural processes of the river and the fish habitats.
People of a certain age can easily identify differences between Gilort River at present and how it was 20-30 years ago. There is still a local terminology related to the natural processes of rivers that have been lost or reduced over time (eg, "roots", "backwaters")
On the other hand, there is a pressing need for leaders of opinion to coagulate the community and to somehow crystallize people's ideas about how they would like to be the area where they live or how the natural resources or rivers in the area should be managed.
Last but not least, although the local people have a positive attitude on building the fish passage in Targu Carbunesti (the problem has been identified for many years, especially by fishermen, but has not been materialized until Fish For Life project), there is a lack of confidence in the projects that are being implemented in the area (both at implementation level and also related to their actual impact). Fish For Life), există o neincredere în proiectele care se implementează în zonă (atât la nivel de implementare, cât și legat de impactul real al acestora).