The process of provoking the interest of all stakeholders in rural development in Bulgaria and the preparatory works related to the National Rural Network started in 2005. This was initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food (MAF), the Foundation for Local Government Reform (FLGR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This process marked the onset of a wide awareness campaign for potential participants at local level on the opportunities offered by NRN and for promotion of the active involvement of interested socio-economic partners. During this period, the NRN temporary secretariat functions were exercised by FLGR.
2003 - 2007
The joint project of MAF and UNDP entitled “Sustainable Development of Rural Areas” provided technical assistance for the preparation for application of the LEADER approach in pilot municipalities: Tran, Varshets, Belitsa, Yakoruda, Garmen, Satovcha, Ardino, Kirkovo, Topolovgrad, Ivaylovgrad, Madzharovo. 11 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were registered, which fulfilled the functions of local action groups (LAGs), monitored and controlled the implementation of the project schemes under the Fund for Demonstration Projects, which was part of the project.
2006 - 2008
A joint project of MAF and UNDP entitled “Rural Network and Leader” with the participation of FLGR as a contractor for some project activities. Under this project, 50 experts received training on the LEADER approach, a National Conference entitled “First Steps of the Rural Network” was organised and 6 regional information sessions were held. The concept of the NRN was developed.
A joint project of MAF and UNDP “Teams on Wheels in Rural Areas”. This project tested a model partnership between the district offices of the National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAAS) and the Business Centres under the JOBS Project of UNDP in the following six administrative regions: Vidin, Pazardzhik, Targovishte, Haskovo, Yambol and Burgas. Mobile teams comprising of experts from both organisations provided on-the-spot information and specific advisory services to farmers and entrepreneurs.
Establishment of the National Rural Network
2009 - 2010
The Managing Authority (MA) of RDP 2007-2013 – “Rural Development” Directorate at MAF coordinated the implementation of the NRN activities. Three thematic working groups were established in 2010: 1) Improving the quality of life and diversification of the rural economy; 2) Sustainable and competitive agriculture, marketing for agricultural products and 3) The Leader approach.
2011 – 2012
The National Rural Network was established as part of the MA of RDP 2007-2013 – “Rural Development” Directorate. NRN partnered with MAF in conducting dialogue with civil society and supported its further involvement in the process of planning, monitoring and implementation of the rural development policy. The functions of a Network Support Unit (NSU) of NRN in Bulgaria were undertaken by the MA of the Programme until the selection of an external contractor in November 2012.
A tender procedure for selection of an external contractor to fulfil the role of a Network Support Unit of NRN according to the requirements of RDP 2007-2013 was published in 2012. As a result of the tender procedure, MAF and the Italian company Agrotech SpA signed a contract on 10 November 2012 under the project “Organisational activities related to the administration and management of the National Rural Network”. The contract had a duration of three years from November 2012 to November 2015.
At the end of 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry announced a tender procedure for selection of an external contractor to fulfil the role of a Network Support Unit of NRN according to the requirements of RDP 2014-2020.
As a result of the tender procedure, in 2018 MAFF and “Rural Network BG” DZZD consortium signed a contract under the project “Supporting and strengthening of the Network Support Unit of the National Rural Network of RDP (2014-2020)” for a period of four years.