Final workshops of the HERD/Agriculture programme, September 2016

The objectives of the three workshops were:

  • to learn from project implementation and outcome;
  • to review the status of the (former) students and possibilities on the local job market;
  • to discuss dissemination of outcome and results to the end users;
  • to discuss lessons learned from collaboration between Norway and partners in the Western Balkan. 

Previous travel to the region
The HERD/Agriculture Board visited the region and met with project partners in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Board’s travel and visit to Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2013 was an internal mid-term review, which focused on overarching challenges such as practical use of knowledge and knowledge transfer, institutional development, and sustainability related to agricultural activities. The Board visited projects on several field visits during all regional visits.


SUMMARY OF THE PROGRAMME

Sunday 18 September
Secretariat and Board arrived in Sarajevo at 21:30.

Monday 19 September
08.30-11:30 Workshop at University of Sarajevo, Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science, Institute of Crop Production, coordinated by Prof. Mirha Đikić. See participants list.
11.30-13.00 Lunch with workshop participants (Una restaurant on campus).
13.00 – 17:00 Site visit: experimental field Butmir and gene bank.

Tuesday 20 September
08.30-12.00 Workshop continues at the University of Sarajevo. Same participants as the previous day.
12.00 -13.00 Lunch with workshop participants and departure for airport.
15.15 Flight from Sarajevo to Belgrade.
16:30 Transport by car from Belgrade airport to Novi Sad.
18:30 Meeting at University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad. Dinner with university staff.

Wednesday 21 September
8:30-10:30 Visit to the experimental station for viticulture in Sremski Karlovci (13 km from Novi Sad), part of the Faculty of Agriculture Novi Sad, to learn about resistant grape clones suitable for organic agriculture, incl. experiments with organic grape fertilization funded by national project. Host:  Head of Viticulture Department, Dr Dragoslav Ivanisevic.
10.30-11:00 Visit to the Laboratory for Sensory Evaluation of Food at Faculty of Technology, University of Novi Sad (equipped by HERD project EDUFOOD).
11.00 – 14.30 Workshop at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Novi Sad. Coordination: Dr. Maja Manojlović. See participants list.
12:30 Lunch with workshop participants.
14:30 Departure for Belgrade airport.
17:10 Flight from Belgrade to Banja Luka, arrival 18:05.

Thursday 22 September
08.30-11:30 Workshop at Faculty of Agriculture, University of Banja Luka. Coordinator: Professor Branko Djuric. Faculty of Agriculture, University of Banja Luka. See participants list.
11.30-13.00 Lunch with workshop participants.
13.00 – 18.00 Site visit: “Dim Dim" meat industry and other field trial location.

Friday 23 September
08:45: Departure from Banja Luka.

 

PROJECTS: PRESENTATIONS, DISCUSSION AND COMMENTS/OBSERVATIONS FROM THE BOARD

19 September, Sarajevo

The following projects were presented, followed by discussion, on the first day, 19 September. All projects are linked to the ppt presentations given at the workshops.

1. Project: Manufacture of Traditional B&H Cheeses with Selected Indigenous Bacterial Cultures and Technological Parameters as Basis for Industrial Production. Presented by Dr. Tarik Dizdarević, University of Sarajevo.

The Board questioned the quality of the milk used for the cheeses and whether the cheeses are commercialized. The presenter explained that in order to improve the quality, support is needed from the government – which is lacking, particularly for small producers. Livestock production in general is not up to standard. A mix of sheep and cow milk is used. Cheese bacteria were taken to Ås and tested with Norwegian milk. The future offers two paths: one is improved traditional production using new bacterial strains. The other is the commercial/industrial path. There are approx. 20 producers of Livno cheese in Bosnia & Herzegovina, a few years ago it was close to 100. Plans are to develop other products with support from the Research Council of Norway (NFR), EU-funding, domestic funding, etc. Traditional farm products cannot be sold on the commercial market, only industrial produced cheeses - and there is still a long way to go. Price is an important determinant for the consumer, even more than quality. A major bottleneck for export is the EU requirements for standards of meat/ cheese. Before Croatia became member of the EU, more dairy products were exported from Bosnia & Herzegovina. A national quality control system such as in Norway is lacking.

