Berane, 21 April 2011
Montenegro is a young country in the Western Balkans and thanks to the tourism industry it has a fast growing economy. However, the country’s economic growth has not benefited the northern region as much as other parts of the country. The northern parts of the country is home to 31.5% of the population, however, the region provides only 18% of the country’s GDP. In Kosovo the average per capita income is only US$ 2,032 per year – the lowest in Europe – and the situation in rural areas is even worse than in the capital, Pristina.
In order to improve the lives of people living in the remote regions of Kosovo and Montenegro, in 2006 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) started a project entitled “Development Assistance to Farmers in Remote Areas of Montenegro and Kosovo (GCP/RER/019/LUX)”. The project is funded by Luxembourg. During participatory meetings in the initial phases, farmers were asked what type of assistance would be most useful for them.
After this, those farmers that were interested in taking part in the project were given training on various topics that they said are needed in order to improve opportunities in farming. In some cases, FAO gives farmers farm equipment that they have expressed a need for.
In 2011, building on the project’s success so far, several activities are being organized. These include: i) demonstrations of how to improve animal forage production ii) training farmers to use various types of mechanical equipment iii) training farmers how to use new seed varieties to yield more and better quality forage crops. Promotion of two cheese units, whose production was established as part of the project will also continue - these units won gold medals for quality at the International food fair Budva 2011.
The first cereal seed production in Montenegro successfully took place in 2010 thanks to the project’s work. The project will also continue to help farmers’ cooperatives with seed production. The project staff assists farmers in developing connections with wool importers from the UK, and wool exports are ongoing in spring 2011.
FAO realized that something also needed to be done for young people in the region, as migration is a long-standing problem and demographic change threatens the sustainability of mountain farming. With this in mind FAO is helping to set-up Young Farmers’ Clubs, where young people are encouraged to decide which activities they want to organize and what training needs they have. These clubs have been successfully established in a previous similar project implemented in the Sandzak region of Serbia. In Serbia currently 20 clubs are active. Twenty-four young farmers’ clubs have been established in total in Kosovo and Montenegro.
The project staff will organise English language and computer courses, as well as courses in environmental and agricultural education- based on the wishes of the club’s members. In the spring the young people will take part in a ploughing competition and a course on animal health.