Wickerwork in Posavina – return to tradition and homemade business
To start successful business in your own home, has been a dream of many who wish to become entrepreneur or simply to be self-employed. But, there are those who started working toward their dream, like Pero Pupčević, basket maker from the village of Tišina in Šamac municipality, who is continuing with his family tradition of wickerwork:
„My father did the same, and I have continued with that work. You are your own boss, staying at home with your family. My older daughter helped us with basketry business and now our twin boys, high school students are helping us around two hours per day.“
Pero is one of those who started their own home family business, and is continuing with the trend of more and more people in Posavina who are returning to old trades and craftsmanship’s that has been one of landmarks of this area for more than a century. Strong incentive to that business initiative has been extended to all who participated in the project titled “Self-employment through wickerwork”. That project, amounting to 88,000,00 BAM has been realized by Citizen Association „Don“ from Prijedor and in cooperation with the Municipality of Šamac and the Municipality of Domaljevac-Šamac within Reinforcement of Local Democracy Project -LOD IV. LOD IV Project was implemented in the period of 2014-2016 by United Nations Development Programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP BiH) in twelve municipalities and cities in BiH, and was financed by the European Union funds of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) in the amount of 2,000,000 EUR.
„By revitalizing wickerwork as an old trade, you are securing home self-employment”, Velimir Maslić said who was LOD IV coordinator in the Šamac municipality, emphasizing also that “starting wickerwork in this area, has a purpose of reestablishing production of wickerwork, which has been partly achieved by starting new plantations, educating basket makers and returning to old markets”. Velimir is also saying that additional value of this project is inter-municipal and inter-entity character, thus representing bridge connecting returnees in both entities.
Highlights of the project the project “Self-employment through wickerwork”:
- A total of 7.5 hectares of industrial willow planted on 17 plantations (5 ha in Šamac, 2.5 ha in Domaljevac - Šamac).
- 15000 kg of seedlings sown (10000 kg in Šamac and 5000 kg in Domaljevac-Šamac)
- Total number of direct beneficiaries / households included in the project -17 (11 beneficiaries in Šamac and 6 beneficiaries in Domaljevac – Šamac).
- The total number of indirect beneficiaries -30.
- 17 users / participants received 16 days of training in 3 fields: “Industrial cultivation of willow”, “Wickerwork production”, “Business plan with the foundation of marketing”.
Some time ago, Posavina was known for having biggest plantations of wicker willow in Europe, while in Šamac territory willow was planted on 230 hectare and quality made products by Posavina basket makers were market hits in former Yugoslavia while products were also exported to Europe and America. Hence, due to war happenings, wickerwork almost ceased to exist; plantations are neglected, pulled down, plowed and thinned what caused poor quality od remaining willow trees. Market was lost, and significant migration of population occurred.
To rejuvenate this old craft in Posavina, project aiming towards development of wickerwork was started within LOD IV and 17 basket makers were educated in wickerwork production and were also given all necessary materials and tools for planting industrial willow.
All the project beneficiaries received new knowledge and practical skills in planting industrial willow and were also educated in business skills - making business plans, marketing and sales. One of the project beneficiaries was a superb old basket maker Mato Tunjić from Donji Husići in Šamac municipality. Mate returned to Šamac at the beginning of 2001, following long period of refuge in Croatia and since return has been providing income with making and selling wickerwork. All until this year, he was buying raw materials for wickerwork, being hesitant to start own plantation although his family was very involved in this business before the war. Ba participating in this project, he established his first post war willow plantation. “For the first two years, yield can be not as high, but by regular up keeping, cleaning and spraying against insect infestation, one plantation can bring yield in the period of 25-30 years”, Mate concludes.
Vesna Anđić, coordinator of LOD IV project in municipality of Domaljevac-Šamac, says that local authorities recognized importance of rejuvenating wickerwork and were helping in project implementation and are attempting with their own resources and by applying to different donors, to continue with positive practice of LOD IV project and try to raise new plantations of industrial willow thus increasing employment. Implementing this project, municipal authorities in cooperation with civil society sector opened door for old crafts in Posavina region. According to estimations made by municipal representatives, in Šamac, during 2016, there is around 40 families that do wickerwork as a primary occupation, while there are around 20 families in this business in Domaljevac-Šamac.
Municipality of Domaljevac – Šamac is inhabited by large number of elderly people, that are beginning to return to basket making occupation. Marko Matić from Domaljevac says that he is doing wickerwork since early age, and today his entire household is depending on this trade. He remembers times when wicker workers made more income then people working abroad or working on the field. He is content with achieved yield at his plantation and with support he gained through the project, considering that he acquired new knowledge about using modern technological assets, new forms of plantation treatments and entire production.
Manufacture of industrial willow, as a basic raw material for woven wickerwork, is most rational way for usage of land of fifth and sixth category which is plentiful in Posavina, and is not favorable for the cultivation of other crops. Willow growers can achieve solid income; it is estimated that a single hectare plantation can get 10 tons of crude willow, whose market value exceeds 5,000KM. Wicker workers can then make additional income, when suing prepared willow as a raw material for making of wicker products, sought after on the market. And, according to media reports, in 2017 new business initiatives are planned aiming to further enhance development of wickerwork’s in Posavina, like Branding project, catalogizing of wicker products in Šamac municipality, which will subsequently enable easier market placement to domestic and international markets for Šamac wicker workers.
Considering new business potentials that old crafts create for wicker workers in this area, it’s not a surprise, that even after the end of this project, beneficiaries that received initial support continued with activities of planting willows, wickerwork’s and selling of products.
„All project beneficiaries have been successful in planting their plantations and are expecting to be able to use parts of plantations in the first year for manufacturing final products, while in coming years they will have raw materials for work” says Zoran Petroš, Project coordinator in “DON” association that has successfully implemented all activities under this project. Zoran says: “What is most interesting in products created by knitting industrial willow is obvious market demand for entire quantity they produce, which is rare for any products in our country”.
The conclusion is that the support of municipal administration, favorable situation in the market placement for wickerwork’s and strong enthusiasm of those who through LOD IV began to discover the secrets of traditional wicker work, show that the development of this trade can be a good example of self-employment opportunities for many who are looking or work in Posavina region. And this is confirmed by the words of Pero, basket maker from the village of Tišina “All those who are out of work and looking for a way to earn something, should have faith in themselves and start with some work. Do not just say, there’s nothing of this, we should try it!”