In the municipality of Istog/k, young and women farmers from several communities are supported by the local NGO “Shoqata Bletare Melissa” which seeks to encourage innovative ways to generate sustainable income. In the context where only little over 12% of Kosovo’s women of working age have a job and around one third of young Kosovars are unemployed nor in education or any training, this project, ‘Plant the Seeds of Change’, is enhancing local economies and helping people from these economically vulnerable groups become more empowered through planting of actual seeds for sustainable future.
A total of 40 individual farmers have been granted aromatic and medical seedlings, as well as training on how to grow these crops efficiently. In about two months, the seedlings will become dried plants, which can then be used to craft anything from tea to medical products. The plants will then be sold at local markets or exported, ensuring a reliable source of income for the farmers!
One of the partner farmers of this project is Marsida Balaj, a 19-year-old who lives on the outskirt of Istog/k. Marsida found her calling early on and has already been cultivating plants for several years. “Receiving these 1,000 seedlings really does a lot to help out me and my family” she said, explaining that everyone is doing their part to help out in the Balaj family.
“I am very happy and eager to take part in this project,” says Sladjana Mirkovic, who runs the farm along with her sister-in-law Miljana who returned with her family to Istog/k just two years ago. Now, Sladjana is excited for the prospect of earning a sustainable level of income and will work hard to ensure good harvests. The 40 individual participants in this project are expected to earn around 1,200 euros annually from selling their finalized products.
The ‘Plant the Seeds of Change’ project is part of the Regional Programme on Local Democracy in the Western Balkans (ReLOaD), a regional programme funded by the European Union and implemented by UNDP. The objective of ReLOaD is to strengthen partnerships between local governments and civil society and introduce and sustain a model of transparent and project-based funding of CSOs towards greater civic engagement in decision-making and improvement of local services. Besides Istog/k, the project supports civil society and communities in Kamenicë/a, Lipjan/Lipljan, Viti/Vitina, and Zveçan/Zvečan.