Oglarska dežela – Charcoal Land Initiative

Demographic challenges, Environmental sustainability, Education, Preservation of cultural identity

As a response to harsh economic situation and rural depopulation, local charcoal burners and State Forest Service together decided to revive the almost extinct traditional practice of charcoal burning. Their aim was not only to improve the economic situation of this marginalised village, but to preserve the culture of charcoal making. Maybe the most important was the aim to bring dignity back to charcoal burners, not regarding them as “underdogs”, but as active citizens with the “voice”, teachers, nature protectionists, and active private forest owners. One of the hopes of the initiative was also to attract youth to stay connected to the village, and to use charcoal making as a way of earning some additional income by selling traditionally made charcoal. The initiative became a success and managed to diversify their activities, ranging from tourism, cultural manifestations and education. Charcoal burning in Dole pri Litiji today means a cultural identity of a place, gathers local inhabitants and brings numerous tourists.
At the beginning, Charcoal land initiative had no formal structure – it was a community of charcoal burners which had an informal collaboration and other important actors. From this initiative local Charcoal clubs formed, which are sort of voluntary organizations. On the national level we can talk about Association since September 2018, which is a formal legal entity.

Networking, Training / Teaching, Production of goods, Assistance & Advice, Public participation
Local private forest owners – charcoal burners
Slovenian Forest Service
The Touristic Association of Slovenia
Local self-administration
Municipality of Litija

The Charcoal land initiative led to changes on several levels:
1) The income of some charcoal burners increased significantly, as initiative’s promotion contributed to the sales of locally made charcoal. The self-dignity of charcoal burners increased, so today they are proud to say what they do.
2) Charcoal burners got their “voice” which is now heard not just in the village, but also in Municipality. Charcoal burners now have a power to participate in decision making and to influence political decision on Municipal level (at least to some extent)
3) Due to the initiative, the village Dole pri Litiji got more attention from the municipality, so after year 2002, the municipality started to invest more in the village. Until then, the village was with extremely poor infrastructure, and under the danger of losing services. Today, the village is developing educational and touristic activities and participates in natural and EU projects (i.e. H2020 BioVill project to become energy self-sufficient using wood biomass). Charcoal pile became a cultural symbol, and no public event goes without charcoal pile ignition.
4) Charcoal burning is activating forest owners to actively manage their forests and also preserve the cultural landscapes. The wood used for charcoal making is low quality wood, that could be, at best used as wood for heating. On this way, charcoal making is also adding value to the wood as raw material.
5) As a result of activities and success of Charcoal land, since 2009 charcoal burning spread all over Slovenia. The traditional practice of charcoal burning, which was almost extinct in 1990s is today alive and practiced in more then 20 different locations in Slovenia (meaning 20 local Charcoal burning clubs). Due to the efforts of Charcoal land, since 2012, charcoal making in Slovenia is registered as intangible cultural heritage. In September 2018, Slovenian charcoal burners united and established Slovenian Charcoal Association. Slovenian Charcoal Association will become a member of European Charcoal Association in August 2019. In the future, charcoal burners plan to make an effort to register traditional charcoal burning in Slovenia in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

• Profile in the Horizon 2020 project BioVill: Bionenery village in Slovenia
• Profile in the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia: Charcoal making
• Facebook page: Oglarska dežela

“The charcoal pile – the place where people meet, gather and make important decisions.”

* Information at the level of NUTS 3 or local regions.