When it comes to farming in Montenegro, Ljiljana K., like many other female farmers around the country, has heard all kinds of stereotypes.
“Women are responsible for milking cows – this is not a man’s job.”
“Women may not own land, but they work on the farm.”
“My wife is irreplaceable, only she knows how to process the milk.”
These are just a few of the common refrains that echo in the ears of Ljiljana, a smallholder dairy farmer from Danilovgrad, Montenegro who has been working in agriculture for more than twenty years. Much has changed in the agriculture sector over the two decades that Ljiljana farmed and as these changes take shape, a small - but growing - group of women involved in the agriculture sector are starting to use their collective voice to demand that the Government more adequately address the specific needs and constraints faced by female farmers throughout the country.
Agriculture is extremely important for rural livelihoods in Montenegro, with as much as 70% of the country’s rural population living off of the land. Agriculture land resources account for nearly 38% of the country, making rural development critical for Montenegro. Furthermore, as female farmers account for approximately 65% of the work force on family agricultural holdings and 13% of total land holders in the country, their importance to the development of agriculture sector in Montenegro cannot be overstated.
In response to a need to boost rural livelihoods through the development of agriculture sector in the country, policy makers in Montenegro have developed a strategy for this sector which promotes improvements in sustainable resource management, food safety, adequate standards of living in rural areas, and competitiveness.
However, as Ljiljana and her colleagues know, any such improvements in the agricultural sector will ultimately be hampered until both women and men working in this sector given equal opportunity to to benefit from these improvements. Understanding this, Ljiljana began looking for ways to improve the situation for herself, as well as for other female farmers like her. Although successful overall in her own dairy business – producing about 750 milliliters of milk from 60 cows and calves each day – Ljiljana began looking for ways to expand her operation by first reaching out to her local extension service.