In Kosovo: Helping Businesses and Communities Help Themselves
June 7, 2013
For three war widows in Kosovo, the money allows them to get as much work done in a week as they used to do in a month.
The women live and work in Krusha e Madhe, a small village in southwestern Kosovo, which was devastated after the 1999 war. Nearly 20 years after the war's end, a farmer named Kimete Hoti organized a small enterprise called "Women Farmers." The women farmers decided to set up a business growing and processing peppers and other vegetables.
Peppers Bring Prosperity
The women farmers of Krusha e Madhe were scrambling to provide for their families in the hard years after the conflict. "My husband was killed. So was his brother," Kimete Hoti explains. "I was left with two children to take care of. Right now I need to support my daughter's university studies in Pristina (the capital)."
Hoti and her colleagues applied for a World Bank-supported grant to buy equipment for their business. After a review and a field check, their application was approved. In 2011, they got a grant for about $12,000 U.S. dollars. That money paid for almost 80 percent of the cost of the new equipment, they paid for the rest.
husband was killed. So was his brother. I was left with two children to take care of. Right now I need to support my daughter's university studies in Pristina (the capital).
More Local Employees
They bought a pepper-processing machine, two large bowls for cooking the peppers and an irrigation system for a new greenhouse. The new purchases not only saved time, but also improved working conditions. Perhaps most importantly, the new equipment allowed the three women to expand their business; they hired four more women from their village plus an additional five to help during the four month high season in summer.
Every year, the "Women Farmers" produce 40 kilograms of a dip called Ajvar, made with red peppers, which is sold in two supermarket chains throughout Kosovo. They also grow vegetables, some of which they pickle and others they sell fresh.
The Krusha e Madhe business is not unique. Across Kosovo, almost one hundred small businesses have received small grants like theirs. About half of the grants have gone to businesses run by women, ethnic minorities, and youth, and they are all small—none employ more than 20 people. The grants aim to help business, but also to benefit entire communities. For example, the "Women Farmers'" operation buys some of its vegetables from neighbors. "We collect vegetables grown by other women in the village, from seven families at the moment, because we cannot grow all the vegetables," says Hoti.
Benefitting Business and Community
Other grantees have similar stories. In the village of Marmulle, in western Kosovo, a small farm with 24 cows produces about 400 liters of milk daily. David Gojani, who owns the farm, got a grant to buy a refrigerator, a milk bottling machine and a yoghurt bottling machine. "This helps us improve the product and packaging quality,' he says, "as well as increase the capacity of milk collection from more than 20 farmers in our village." Because of the grant, the farm is now able to sell bottled milk at the local market every day. Right now, it has four full-time employees, but Gojani plans to expand his staff so the farm can serve as the sole milk collection point for the entire village.
And in Grapanica, in central Kosovo, the Ginza company makes doors and windows. With help from the grant program, Ginza's owners bought new machines for cutting, cleaning, and drying glass. Now, the company's owner can do in-house the work he was contracting out to a larger company. He has also been able to hire four new employees.
The project is financed with a $4.9 grant from the State and Peace-Building Fund of the World Bank, a fund reserved for fragile and post- conflict countries. This three year project gives support to small businesses to allow them to invest and expand. It also relies on community input to target and rebuild important local infrastructure. And in doing those things, the project promotes local employment and local decision making.
Via the project, entrepreneurs can apply for grants, technical help and training, but so far the grants seem to be the most sought after. Access to credit in Kosovo can be a problem, and this project is easing business owners' access to investment money. The business owners must match at least 20 percent of the money they receive, and the largest possible amount of money they can apply for is about $13,000.
People's lives have changed. A disaster was avoided because the electricity connection was so bad that a small malfunction could have caused a fire.
As for infrastructure, like roads and bridges, the project has made about twenty grants so far, mostly to the country's poorest municipalities. Four communities with large minority populations have received grants of $85,000 each. Communities choose the projects that need work, and are asked to contribute; they pay about fifteen percent of the total cost.
In the village of Gadime, Afrim Limani is the spokesman for the 180-person Ashkali Roma population. The Ashkali Roma asked local authorities to improve the outdated and dangerous electricity grid, which was used by 30 houses. A $9,000 grant from the project matched funding from the village. Workers installed 335 meters of new cables and built ten new cement poles to carry them. "People's lives have changed," says Limani. "A disaster was avoided because the electricity connection was so bad that a small malfunction could have caused a fire."
A Desire for More
Led by local input like the Ashkali Roma's, other infrastructure projects range from a village water supply system, to central heating in a primary school to the modernization of an electricity grid. Local officials estimate about one thousand people have already benefitted from these improvements. Nermin Mahmuti runs the Community Development Fund, a local organization, which runs the project. She says things are improving nicely, and she hopes to expand. "The project is going so well that we have contacted other development donors to ensure the project is continued."