The main objective of this project was to create positive feedback mechanisms between the rich cultural heritage of the Kola Saami, sustainable land management, and generation of improved income for Kola Saami families.
The Kola Saami people were facing challenges common to most indigenous peoples of the former Soviet Union, including above all low-income levels and high unemployment rates. Widespread environmental degradation and lack of legally established rights of traditional land uses were added to these problems.
At the same time, the Kola Saamis still retained their own unique and strong cultural identity, which inter alia included social organisation into family groups, animist religious beliefs, and traditional economic activities such as reindeer herding, fishing, production of handicrafts, hunting, and berry-picking.
The project was strongly connected to and based on the cultural identity and strengths of the Kola Saami communities. It was its aim to enable the Kola Saamis to improve their livelihoods based on traditional income-generating activities such as reindeer herding, fishing, and handicraft production, while ensuring that these activities would continue to take place at levels that are compatible with the area’s ecological carrrying capacity.
The project’s approach was through capacity building of Kola Saami communities to re-establish and revive traditional handicraft skills and to set up business cooperatives, in order to improve the communities’ income based on natural resources. It was crucial for the general development of the Saami communities to generate sufficient income for guaranteeing food, health and education, and the project therefore trained key community members who were skilled in passing on knowledge and experience in their own communities.
Finally, the provision of legal support to facilitate restoration of land use rights to Kola Saamis formed an important part of this project. This prevented future development threats to the area and thus ensured a permanent incentive for Kola Saamis to employ sustainable land use metods. In order to strengthen the legal capacity of communities, a Kola Saami representative received two years of legal training in Murmansk.
This project was a follow-up to a previous project “Capacity Building of Kola Saami Community Organisations”, which was also developed and managed by Preferred by Nature (formerly known as NEPCon) in cooperation with Kildin Ancestral Community. This project analysed realistic pathways of sustainable development among the Kola Saami people, and ended in 2004 with the successful finalization of a common development plan for the Kola Sami ancenstral communities. This project implemented a number of proposals contained in the original plan.
Results and impact
The realisation of this project constituted a major step forward in securing sustainable pathways of development for the Kola Saami people, and had the following specific outputs:
Kola Saami Communities were provided with legal support from the project lawyer in issues covering land use rights, establishment of smallscale businesses and other legal issues solved.
Representatives from the Kola Saami Communities were trained in legal issues
The production of Saami Handicraft was trained during a two-step course covering both collection and treatment of raw material as well as actual production of handicraft.
A Brand for Kola Saami Handicraft was established, including procedures for its use and registration.
A marketing study was completed for sales of Saami Handicraft.
An analysis of carrying capacity for reindeer areas managed by Kola Saami Community organisations was conducted by a licensed company, together with the preparation of herding areas
Representatives of Saami Communities were trained in reindeer herding.
Representatives of Saami Communities were trained in fishing technologies including fishing methods, maintenance of boat engines, safety, processing of fish.
A market study on sales of fish to the local market with special focus on hotels, restaurants and other local potential purchasers of Saami fish products was carried out.