Promoting Rural Development and Renewable Energies in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania
Project location: ALBANIA, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania
Project start date: September 2013 - Project end date: October 2014
Project number: 2013-037
Beneficiary: Oxfam Italia
Time range for this final report: November 2013 - October 2014
Women in rural areas in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina are in very unfavourable position when it comes to employment. The unemployment rate among them is over 50% and mostly their income come from small scale agricultural production, so women are very much affected by poverty. Farm work is hampered by low mechanization and yields as well as utilisation of non clean energies.
On the other side, both countries have substantial renewable energy sources that could be harnessed to meet energy needs of various sectors; thus promoting energy efficient use in the region. There is also a number of organic products that women produce and that can have higher value at the market and bring more income for the women. The goal of the project was to support rural agriculture families to be part of the economical life to work towards reducing poverty in rural areas and to provide clean energy possibilities to disadvantages communities and to. The project increased capacities of women cooperatives in agriculture to understand and apply clean energy possibilities and use new ways of production and access to market and ultimately decrease poverty in the rural areas that they operate in. Improving their production and access to market is always challenging because they live in remote areas, often cannot leave their homes to participate to trainings and improve their skills, and cannot fully participate in work of the associations and cooperatives (that could improve their production and increase income).
The main objective in supporting women associations and cooperatives was to improve the quality of their products (trainings, workshops, concrete advices on project branding) and thou enable them to sell the products to bigger markets (in bigger cities such Sarajevo). The products they made are mostly organic (attractive to the market), but they apply very poor marketing approach. Their products are not visible at the market at all and sale is very low with very low prices. Therefore, 5 trainings were organized in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to improve marketing of 5 products in the field. The trainings were organized almost one to one in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness of work. Trainings resulted in concrete improvements of market position of certain products, thanks to the trainer who worked directly with women inthe field, improving marketing of concrete products. In order to organize large scale exchange of experience and business to business meeting of women, the final gathering was organized in Sarajevo on the 2-3 September. There were 25 representatives from 16 organizations. Once the trainings and work with women was completed, cooperatives and associations were provided with small scale equipment and technical assistance in order to enable them to improve their production and find new market channels for their products.
Cooperatives Poljar and Zepacki Rolend (Central Bosnia) got 3 mini tillers and atomizer (sprinkle). Machinery are used (free of charge) by women producers to cultivate the land in less time and with less use of labor force. It reduces the production costs and improves the crops quality, yields and purchase price. Konjic (Herzegovina) and Skelani (Srebrenica) cooperatives got packaging for raspberries and cheese. This enabled the cooperatives to pack properly their products and sell them to Sarajevo market getting (in that way) much higher price for their products and being able to offer higher price for their female members. In order to further increase the yield, irrigation systems and mulch foils needed for establishing the 4 plots for strawberry production in 4 poor families from the area were provided. These plots directly improve socio-economic status of the poor and increase their income since the cooperative guarantees repurchase. Zelengora association from Foca (eastern Bosnia) started processing mushrooms thanks to the cutter that was purchased to them. The Association is able now to sell processed mushrooms at the market now and getting higher price for the female members that collects mushrooms. Aromatic and Medicinal Plants (MAPs) is the main non-timber agri-forestry business in Albania, generating more than 16 m Euro per year and involving, mostly as a part time activity, more than 100,000 rural dwellers. The sector was already an important source of revenue during the planned economy.
Albania is a major international player for some products, such as sage, thyme, oregano and winter savoury. In some specific markets and market segment, Albanian products are market leaders, such in the case of sage in USA and wild thyme in Germany. In Shkoder Region there are two cooperatives working with MAPs: the first one "Reci Prodhimtar" established in 2005 by Oxfam GB is composed by 54 members, the second one "H&S" composed by 30 women is younger but the activities are well developed and structured. They are working manly with cultivated sage, producing around 3 tons of sage per hectare per year, divided in two harvests in June and in October. In the production chain, the step representing an obstacle for the full development of this activity is the drying of MAPs, in fact manly in the second harvest because of high humidity, (in north Albania heavy rainfalls start in October and continue up to spring) the 40 % of the yield is lost. Before of the intervention of the project, the members of the cooperatives after the harvest of the MAPs were used to store it in their houses to protect from the rain, with the results that part of the product was intended to go rotten. The project built one hangars (30 meters X 10 meters) for each cooperative, equipped with 120 metal grills each one, with a capacity of storage of 30 tons of dried sage. The grills equipped with wheels where studied to facilitate the load and unload of the herbs inside and outside of the hangars.
Thanks to the provided training, technical assistance and small equipment, over 2000 members of 5 cooperatives and association supported in Bosnia and Herzegovina get better services, better prices for their products, new markets and better quality production. The quantity and quality of production of strawberries and mushrooms was improved. The 2 new market channels were opened to products of women from rural areas as direct result of the implementation. Beside that numerous new contacts and business relations were developed by enabling women to gather together and exchange experience. Thanks to the two hangars the 84 members of the two cooperatives have assured the product is excellently dried and stored, the quality of the sage produced by the two cooperatives is very high, in fact average sage is infested by mildews and fungus because of the poor storage. Beyond of drying the sage, the hangars allow to the cooperatives to keep it in optimal condition for many months, this represents a huge opportunity to choose the best moment to sell the product with a fair price. The high quality of the product and the chance of postpone the sale, represents for the cooperatives a strong and effective tool to remain competitive in the market and continue to improve the activity.