Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bosnia: A Fruit Producer

How a cross-community project created a successful economic model for Bosnia’s farming sector.

This film tells the story of how a small cross-community venture grew into what it's managers say is Bosnia’s biggest farming cooperative.

The Vocar Zvornik was conceived in 2002, at a time when Bosniak refugees were still coming back to the Zvornik area of northeast Bosnia. It was started by five Serbs and five Bosniaks.

As one of the first Serb farmers to join, Dragoljub Vukotic, recalled, “The first time they called me and asked whether I wanted to join the cooperative, I had to talk to people to check whether I could, because I was afraid someone would set my house on fire.”

The venture found acceptance across both communities, however, because the farmers involved were seen as upstanding, respected figures.

“The cooperative was a light at the end of the tunnel. It helped people survive,” Memsur Galjic, a Bosniak who is now deputy director of Vocar Zvornik, said. “We were a country that had just come out of a war and there were no jobs around…. It meant that we returnees now had an opportunity to earn our first income since the 1990s.”

Although most of those who initially signed up were returning Bosniaks in need of an income, they were soon joined by Serbs. The cooperative has now expanded beyond Zvornik into most of northeastern Bosnia, with 1,000 members and a management team consisting of three Bosniaks and three Serbs.

The cooperative started by focusing on fast-maturing crops like gherkins which would earn quick money for needy households, but these days it covers a wide range including slower-growing fruit trees.

It still offers its members a high level of support, ensuring they have the seed and other inputs they need for the season, and then buying and marketing their crops for them.

This film was produced as part of the Ordinary Heroes project, funded by the Norwegian Embassy in Sarajevo. IWPR is implementing the project in partnership with the Post-Conflict Research Centre in Sarajevo.  

More IWPR's Global Voices