2. Project: The use of natural zeolite (clinoptilolite) for the treatment of farm slurry and as a fertilizer carrier. Presented by Prof. Senija Alibegovic-Grbic, University of Sarajevo.

The soil of the experimental sites differed with regard to mineral contents. Storage facilities for manure slurry and zeolite are only found at big farms. Zeolite is not, or very little, available locally (too expensive). Most is imported.

3. Project: Evaluation of fruit genetic resources in Bosnia & Herzegovina with the aim of sustainable, commercial utilization. Presented by Dr. Fuad Gasi, University of Sarajevo.

The presenter informed that this project has been used to establish collaboration with other organizations/countries: in Norway SLO, Agrinor, and NIBIO; regionally in Zagreb and in Belgrade. An application to Horizon 2020 together with NIBIO was submitted but was not successful. Generally, there is a lack of EU-project experience at the universities, and lack of financial compensation to cover time used on EU applications and follow up.

The project will continue to produce results during the coming years, including a book assembling the most important project outcomes (2017).

Fruit fairs with agricultural exhibitions and festivities in Bosnia & Herzegovina are important opportunities to communicate with the industry, i.e. providing scientific information and advice. Such fairs are very popular and often run during several days where the audience can be in the hundreds, sometimes thousands. 

4. Project: Antioxidant Activity and Stability of Bioactive Compounds during Processing of Ceratin Raw Materials of Plant Origin in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Presented by Prof. Sanja Orucevic Zuljevic, University of Sarajevo.

The presenter informed about the good results of the students, particularly the PhD student Amela Bulbulusic. Communication with small producers is relatively easy due to the way of organizing themselves and willingness to adapt. The other researcher in the project, Prof. Asima Akagich, added that the project has given advisory services and training courses to small-scale producers on improving the traditional way of fruit processing, including how to store/preserve raw material and pasteurizing.

5.  Project: Agricultural adaptation to climate change - networking, education, research and extension in the West Balkans. Presented by Dr. Melisa Ljusa, University of Sarajevo.

Regarding lessons learned from the floods (2014), the presenter remarked that mitigation and adaptation recommendations should be better made available to farmers. More extension services are needed but there are logistical constraints. A manual for local farmers was prepared as well as mitigation training sessions. There has been little collaboration with the ministries.

6.  Project: Providing genetic diversity and healthy plants for the horticulture in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Presented by Dr. Alisa Hadžiabulić and Dr. Ana Mandić, University of Mostar.

Project results were presented externally and the laboratory is in use. A contract has been signed with the Bosnian food safety agency for using the lab. Collaboration with other partners is being considered, including applying for EU funding. Bosnian wine is increasingly being exported, particularly to Croatia and other EU-countries, but the quantities are not enough for large exports.

7.  Project: Mineral improved food and feed crops for human and animal health. Presented by Prof. Mirha Đikić.

Collaboration with regional partners has increased due to the HERD/Agriculture project. There have been good experiences of working together and co-publishing with the Universities of Osijek and Novi Sad, but also within Bosnia-Herzegovina.  

20 September, Sarajevo

The discussion with participants from the first day continued and focused on three topics:

  1. Integration of Bachelor and Master curricula developed in the projects into the universities’ study programmes;
  2. Maintaining project partnerships (regional + with Norway).
  3. Status of the remaining PhD students.
  4. General feedback on HERD concept.

 1. Integration of Bachelor and Master curricula developed in the projects into the universities’ study programmes

Project:  Agricultural adaptation to climate change - networking, education, research and extension in the West Balkans. Dr. Melisa Ljusa, University of Sarajevo:

Two new models were incorporated at the Universities of Novi Sad and Belgrade. The programmes were implemented at the University of Sarajevo. The Master study programme was popular (increased from 2 to 10 students, and growing). The curricula are constantly updated following new information on climate change.

