Ensuring Farmers Continue Production of High-Quality Vegetables

Sustainable agriculture
17.06.2021
Unexpected weather changes or other disruptions – such as the Covid-19 breakout – result in farmers in Kosovo being unable to meet the demand for vegetables and fruits. This in turn, affects farmers’ income and livelihood. Since 2014, the project from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) implemented by Swisscontact Promoting Private Sector Employment (PPSE) in Kosovo is working closely with this sector to introduce and consolidate the contract farming system.

The contract farming system is an agreement between the farmer and the collection centre: The farmers are supplied with seedlings for varieties in demand; the collection centre is also the buyer of the farmers’ products, thus securing a market for farmers. Because of this initiative, today 20% of all vegetable production uses the contract farming model. To further strengthen the model, Swisscontact has supported the introduction of usage of specialised seedlings produced using modern technologies such as an irrigation system, greenhouse heating or a solar energy system. This work has resulted in the establishment of two specialised seedling nurseries, Agrobora and Fidanishtja e Godancit.  

3 million vegetable seedlings for 3,500 farmers

Agrobora was established in 2019 as a specialised seedling nursery in Kosovo. In 2020 it produced three times more seedlings compared to the previous year when they were using older technology. Whereas the Fidanishtja e Godancit seedling producer partnered with PPSE to upgrade its seedling production technology.

In 2020, these two specialised nurseries produced some 3 million vegetable seedlings for around 3,500 farmers who produce in greenhouses or open fields and sold their products on the local market, to collection centres, to food processors, and the export market.  

“Receiving healthy seedlings ready for planting saves time, efforts, and resources. The supplier was available at all times to provide additional advice and support,” says Visar Vokrri, a young farmer in Kosovo. Curious about the results of using seedlings produced with modern technology, he cultivated one plot of land with cabbage seedlings from Agrobora, and another with traditionally grown ones. “The difference is visible even to the bare eye,” he says. “I couldn't even imagine such quality was possible. It makes a farmer’s life so much easier.”    

Higher quality, reasonable prices

Fehim Rexhepi, owner of collection centre Agrocelina says, “In 2020, the situation with the contracted farmers was much better as the seedlings were of higher quality.” Agrocelina signed a contract with Fidanishtja e Godancit for 200,000 cucumber seedlings. PPSE stimulated the farmers by covering €0.03 per seedling. “I am very pleased with the quality of seedlings. The price was reasonable given the situation created by Covid-19, Agrocelina enabled us to pay for the seedlings with our yield,” says Robert Skeli, whose family owns a greenhouse, and received 10,000 gherkin seedlings.  

For Fidanishtja e Godancit, this collaboration enabled secure production of vegetables that met both the food needs of the population, and of food processing companies.

Expanding the Inclusive Approach

In 2021, Swisscontact Kosovo launched a new contract farming-related activity in the medicinal and aromatic plants sub-sector (MAPs). The goal is to create transformative economic opportunities for ethnic minority communities living in rural areas. 

Dried medicinal aromatic plants (MAPs)
Ismail Butić at the field to be cultivated with MAPs

Such is the case of Ismail Butić, a farmer from the Roma community, who will diversify the traditional crops to include nettles, mint, sunflower, and calendula. Agroprodukt, one of the largest MAP collection centres and exporters in Kosovo, provides him with the seedlings free of charge and will then secure a market for the entire yield. 

With the project support, farmer Butić purchased a drying machine, which is the first step towards becoming a collection centre on his own.  

"I am the first farmer in this area to cultivate MAPs. The benefit though, is not just for me. I am bringing a model that will create opportunities for the other villagers, who are all unemployed.”"
Ismail Butić
Ismail Butić shows the drying machine

The activity of specialised seedling production for contracted farmers is important for creating a sustainable production of seedlings in the country and continued expansion of the contract farming system, which increases the financial security of farmers. Proven profitable in 2020, the contract farming model is expanding in 2021. Based on data so far, interest has grown, including by new market actors. Tangible 2021 results will be measured at the end of the season.

The seedling subsidy scheme after the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 and the creation of new digital sales channels, both supported by PPSE, enabled farmers to overcome the challenges and setbacks presented by the disruption of the traditional ones: markets, restaurants, and shops. It looks like the contract farming trend is well on the way to becoming a consolidated and sustainable way of farming.

 

PPSE is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project implemented by Swisscontact in Kosovo.

Kosovo
Entrepreneurial ecosystems, Sustainable tourism
Promoting Private Sector Employment
SMEs that operate in competitive and well-organized economic sectors, where public policies better match private sector needs, provide increased sustainable gainful employment for women and men in Kosovo.Kosovo has grown moderately at an average rate of 3% in the last few years and is constantly facing growing labour force. The positive economic...