Urban Lab, a social hub for Divjake
Divjake is the agricultural center on the Albanian coast, located about a hundred kilometers south of Tirana, that hosts the Urban Lab project, created by Vento di Terra NGO and founded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. The municipality has recently absorbed the neighboring hamlets and now has 40,000 inhabitants. Here almost everyone speaks Italian, because after the fall of the Communist regime in 1992, many of them crossed the Adriatic Sea to go working in Italy. Our country was then growing and needed, especially in the north, manpower. In Italy since then 441,000 Albanians have settled, an enormous quantity, taking into account that the Albany population is 2.836 million people. In Lombardy alone, the Albanian community has 91,000 people. In fact, the relationship between the two shores of the Adriatic, blocked by the Iron Curtain for almost fifty years, has gradually intensified in recent decades.
It is a fast-growing country which, while retaining significant pockets of poverty, has invested in infrastructure and technology. A development in which at first Italian companies participated in an important way, and then, with the onset of the crisis, decrease the presence. It was an impetuous process, in many respects chaotic and inspired by a radical liberalism. The new Albania arose from the rubble of the socialism of Enver Hoxha, who, after breaking with the Warsaw Pact in the 1950s, had chosen the Chinese Communists as allies. The countryside is still dotted with old tractors dating back to that period.
Urban Lab has the vocation to enhance the resources of the territory. Through the project, funded by the Italian Agency for International Cooperation and implemented by Vento di Terra NGO, a targeted development plan was defined with the Politecnico di Milano. One of the mailn objectives is stemming the flow of emigration, largely young, which still affects a predominantly agricultural district. In Divjake there are 100 family-run businesses and 50 companies, for an induced amount of 15,000 workers. Urban Lab offers them a laboratory capable of carrying out analyzes on soils and water and a consultancy service on the implemented methodologies. The aim is to transform the sector in terms of sustainability, with less use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The laboratory will soon be able to certify products according to their marketing in the European Union.
Divjake’s second vocation is tourism. Urban Lab is carrying out a training course for guides, rangers of the local Karavasta Park, restaurant operators and young people. A training aimed at increasing the level of local service and creating channels with the Italian regions involved, in particular Lombardy. The meetings, which cause Covid 19 are partially taking place remotely, are coordinated by the partner NGO ICEI and involve the Responsible Tourism Association, the Italian Association of Environmental and Hiking Guides. A training at the highest levels, which is accompanied by the drafting of a guide on the territory, created by Maurizio Davolio, president of ATR.
Divjake stands out for Italian tourism as a nearby destination, with excellent services and resources, particularly suitable for families. Urban Lab is creating a guided tour in the Karavasta Park, conceived in the face of a targeted survey of needs by the Albanian partner INTBAU. The aim is to make possible the maximum use of the park’s resources through the renewal of the signs and the creation of an augmented reality path. The new signage will include QR codes – two-dimensional bar codes readable via mobile phones – capable of enriching the exploration experience and providing additional information, in particular on local fauna. The park is home to numerous species of birds, including the rare curly pelican, waders and eagles. Entering the pine forest, you can meet foxes, otters and deer. Many visitors reach the area in the early hours of dawn to try their hand at bird watching or for a photo safari.
In Divjake, do not miss a boat trip in the large lagoon, part of the park. It is a large, shallow and particularly fishy mirror that hosts colonies of crabs, seahorses and herons. The hinterland is characterized by hills, planted with vines and olive trees, and by the presence of ancient Orthodox churches. Not far away lies the archaeological area of Apollonia, a city founded in the sixth century BC by the Greeks, which later became a Roman possession. A visit to Divjake cannot ignore a visit to Urban Lab, the first example of a building built in bioclimatic architecture in Albania. The structure hosts events intended in particular for young people in the area, parties (see Albanian Halloween)
and training courses. A tourist info point is also being set up by the Municipality of Divjake. By requesting it, you can meet the associations that animate the experience and the testimonials of the area. These are groups committed against violence against women, for sustainable agriculture and the defense of the environment, but in particular of young people who intend to participate in the revitalization of their territory.
For Vento di Terra Massimo Annibale Rossi