Fahrije Hoti is beaming over jars of red pepper spread and fresh green pepper in cream cheese in a house-turned-pepper processing plant. “We are the only 100% woman-run and staffed enterprise in Kosovo”, says Hoti, a 44-year-old woman farmer. Hoti, who manages the Krusha agriculture cooperative, has reason to be proud. The cooperative has helped its 40 women employees rebuild their lives in the wake of the tragic 1998-99 war in Kosovo.enterprise
On March 26, 1999, in one of the worst single atrocities of the war, women and children fled as Krusha village went up in flames and over 200 men aged 12 to 90 were rounded-up and killed. Some 500 children from Krusha -- including Hoti’s 3-year-old daughter and 3-month-old son -- lost their fathers. Upon returning to the village at the end of the war, the women were confronted by the giant task of rebuilding their families’ lives on their own. “We decided to return to life, to work”, recalls Hoti. The widows started to plant crops, work the land and do all the work that their husbands used to do. Hoti planted peppers, but she found it impossible to sell in markets because going into the streets as a young widow was considered inappropriate in her small community. In dire need of income, she had the idea of pickling the peppers.
In 2005, with the help of some international NGOs and donors, Hoti and some other women began processing and conserving their produce for the winter. Five years later, they transformed their Widow’s association into a registered business, and Kooperativa Krusha was born. Now their products are sold in 200 stores across Kosovo and are being exported to Switzerland.
Last year, Kooperativa Krusha received a co-financing grant of around 15,500 Euros from the Agriculture and Rural Development Project, which is implemented by the Government of Kosovo and supported by a US $20.5 million credit from the World Bank, as well as a US $9.28 million equivalent grant from the Government of Denmark. They invested in machinery for pepper baking, shock tubs, baking pans for Ajvar pepper spread, grinding machinery for peppers and cabbages, and a cauldron for the elaboration of peppers. “We have doubled the production of Ajvar pepper spread, from 20,000 kilograms to almost 40,000 kilograms due to the new equipment we got,” says Hoti. “The work has become easier with the new pepper processing machines, but due to increased capacity we were also able to increase the number of employees, from 25 last year to 43 currently,” she adds.
Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank Country Manager for Kosovo, noted that the cooperative could be an inspiration for others. "The Krusha cooperative is an especially encouraging example of how Kosovo's significant, but too often dormant potential can be unlocked, even in the most difficult circumstances with a combination of private initiative and accompanying, enabling improvements in the overarching institutional environment."
" Kooperativa Krusha shows that when given the right opportunities, rural women can be a transformational and inspiring force, not just for their families but also for the community and the economy. "
World Bank Director for Agriculture
Enterprises like Kooperativa Krusha show just how transformative agriculture and agribusiness can be for rural women. In Kosovo, only one in eight women has a job. Many women live in rural areas but only 1.8% of working women work in the agriculture sector, according to the Labor Force Survey for 2014. World Bank Director for Agriculture Ethel Sennhauser, who met the women in August, sees this as an opportunity. “I’m so inspired by the women of Krusha, who overcame unimaginable tragedy to rebuild their lives,” she said. “Kooperativa Krusha shows that when given the right opportunities, rural women can be a transformational and inspiring force, not just for their families but also for the community and the economy.”
Indeed, Kooperativa Krusha is helping women beyond its native village. According to Hoti, this year, their facility doubled production from 150,000 kg to 300,000 kg of fresh pepper, collected not just from Krusha but from four other villages in the region. The pepper producers are also war widows, because Hoti has made it her life’s work to help support and provide for the education of widows and their children.
While in Kosovo, Sennhauser also met other grant beneficiaries and senior Kosovo officials with whom she discussed the implementation of the Agriculture and Rural Development Project as well as the ongoing agriculture reforms and development prospects of the country.
The World Bank project aims to assist the Government of Kosovo in promoting competitiveness and growth in the livestock and horticulture subsectors over a decade through the implementation of selected measures of its agricultural strategy and institutional development. To this end, the project supports (i) transfer of knowledge to the rural sector; (ii) enhancement of investments to promote sustainable rural development; and (iii) improvement of project management, coordination, monitoring, and evaluation in the Government of Kosovo.
Under the first activity of the project, training was provided to farmers, agro-processors, municipal advisors, and national extension staff, as well private advisors to help farmers and agro-processors develop sound business plans for investment support. Under the second activity, the project is supporting a Rural Development Grant Program aimed at financing investments to enhance the growth and competitiveness of the livestock and horticulture subsectors. It is also assisting in building the capacity of the Managing Authority and Paying Agency to implement the National Agricultural and Rural Development Program, prepared in line with EU requirements.
The project will close in mid-2017, but the World Bank remains committed to continue to support the agriculture sector in Kosovo.