Topčagić Organic Products helps those in need and turns to food delivery, Sweden/USAID FARMA II project supports their efforts

In times of need local heroes are easy to spot. Such is Hazima Topčagić of Topčagić Organic Products (TOP) from Pribava village near Gračanica, Tuzla region.

Hazima is a self-employed organic food producer who since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken it upon herself and her family to help those in need. She provides them with a supply of fresh lettuce and spring onion, and what is more she does it for free.

Women entrepreneur

For Hazima running her own farm is a fairly new thing. “I always had a small eco-garden as I wanted to make sure that my kids ate healthy food. As we have 3,000 m2 of land around our house, in 2016 I decided to use what God gave us and take up agriculture as my vocation. We now produce organic lettuce, spring onion and spinach in the winter and tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in the summer.”

Back then she applied for an automated greenhouse covering 500 m2 with Agricultural Cooperative Gračanka.  Cooperative provided the greenhouse and with her investment in concrete foundations and electrical and water installations she was set to start her own production in 2017.

“I used to have an office job, but now I am a self-employed farmer and my family is my support network. My daughter in law is unemployed and she helps whenever needed, as does my younger son who is still in the high school. My husband and the older son are also there when I need them.”

Sweden/USAID FARMA II projects supported Agricultural Cooperative Gračanica in purchasing milking equipment for 148 farmers and in the past USAID and Sweden assisted cooperative in establishing fruit and vegetables cold storage facilities and in adopting global good agriculture (GAP) practices thus assisting more than 1,000 of its members.

Organic humanity at work

Hazima is an active member of her community. She runs a local Women Association Pribava established in 2014 and is known as someone who does not shy away from helping others.

Topčagić Organic Products among other uses Facebook to engage with local community, and as soon as the harvest of lettuce and spring onion started, post with the following content appeared on their Facebook page: “Today’s deliveries done. Thanks to all our customers for their trust (three harts). New deliveries are coming tomorrow (Saturday). Dear friends I kindly ask you again to send me in the inbox the addresses of people who cannot afford to buy [our products] or are old and powerless. Your TOP organic products #Let’sStrengthenOurImmunity #Let’sEatHealthy #Let’sFightItOutTogether.”

TOP, i.e. Hazima, provides free of charge food to some 15 people on regular basis. Prior to every delivery, she receives some five to six new names of people in need, and she makes their day when she shows up at their doorsteps with fresh vegetables.

“There is also a baker in our community who provides free of charge bread to those in need, so I pick that up on the way and deliver the bread too,” adds Hazima.

Maintaining customer relations and quality

TOP sells their products, which in addition to fresh also include processed vegetables such as tomato salsa, ajvar and pickles. They do so at their farm, in the Gračanka Cooperative store, and they also deliver in the Gračanica region.

“Honestly, prior to this situation with corona virus, people preferred to come by our farm and buy products here, but now we have turned to delivery. Our delivery services are also free of charge for each order over 5 Convertible Marks [KM] and we have made 6 KM packages which include 1 kilo of lettuce and 800 grams of spring onion,” says Hazima. “We now mostly deliver and will continue doing so as long as needed.”

But corona or no she follows all the organic control protocols and has the organic certificate. “We buy specific seeds and seedlings and we use organic fertilizer. Our greenhouse is automated so roof and sides open or close depending of inner temperature and humidity or rain and wind outside; sensors measure all that.”

Organic production has some challenges too. “Organic spinach seeds are somewhat more sensitive so our spinach yield this year may be smaller and we may not opt to deliver spinach for the time being.”

Moving forward with Sweden/USAID support

Once the spring harvest is done Hazima will turn to the next production cycle and prepare the land for the tomatoes, peppers and cucumber planting. “We can expect first yields somewhere in July and after that, whatever is not sold we will process and sell during the winter.”

She will also continue her charitable work and for that kudos to Hazima!

To support Hazima in her efforts Sweden/USAID FARMA II project started providing TOP with expertise in online marketing and design of promotional materials. This should help TOP broaden its customer base.

Aimed at promotion of women in BiH agriculture, Sweden/USAID FARMA II started the campaign "They Go Forward". Within this campaign, we will publish positive stories about women in agri-food production and processing. In many cases, women who are informally, but practically highly engaged in domestic agricultural activities are considered unemployed housewives, and are therefore without incomes. Sweden/USAID FARMA II through its activities promotes and encourages women to legally register their production and become part of the official economy. Luckily, today there are successful women-owned or women-led companies that produce innovative and quality products that are sold both locally and at international markets. To assist women farmers in their endeavors, and to encourage other women who are in a similar position, FARMA II will prepare success stories that will be published and distributed to a wide audience.