Not small potatoes

Kosovo, August 9, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps  </span>
    Naim Fejza in his field. Photo: Mercy Corps

Naim Fejza is a veteran potato farmer in the small town of Mogila in southern Kosovo. For his entire adult life, he and his household — which includes his parents, wife and three children — have eked out a living on the small income from the sales of potatoes on their farm.

Mogila is a typical Kosovo village of 1,700 residents, where communities of both Albanian and Serb ethnic backgrounds live and work together precariously, relying on crops such as potatoes, wheat and corn for their livelihoods. The mixed-ethnic Mogila Farmers’ Association and municipal authorities approached Mercy Corps with a proposal to provide assistance to farmers of all ethnic backgrounds, in order to improve crop production capacity and overall economic standing.

Following a series of community meetings, the Farmers’ Association and other local farmers nominated Naim to act as the primary representative of the project to Mercy Corps and the local government. With support from the local government and the Farmers’ Association, Mercy Corps facilitated the delivery of farm equipment to Mogila to make their agricultural ventures more efficient. The farmers rent the machinery from the association to use on their lands.

Six months after the project's start, implementation is showing its benefits to the farmers, the Farmer's Association and the wider community. With the new machinery, Naim and the Farmers’ Association have increased the surface planted with varieties of vegetables by an average of more than 100 percent. At the same time, the cost of planting has dropped in half, from the previous $150 per hectare to the present $70.

Some farmers have doubled their sales from previous years. Farmers also export their products to Macedonia, Albania and Serbia, as well as selling at local markets. In addition, with the new surplus income, Naim has invested in and built a 500-square-meter greenhouse for pepper seedlings that will increase the quality and their quantity of peppers produced. The Farmers’ Assocation has also grown from 30 to 100 members.

Naim, the pleased father of three, says, “I simply can’t explain the value of Mercy Corps’ assistance — it has doubled the planted surface, cut the cost in half and given meaning to the term ‘profit’.”