Project: Manufacture of Traditional B&H Cheeses with Selected Indigenous Bacterial Cultures and Technological Parameters as Basis for Industrial Production. Dr. Tarik Dizdarević, University of Sarajevo.

Regarding curricula development, the project only cooperated with NMBU; what was learned from Norwegian partners was included in the teaching models. New laboratory equipment purchased through the project is also used in other activities; and is expected to last for many years to come. The project has had huge results.

Project: Evaluation of fruit genetic resources in Bosnia & Herzegovina with the aim of sustainable, commercial utilization. Dr. Fuad Gasi, University of Sarajevo.

Current courses are updated with new research results and new equipment. ‘Fruit genetic resources’ is now offered at the doctoral level and is a popular topic of study. Students have benefitted from equipment and chemicals available through the project.

Project: Antioxidant Activity and Stability of Bioactive Compounds during Processing of Ceratin Raw Materials of Plant Origin in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prof. Sanja Orucevic Zuljevic, University of Sarajevo.

The project did not develop any special curricula but contributed to Bachelor and Master curricula which are constantly updated. Plant/food technology has become a popular subject. Practical work/ pilot food processing is included in teaching. Student teamwork is important. The spectrometer purchased via the project is also used in other courses and in relation to food research (e.g. meat, cheese). PhD students were engaged in teaching Master students, and the latter taught Bachelor students.

Project: Mineral improved food and feed crops for human and animal health. Prof. Mirha Đikić.

The project did not develop work packages related directly to curriculum development. More than 10 students participated.

A general discussion followed, where it was explained that tuition is free for Master students (equipment and books need to be purchased by students) and there is a flat rate for international students. If the quota for the latter is reached, the remaining students pay full tuition fee. The PhD tuition fee is 9,000 euro for three years of study. Many students combine studies and a job.

There is no national quality control (accreditation system) of curricula at the different universities. There are 7 agriculture faculties in Bosnia, and several universities per canton. Quality control is mostly based on publications and interest from the industry. The University of Sarajevo is certain that they are best, based on among others the number of publications and quotation indexes. Some other universities lack staff and need to hire externally for teaching, e.g. from Croatia.

2. Maintaining project partnerships (regional + with Norway)

The general feed-back was that a maximum of 2-3 partners in a project is optimal. Good communication and exchange of knowledge is important. A partner is often chosen in order to contribute with knowledge that is lacking in the partnership. Cooperation with universities outside the partnership has occurred and is based primarily on the project’s needs. Finding a relevant Norwegian partner was sometimes a challenge and Norwegian rates are high. Contacts with Norwegian partners – some established many years ago - still continue.

3. Status of the remaining PhD students

This is described in the final project reports from 2015.

Generally, there are too many high-level graduates, which means that the market/ government is unable to absorb them.  Probably only around 5-10 each year get a job. It is difficult to get a good job in Sarajevo; other places are usually easier. There is one dairy company in Sarajevo and many students apply there. Obtaining skills in using technical equipment is an advantage.  Some PhD graduates with good connections end up working in the business sector.

The University of Sarajevo has several students whose parents are fruit producers. Investing in their children’s education is done in the hope that they can take over the business later; some students work at their parent’s fruit producing company while studying.

4.  General feedback on the HERD concept

HERD has been a good concept for knowledge- and research exchange, purchasing new equipment and working with new partners. Five years was short; some projects would benefit from more research and implementation of the results in practical terms. Climate change was a new concept and laid the grounds for future research collaboration.

Observations and summary from the Sarajevo workshops: 

  • Bosnia has universities in each canton. There are seven faculties of agriculture. The Faculty of Agriculture in Sarajevo has 800 students, with an annual recruitment of about 100 students. Graduates can not find jobs in Bosnia and move abroad (brain drain). Approximately 80,000 young people under the age of 30 leave the country each year to find jobs abroad, many go to Germany or Croatia. An annual € 1 billion in remittances is sent to families in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
     
  • There is a lack of standardisation and control mechanism for the industry/ market/ value chain.
     
