Making a living from land
Once a relatively prosperous area, the region covered by the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac and Milici in eastern Bosnia suffered immense human losses during the 1992-1995 war, along with the destruction of infrastructure and industrial capacities. It emerged as one of the most socially and economically depressed areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with extreme levels of unemployment and poverty and with many locals turning to agriculture as a way to survive. For returnees it was the only possible source of income given that they were completely excluded from employment in municipal administrations. But due to the lack of capital, technical expertise and access to markets, production was very low. Many farmers were not able to produce more than their household needs.
- Increased milk sales from less than 10,000 litres in 2005 to 2,590,870.50 litres in 2012 (i.e. by 259 times)
- 90% of milk produced is high quality and in line with EU requirements
- Increase in the number of commercial dairy farmers from 30 to 119 in 2005, and to 168 in 2012
- Increased sheep flock size from around 2,000 head in 2009 to 4,239 head (or by 111%)
- Increased fruit, soft fruit (berry) and vegetable production – from 700 kg per hectare in 2008 to 13,000 kg in 2011.
- Modern soft fruit farming techniques introduced, including use of environment-friendly pesticides and modern fertilising systems such as foliar and water-soluble fertiliser.
Salih Ibisevic and his family returned to Glogova village in the Municipality of Bratunac in 2001, finding their home in ruins. Life was extremely hard at that time for the family of returnees. Despite having neither employment nor a regular income, he managed to reconstruct his house and buy two cows and a few sheep, using donations and private savings. Having no experience in livestock farming or milk production, the results of his work were small. He only managed to get 10 litres per cow (EU average is between 20 and 40 litres) and the milk was used mostly for family needs, as no milk purchasing system existed. The income he obtained from livestock breeding hardly covered the costs of the initial investment and everyday living.
“It was a hard time for all of us, we were barely surviving. We could not produce almost anything to sell. Even if we did, we didn’t have where to sell it,” recalls Salih.
Things started improving for Salih in 2007 when he received a donation of five Simmental heifers, together with technical assistance and training on modern livestock farming and milk production methods. The donation was provided as a part of the Srebrenica Regional Recovery Programme (SRRP) financed by the Government of the Netherlands. The programme aimed to strengthen local producers, by providing them with technical assistance and coaching in modern agriculture production methods, setting market structures for the sale of their products and helping them to increase their competitiveness through investments. The SRRP also succeeded in attracting several large investments in commercial dairy farms, along with over a hundred smaller investments in the sheep and other subsectors. In Salih’s case this was reflected in his being able to produce a higher quantity and better quality of milk. In 2012, his production more than doubled, reaching 86,000 litres from 35,600 litres in 2009. He is planning to increase production to 100,000 litres by the end of 2013. His newly established farm is a model of modern dairy farms and meets all EU animal welfare requirements, hygiene and environment protection standards. He sells his milk as a part of an organised value chain that connects buyers with micro-producers. Apart from apples and cucumber, which he now produces applying modern and integral technology, Salih is also growing maize silage for cattle feed and plans to introduce grass silage this year. The income that he receives provides a decent life for his family, away from the shadow of poverty.
“At the beginning, I had two cows and low production. Now I have a modern farm with 15 milking cows, seven heifers and calves. The production now is more than doubled and by the end of the year I am planning to triple it,” says Salih.
Salih is not the only one supported by SRRP. In fact, during its three phases the programme has facilitated the establishment of a dynamic infrastructure for commercial production in different agriculture subsectors to the benefit of approximately 1,000 families. A functional network of milk collection points has been established from which three dairy processing plants collect milk, creating a highly competitive environment, which favours the dairy farmers of the region. Sheep flock size in the region increased by 111% from 2000-2009 and more than 100 sheep farmers now receive regular and increased income from sheep farming, which amounted to BAM 738,110 in 2012. Three direct selling points were also established for vegetable producers as outlets for their products. Raspberry production increased substantially and the Agriculture and Food Industry Fair Dani maline (Raspberry Days), held annually in Bratunac, has become one of the most important in the country. Finally, 1,384 farmers have received classroom and practical training in modern agricultural techniques, which has led to a significant increase in productivity.
Despite these achievements, farmers, entrepreneurs, local partners and other key stakeholders continue to request further technical assistance and services. In order for the programme achievements to be sustainable, the continued co-operation of local governments, local communities and the private sector will be needed. In this way, the competitiveness of the region can be further improved and future development secured.