Towards a Community Based Ecotourism Network Across the Black Sea

Azdavay, 30 June 2014

The workshop, which gathered representatives of rural tourism from Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey in Azdavay, Kastamonu Province, Turkey on 21-24 June 2014, concluded with promising outcomes.

Vesselka Consulting Ltd and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Turkey successfully concluded a three day workshop, hosted by the Küre Mountains Ecotourism Society at its historical mansion, Yanık Ali Konağı, in Azdavay, Kastamonu Province, Turkey. The approach, overall direction and organization for the management of an integrated program for rural eco-tourism around the Black Sea were confirmed during the workshop.

Şehmus Günaydın, The Governor of Kastamonu Province opened the workshop and welcomed the representatives from Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey.  The workshop included presentations of experiences in developing and operating rural eco-tourism destinations, issues and needs and proposals for further development.  

At the end of the workshop, the participants agreed upon an action plan to implement the Program in Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey with the establishment of National and Community management organizations that will develop the appropriate business plans, identify eco-tourism products and continue an exchange program of ideas and cooperation within the Program framework.

All participants agreed to move quickly to create an organizational structure based on community and national offices working together in each country under an umbrella International Secretariat which will define overall policy for the Program.  Principles of sustainable eco-tourism based on international standards will guide the activities of the Program members.

It was also agreed to create a communications network to facilitate information exchange among the participating countries and will develop the dedicated web portal for traveler reservations and information while providing maximum international exposure and   for the destinations.

This Program is the only regional venture of its kind for the Black Sea and will maintain its commitment to provide unique travel experiences while preserving local cultures and the environment.

For more information, contact Nataliya Tkachenko at or Richard Shepard at or visit the website at

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Sustainable Development Through Rural Tourism

The Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program is holding a workshop in Küre Mountains) adjoining the Küre Mountains National Forest, a Pan Park.

Together with the World Wildlife Fund/Turkey, Vesselka Consulting has invited participants from Ukraine, Turkey and Georgia to discuss a way forward to ramp up the development of this community based eco-tourism program.  In attendance will be representatives of the Turkish regional and municipal government, destination owners, eco-tourism travel specialists,World Wildlife Fund/Turkey as well as the Union for the Support of Green Tourism in Ukraine.  The host will be the Küre Mountains Ecotourism Society.

It is critical that sustainable ecotourism development be designed from the bottom up within communities and be based on experience at the ground level from similar projects and programs. The format is not be an academic forum, but a discussion by practitioners on what works, and what does not and why in actual practice.

Out of an intensive two day meeting, a road map and action plan will be put into motion that will link rural communities around the Black Sea in the joint effort to conserve the environment, increase living standards and incomes in rural areas and provide new experiences for eco-travelers.

We will post the results of the workshop here and on our web-site,

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New Partner Site – Ukraine

We are developing a separate site to assist the new democracy in Ukraine and to stop Russian aggression. The site should be up and running in a day or two. Our first efforts will be to provide accurate news to counteract the propaganda being churned out daily by the Kremlin.

Another will be a campaign to have Russia expelled from FIFA and the siting of the World Cup changed from Russia to another country – preferably Ukraine but anywhere else than Russia. A third focus will be support the current boycott campaign against any Russian product of services, including Lukoil in the US and Deniz Bank in Turkey which is partnered with Sberbank.

Russia is challenging the West and particularly the EU to react and without a concerted and powerful reaction they will succeed in their efforts to reject the sovereignty of their neighbors and redraw borders which they themselves have agreed to honor. They did so in Georgia, they are now doing it in Ukraine. The actions of Putin and his coterie of followers are exactly those of Hitler in the Sudetenland, the Polish Danzig corridor and Czechoslovakia. There is no difference and we will do our part to stop them.

Contact us to help.

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Another Year – Are We Sustainable Yet?

The year passed quickly for us at Vesselka Consulting. Our time has been completely absorbed with the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Program, assisting with proposals for a high tech park in Azerbaijan, entered into cooperative agreements with the Ministry of Agriculture and National Tourism Administration in Georgia and working to improve the delivery of municipal services and support land reform in Tajikistan.

We’ve partnered with World Wildlife Fund, Turkey and have plans to expand our relationships to NGOs supporting the conservation efforts in the Kure National Forest and its communities in northern Turkey.

In the past year we have concentrated on private sector opportunities, sustainable travel and agriculture, while continuing with our broad experience in land matters, administration, policy and governance.

We do all this under a broad umbrella of sustainability. We have a long way to go.

The current buzzword in development circles is “resilience”. We don’t believe in a society or environment just being resilient. Why? Because being resilient is being nothing more than the legendary Phoenix, a bird that is reborn from its own ashes. That’s a nice thought. But not enough because the Phoenix always returns in its same form.

