Women Change Business Practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Success stories about agro-sector women entrprenurs. Find out more!

Women in Bosnia and Herzegovina are changing agricultural trends while striving to bring innovation and advanced technologies. They walk-the-talk when it comes to the changes in practice and approach. Adela Viles-Bektas, MA in Food Technology, was born in 1988 in Bugojno. Young and ambitious, with many ideas implemented during her student years through projects, she continued her active work after studies. Her first job opportunity came at Herbos Nature, the firm where she currently works as CEO. The company, known for packaging and export of raspberries and other fruits, was both her opportunity and her challenge. Today, Herbos Nature is her success story.

She successfully implemented the ideas that received support through the activities of FARMA II, a joint project between Sweden and USAID. “With the support of development activities, we have increased capacity by 50% and modernized production. Finally, we have ensured the quality of products recognized by our strategic customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and other countries around the world. Although the raspberry sector has been under difficult circumstances for the last few years, we strive for positive stories to come from Herbos Nature, and the key to our success is strong effort, work and readiness to contribute," Adela concludes.

This year of Sweden/USAID FARMA II activities, in many ways, was marked by the women empowerment initiatives. This is particularly important for the agricultural and rural development sector. Throughout our country, women in agriculture show readiness to accept modern practices, learn something new, innovate in work, and improve production processes.

The story takes us to Amina Muharemagic, a graduated economist from Tuzla who, after researching the markets and finding out that large amounts of honey were imported into BiH, decided to try to start her own production. She founded "BeeMed", located in the Lipnica Business Incubator, and in addition to honey, they are also involved in the production of local apple jam and apple vinegar. "Sweden/USAID FARMA II has helped us through the financing purchase of automatic honey-packing machine with a honey de-crystallization unit. Also, through this cooperation we developed a beekeeping manual that contains instructions for good beekeeping practices. It is extremely important that everyone in the value chain follows hygienic standards and quality standards of honey, because only in this way can we build the reputation of our product," says Amina. Today, the beekeeping sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina includes 8,000 to 10,000 people, and the production of honey in 2017 was 2,634 tons with a total of 405,000 hives. Women play important role in future development of the sector.

But stories about women entrepreneurs are not only about the business. The story of Sabina Zekic and Desanka Nikolic, who founded the Association of Women of Podrinje in Vlasenica, confirms that women business empowerment can also change the wider community. ''We started with sewing and knitting trainings. In cooperation with our partner associations, we launched computer training and English language courses. As we worked further and expanded our activities, we realized that more attention had to be paid to empowering women in rural parts of the municipality. That is why we focused on supporting women in business,” Desanka shares. With the support of the Sweden/USAID FARMA II, these two women-leaders worked on the activities to strengthen the role of women in the process of milk and dairy production, and later on the activities to improve raspberry production in the Vlasenica area. These successful examples of female entrepreneurs running companies in the agricultural sector are an important message for generations to come.

Sweden/USAID FARMA II continues with their efforts to more inclusivity when it comes to women in agriculture. On October 15, on the International Day of Rural Women, FARMA II presented activities implemented to date in order to support and encourage business women. Additionally, women entrepreneurs from 11 cooperatives and companies shared their experiences and talked about challenges they are facing, but also presented their products at mini-fair in Sarajevo. These positive examples and success stories encourage further engagement and joint efforts that will empower rural women and women entrepreneurs.