A life-changing project for a Roma community

Kosovo, March 30, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Blerim Cerkini/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Ramadan Sahiti with the hay baler his community was able to purchase through Mercy Corps’ Livelihoods Enhancement for Returnees program. Photo: Blerim Cerkini/Mercy Corps

Ramadan Sahiti is a 37-year-old Roma farmer from the village of Koshare/Košare in southern Kosovo. Ramadan and his family recently returned to their home village of Koshare after a nearly 12-year absence; he and his family fled the village after their house was burnt down during the 1999 conflict in Kosovo. The family has been unable to return to the village for lack of resources and employment opportunities since then.

But recently, through Mercy Corps’ Livelihoods Enhancement for Returnees program, Ramadan learned of renewed economic opportunities and job support for those wishing to return to their homes. Moving into housing made available by the Municipality, Ramadan, his wife and four children returned to Koshare to restart their lives and recover the lost years.

Soon after returning, following a series of community meetings, local farmers nominated Ramadan to act as the primary representative of an agricultural improvement project with Mercy Corps and the local government. With a matching investment from the community, Mercy Corps supported Koshare to purchase and manage use of a hay baler, helping to resolve the problem of the lack of sufficient fodder for livestock and very high transportation costs to purchase and transport feed.

“As a result of this community project, so far I have made 20,000 hay bales [valued at more than $53,000] for 50 families to use for their livestock needs; and the surplus they will sell in the local market,” Ramadan boasts. “In addition, I helped six families with free-of-charge service, while other families have paid a 50 percent lower price than market rates during the season.”

Ramadan continues: “The equipment is essential for our needs, especially during spring and summer season. We help each other by sharing our equipment to plow, plant, harvest, bale and transport the bales. The villagers are happy to have the equipment nearby, because the weather in our area can cause trouble for the crop.”

With the new machinery, Ramadan and other farmers have increased the surface of land used by an average of more than 70 percent. With greater arable land and fewer household expenses going towards hay for livestock, farmers in Koshare have been able to increase the size of their livestock herds.

Ramadan reports monthly his earnings for the season of May to December 2010 at more than $300 each month, while employing three people who each earned around $260 per month. “I have increased my family’s herd to seven cows so now I’m able to earn a daily income of $15 by selling milk from my cows and $10 by selling milk from my 12 goats,” he continues. “This year, I will also have seven calves that I intend to sell and seven to nine goat kids that I’ll keep to increase the goat herd. Remember,” Ramadan takes a long pause, “last year I had only four dairy cows and no goats!”

With increased land planted, more feed for livestock and a growing herd of cattle and goats, Ramadan is better able to support his family of six, and they are more comfortable getting resettled in their new — old — home.