We believe in anti-fragility. Resilience means bouncing back to the same status before whatever catastrophe occurred. We believe that it is not enough to bounce back. Individuals, organizations, societies must improve – not just bounce back. To do that they must prepare for the Black Swans (thank you Taleb) in order to not only survive them, but to strengthen the entire structure, absorb the stress and improve.

Anything else is a spinning wheel.

We are not sustainable yet. At Vesselka we believe that the stressors will get us there.

With that – for those who celebrate Christmas – have a wonderful one, and if you do not, then let the New Year bring you peace, prosperity and health.

For Christmas and a Happy New Year

For Christmas and a Happy New Year

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Ilegal Construction in Serbia


From time to time we receive guest posts, which are always welcome. This post deals with illegal construction in Serbia and is the Thesis of Ms Jovana Mandic for the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. Click the link above to read the entire document

Sustainable development is a kind of development which preserves life conditions for present generation without compromising ability of future generations for their own possibilities. There are certain human activates which represent real threat to sustainable future of humanity.

These problems stem for decades. The process of illegal constructing is one of those activities which threaten human future. The problem needs an investigation of causality and activities undertaken to avoid common troubles within common lives.

Research about this fits into the legal framework of Serbian cadastre and urban policy. This research should illuminate basic consequences and possible solutions for major difficulties Serbian government deals with and those difficulties are closely related to problem of illegal construction.

Unfortunately, Serbia had a long and colorful history of illegal constructing activities which has been developed during nineties intensively. When we look behind we can see the beginning of unauthorized building even in the 19th century. Serbia had tragic history under Ottoman Empire. That period is of any kind of regulations considering building and housing.

Council for Sustainable Development (2004) Sustainable Development, Making Choices for Our Future: an Invitation and Response Document, [online] Hong Kong: Davison, J. (1990) Illegal Structures, in: Nield, S. and Sihombing, J. (ed.), Multi-story Building Management, 43-58, Hong Kong: Hong Kong Law Journal.

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Long Absence

Yes, we know. Almost nine months since the previous post. That’s because we are busy at Vesselka Consulting, particularly with our two endeavors – the Black Sea Sustainable Rural Tourism Project and the development and demonstration of our Title Management System software. If you are interested in either you can send us a message through our web-site at It’s easy.

As always, we also invite submissions to post if you have something to say. Publishing is at our discretion, but we’ll always read what you’ve put down.

In the meantime, we will post periodically, so keep checking back. Much of our news is now posted on the company site so please go there. We also have a company page on LinkedIn (and I have personal page) so take a look and follow us there. You can find our white papers on the sustainable tourism program and the software there as well. If you have trouble downloading, send me a note and we’ll get them to you.

Thanks to all for your support.


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Winding Up in Tajikistan

Roundtable for farmers

Roundtable for farmers

One area of emphasis for Vesselka Consulting has always been in the land policy and tenure sector.  At the end of January we will be completing our participation in the Land Reform Project funded by USAID in Tajikistan whiich we began over a year ago.

The project, led by Chemonics International and Thomson Reuters – Manatron to whom we were sub-contracted, was largely a success.  Tajikistan is a very difficult environment in which to work, largely because it has failed to keep up with its neighbors and is one of the poorest in the world.  It had been the least developed and also poorest republic within the former Soviet Union and the break-up did not help.

Perhaps the most important underlying reason for its lack of progress was the horrific civil war that followed independence and raged in Tajikistan’s mountains and valleys for five years.  The effects have not dissappeared and one manifistation is the broad desire for stability over everything else.

Coupled with a complete lack of capacity to accept, let alone implement land policy reforms, this fear of instability made it a struggle to achieve what USAID targetted in the program.  The objective had been to create a viable market in land use rights, implement a policy of ‘freedom to farm’ and restructure the agricultural sector which accounts for 70% of the workforce and is remarkable in its inefficiency and failure to feed its own population adequately.

We were responsible for the legal and legislative component of the project.  While not perfect, the team supported the government in its efforts to draft legislation that would permit farmers to transfer their land use rights (land ownership is not permitted) legally.  The key amendments to the Land Code were enacted on August 1, 2011 – almost three years in the making.  The team also facilitated the drafting of other legislation dealing with farmer’s rights, mortgages and advised the Land Committee on registration procedures and policies.

Much remains to be done.  Resistance to change is strong in the agricultural sector and Soviet rule, coupled with a centralized government used to controlling all farm management and agricultural policies, has led to what can only charitably be described as foot dragging.

Hopefully, USAID will follow-on sooner rather than later with a project that will help the government implement the changes that have occured on paper.  Government capacity building and a broad public information campaign will be key to solidifying change and reducing the startling amount of poverty that remains in Tajikistan.

We are pleased to have been able to contribute to the program and wish USAID success with its Feed the Future program.

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