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Two women fruit growers join forces

امرأة مع طفل على ركبتيها تجلس بين صفين من نباتات التوت وتبتسم.
Fruit grower Milica and her four children in the raspberry plantation.

Two women fruit growers join forces

Jasmina and Milica live with their families in Arilje, the “raspberry capital” of Serbia. Many people here earn their living from growing fruit. These two women also began by planting raspberries.

After a good start, setbacks due to droughts threatened their yields. But instead of giving up, they both asked for help from the German Information Centre on Migration, Training and Employment (DIMAK) and its partner organisation HELP. This meant they could make their businesses more profitable. Now they’re looking to the future with confidence.

The next step is a cooperative


The two women asked DIMAK for assistance in April 2021. The centre’s help for Jasmina and Milica included training courses on starting a business and some personal advice. They both produced business plans for their fruit farms. HELP also gave them some agricultural equipment, such as a sprayer and a cultivator.

امرأة ورجل في وضعية القرفصاء يعملان في حقل.
Jasmina and members of her family planting new seedlings.

The two families have officially registered their businesses and now want to set up a cooperative. “That qualifies us for more support, such as an office and possibly a refrigeration unit for the raspberries. We’re currently in talks with a few other producers”, they say.

Self-employment involves a lot of hard work

Both of them have already invested a lot. They’ve also taken out loans to increase their cultivation plots and buy new seedlings. Milica and her husband Zlatko now manage 6000 square metres, Jasmina’s family 5000.


Neither family will be able to expect a significant harvest from the new seedlings in 2022, since it takes a few years until the new raspberry bushes will provide a lot of berries. They need a lot of care and attention, which starts in February and continues into autumn.

 

امرأتان تتحدثان سويًا، ويمكن رؤية فتاة أكبر سناً وفتاة أصغر إلى يمين الصورة.
Jasmina (on the left) and Milica (in the middle) are discussing tomorrow’s activities.

“And we’ve got so much more to do and to invest. We also have to supply water to parts of the fruit farm”, says Jasmina. Raspberries are a tricky fruit. A drought last year meant that the harvest from the old fields was a lot less than usual. In a good season, an area of 100 square metres produces 200 to 250 kilogrammes of raspberries. “But we were only able to harvest between 5 and 10 kilos. It was awful”, says Milica. “That’s why it’s so important for us to sort out the irrigation”, Jasmina adds.

Cultivating the fields together


The families have currently joined forces. “Some days, when we’re completely exhausted from all our hard work from dawn to dusk, we sit down together and ask ourselves why we do it all. But we encourage one another if we start to have doubts – life will get better in a couple of years' time”, says Jasmina. “We’ll pay off our debts and start to lead a better life.”

 

امرأة تمشي عبر حقل نباتات التوت. يمكن رؤية التلال في الخلفية.
Jasmina is pinning all her hopes on fruit growing.

Jasmina: from Kosovo via western Europe to Serbia


This goal is something 37-year-old Jasmina wants to focus on. She and her family were driven out of Kosovo. Initially they all lived together in western Europe. But her husband Nenad had to go back in 2016, so Jasmina and her baby followed him to Serbia. “I lost my father when I was still young. I absolutely didn't want my child to grow up without a father”, she explains. The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration helped them to get an old house on the outskirts of Arilje, which they're renovating.

“I’ve been working since I was 14 and have never refused a job. I worked in a bakery and in shops”, says Jasmina. “My life was tough.” Now she’s pinning all her hopes on fruit growing to provide a better future.

 

سيدة ذات شعر داكن يصل إلى كتفها تبتسم للكاميرا.
Milica is now a full-time fruit grower.

Milica: fully reliant on raspberries


The same applies to 30-year-old Milica, who comes from Arilje. She has four children and for a while the raspberries were only a sideline. The family's main source of income came from running a small sewing workshop, and they also worked for a textile factory, another important sector of the economy in south-western Serbia. But the family home was damaged by a flood in 2020. “All of the machines were destroyed. Now there are only the raspberries”, says Milica as she looks out at the fields.

As of: 07/2022

 

 

Support for the fruit growers

Fruit growers Jasmina and Milica are getting help from:

We’ve got so much more to do and to invest. But we encourage one another if we start to have doubts.
Jasmina

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