Build a Village - Milk Collection Cooperative
Zare Bikic pours the first milk from the Milk Collection Cooperative in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
The Milk Collection Cooperative is one of the prioritized development projects of the multi-year integrated community development program entitled Build-a-Village, in Bosansko Grahovo Municipality, Canton 10, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Community members acknowledged that organization of milk collection and sale is the most pressing issue for all communities in the municipality to begin to address the need to improve livelihood opportunities for rural communities with high concentrations of returnees. The goal of the project is to improve food security of vulnerable community members in the municipality on a short and long-term basis through the creation of a milk collection cooperative. Foods Resource Bank (FRB) provided the necessary funding to launch the project.
The majority of families in Bosansko Grahovo have milk-producing cows. However, because there is no organized milk collection, there is significant waste of milk, which has the potential of generating a steady source of income in the short-term and profit in the long-term, if the milk meets countrywide hygiene and sanitation requirements. Approximately 70 families, who could be selling their milk everyday, now see themselves forced to discard production or use it to feed their farm animals.
Over a year ago, there was an organized milk collection and sale to a dairy in nearby Livno. However, due to a change in business strategy combined with limited capacity, the Livno dairy abruptly stopped all collection after 18 months leaving the Bosansko Grahovo producers in an extremely difficult situation. As such, local producers have had very limited, to no means to sell their production for over a year now. Until last month, local leadership was in continued negotiation with the Livno dairy in an effort to restart activities. However, these negotiations have since terminated as the Livno dairy management told Bosansko Grahovo producers that that they are not able to buy any more milk. Subsequently, local leadership, spearheaded by Grahovo Women’s Association (WA) entered into talks with dairies in Bosanska Dubica, Posuje, Banja Luka and Mostar. However, the capacity of the dairies in these towns is limited and interest in purchasing milk from the producers in Bosansko Grahovo municipality is low.
Danka proudly presents the new entrance door of the central milk station.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
Nevertheless, WA took the initiative and created a plan of action to solve the milk collection problem. WA held a joint meeting of 40 milk producers from the municipality with Grahovo Agriculture Cooperative, an association previously established by an international organization that did not function due to leadership and management problems. This attempt resulted in three different alternatives. They included revitalization of Grahovo Agricultural Cooperative, establishment of a new female dairy cooperative, and utilization of the Agricultural Cooperative in Drvar. After much discussion, 36 milk producers voted to revitalize Grahovo Agricultural Cooperative for milk collection. The Cooperative already had some equipment, a central location, as well as staff who could assist in milk collection and sale. Only four producers voted to establish a new female cooperative and none of the producers voted for Drvar Agricultural Cooperative.
This resulted in establishment of a partnership with Grahovo Agricultural Cooperative with election of a new management body for Grahovo Agricultural Cooperative, consisting of three members from Grahovo Agricultural Cooperative and three members from WA. The new management for the Cooperative first dealt with internal problems of accrued debts to subcontractors and electrical problems. This body decided to cancel all debts by selling some extra equipment owned and solve electrical problems by replacing the old wiring. After dealing with these internal problems, the priority was to find a dairy to buy the milk.
The Cooperative management held preliminary negotiations with some milk dairies in Bosnia and determined the amount of milk available for sale in the municipality. In addition, the local authorities in Grahovo and the Cantonal Ministry of Agriculture fully supported the initiative and provided partial funding. The executive director and manager of Meggle Dairy Bihac, one of the largest dairy factories in Bosnia held a meeting in mid-May in Bosansko Grahovo with the Cooperative management. They gave full support to organizing milk collection and said that Meggle dairy will buy all milk produced from Grahovo, regardless of the amount, if the Cooperative complied with the countrywide food control and quality regulations.
Member of the Milk Collection Cooperative in Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, with milk cows.
Photo: Tatiana Dwyer/CWS
Fund collection to reconstruct the premises for central milk collection started immediately following the meeting with all milk producers. Local contributions included milk producers, the Municipality, WA, and the Cooperative. In total US$3,216 was collected. Contact with the Ministry of Agriculture resulted in the promise of some funds to support the project. Materials were purchased and contractors selected to renovate the premises. In addition, the process of tender to buy additional necessary milk collection equipment has begun.
All four initial development projects prioritized by the local people are interconnected, and supplement each other --none more than the veterinary services project, and milk collection. WA, together with the local municipal administration, recruited a qualified veterinarian to comply with hygiene and sanitation requirements through the municipal employment offices in Canton 10 and by announcements on 3 local radio stations.
By mid April, a commission of three members from CWS and WA selected the veterinarian. The chosen veterinarian is well qualified and has all necessary and requested documentation. Therefore, the commission unanimously selected him to conduct the project.
CWS and its local partners’ approach to listening to the local people, has thus far been very successful. When local communities prioritized the Milk Collection Cooperative project over the Community Entrepreneur Fund, CWS and its international partners, such as the Week of Compassion (which funded the Veterinary Service) and FRB, were very efficient in securing funding for the project. This caused the local people to become increasingly engaged, because they saw this effort as validation of local knowledge and organizations. They were also empowered by this concrete commitment from these institutions to their community.
Establishment of the Cooperative combined with subsequent loan funding for individuals seeking to increase their cattle stock through Build a Village’s Community Entrepreneur Fund will provide the opportunity for the majority, if not all of the families interested in this activity, to establish food security through the creation of dependable, appropriate, and growing income generation activities. As capacity is increased, the sustainability of the cooperative will be ensured. Greater scale equals both greater security for the cooperative as well as greater community impact in the future.
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