More than run-of-the-mill progress

Kosovo, June 29, 2009

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    Mercy Corps Kosovo  </span>
    Fehmi Mjeku. Photo: Mercy Corps Kosovo

The village of Milosheva is a pastoral community of 10,000 residents in the heart of central Kosovo's agricultural lands. It is a typical Kosovo village: still recovering from the conflict of 1999, with high unemployment and few income-earning opportunities for residents. Farming and raising livestock mean everything to local families.

Like much of Kosovo, Milosheva is an inter-ethnic mix of Albanians, Kosovo Serbs and Roma. These mixed ethnic groups live in relative harmony today but, with still-fresh memories of a recent war, the potential for conflict is always a reality.

Mercy Corps is working hard to keep those tensions from escalating into violence.

Prospects for Kosovo’s future stability and prosperity rest in the country’s ability to return and re-integrate internally displaced people and refugee populations to their native homes in a peaceful and sustainable fashion. Through our Kosovo Economic Support for Sustainable Returns program, Mercy Corps is facilitating these peaceful returns by partnering with municipal governments to provide household grants for items like greenhouses and agricultural equipment to help families return and re-establish themselves.

Families in Milosheva are committed ensuring peace in Kosovo through improving the economic environment for returns. The community and municipal government presented a project to Mercy Corps to construct a mill for producing animal feed, pledging a 30 percent contribution from local households.

Fehmi Mjeku is farmer — and a returnee himself — who was nominated by his peers to lead this initiative. A father of seven, Fehmi smiles broadly from under his handlebar mustache, proudly displaying animal feed that's been ground at the mill from locally-produced grains.

“How can you plant your land and maintain your animals if you don’t have a proper feed mill?” he asks rhetorically.

Six months after the program began, the economic benefits to the community are evident: income for community projects, a market where farmers can sell their grain each day and improved livestock health.

“This assistance came at just the right time to return farmers to their land,” Fehmi says. The mill is producing an average of one ton of animal feed daily, which is sold to other local farmers. Fehmi himself has two dairy cows and four bulls that he is now getting ready for market.

In addition to buying and selling milled grain on the local market, the mill provides a free-of-charge service to mill grain for household use for farmers for seven area villages, all of them of mixed ethnicity. More than 100 Albanian, Serb and Roma farmers all use the mill for grinding their animal feed.

These days, the only sources of tension around here seem to be what the weather will be or what prices their livestock will bring on the market.