Love of the Land:

Western Rhodopes Autonomous Region

This Year 5 thesis project is the culmination of my studies at Strathclyde since Year 1. I had the chance to situate a project outside of Scotland and explore some themes that I have a personal interest in.

The project stems from the problems of globalization and the exploitation of land and natural resources, as well as the effects of these on rural and under-developed communities. A case study is undertaken of the local community of the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria whose connection to their land has been threatened, thus affecting their land conservation practices and their chance for economic wellbeing.

The project explores a speculative scenario in which the Western Rhodope region gains territorial autonomy from the state of Bulgaria and the local population receive the power to govern their own land and resources through a form of participatory democracy. The Rhodope Council, an event held each autumn, becomes a tool for public decision-making through discussions and voting in six different sectors of land and resource policy. During the rest of the year at the same site in the village of Gela, an agrarian institute aids the locals through research and training in the fields of agriculture, resource management, and environmental protection, aiming to connect social, environmental, and economic sustainable development in the region. The agrarian institute works in the areas of crop rotation scheduling and pasture management practices and provides education programmes and consultancy services for a balanced approach that regards the wellbeing of the community and the land.