  • Land is owned by farmers or rented out by municipalities at a low price. The purchase of land by foreigners is forbidden by law, but this can be circumvented by establishing companies that can buy land. There is no requirement for Bosnian (co-)ownership of a company; it can be owned exclusively by foreigners (many Middle Eastern countries are currently doing so). Agricultural land is bought cheaply and is then converted for other purposes, e.g. industry. (A European version of land-grabbing).There is no political debate about protecting land. The University of Sarajevo is making a map of land use in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
     
  • The concept of farmers’ cooperatives is not widespread in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Farmers recognize the advantage of a cooperative, which is used mostly within integrated pest management and ecological production. The university contributes with scientific knowledge.
     

21 September, Novi Sad

The following projects were presented, followed by discussion:

Project: “Development of education and transfer of knowledge in the area of food technology – EDUFOOD”. Presented by Prof. Dr Ljubica Dokic, University of Novi Sad, and Prof. Midhat Jasic, University of Tuzla. (Ppt not submitted).

Teaching tools were developed under the project as well as the establishment of a centre of knowledge. A new course on sensory evaluation was developed which has been approved by the university’s teaching board. Norwegian students from NTNU came to the University of Novi Sad regularly and had good cooperation with other students.

Project: “Mineral improved food and feed crops for human and animal health”. Presented by Prof. Zdenko Loncaric, University of Osijek.

International cooperation and research links were developed in the Western Balkans that were an important base for effective scientific cooperation. There is also collaboration with the private sector, mainly oriented towards food producers.

Project: “Research, education and knowledge transfer promoting entrepreneurship in sustainable use of pastureland/grazing”. Presented by Dr Slaven Prodanovic and Dr. Savo Vuckovic, University of Belgrade.

The Board commented that the project has been successful in using technologies and implementing its strategy. It also remarked that the project has huge potential, with 70% of the country consisting of grassland, where poor people live.

Project: “Grassland management for high forage yield and quality in the Western Balkans”. Presented by Dr. Maja Manojlović and Dr. Branko Cupina, University of Novi Sad. 

There was good cooperation with the five partners in the project and all gained valuable new knowledge. Results will continue to be published after the end of the project. The trials have been beneficial to local villages. Lectures were also given in Norway to Master students.

Project: “The use of natural zeolite (clinoptilolite) for the treatment of farm slurry and as a fertilizer carrier”. Presented by Prof. Vesna Rakic, University of Belgrade.

Regarding further research, there remains much unfinished and in need of funds to continue. Transferring basic knowledge into practice could benefit from further attention.

Observations from the Novi Sad workshop: 

  • Small-scale agriculture producers need assistance. Training of trainers/ learning by doing in local farming societies is important. There is one extension service in the north of the country but most transfer of knowledge in Kosovo is done through trained farmers.
     
  • There is more than 30% unemployment in Serbia since the 1990’s. Difficult for graduates to find jobs.

  

22 September, Banja Luka

The following projects were presented, followed by discussion:

Project: “Evaluation of cattle welfare and housing in Bosnia and Herzegovina and establishing the laboratory for research in animal welfare, housing and behaviour”. Presented by Miljan Erbez, Ministry of Agriculture (post-doc at University of Banja Luka during project).

The presenter informed about a book on cattle housing (published in 2015 and available on the internet) resulting from the project that was presented to farmers (first time in Bosnia & Herzegovina) and used by extension services. Practical project outcome has also been disseminated on state television in an extension program on Saturdays targeted at farmers and extension experts. Recommendations were both general in nature and addressed to individual farmers; most farmers accepted the recommendations. Transfer of knowledge included targeting the municipality. Bosnia & Herzegovina does not have the Norwegian law requiring cattle to be out in pastures a minimum of 3 months per year, but this should be the case.

Project: “Comparison of lamb carcass and meat quality of breeds in Western Balkan and Norway achieving improved palatability, sale and sustainability”. Presented by Dr Vladana Grabez, University of Banja Luka.

Classification of meat is underway for beef and pork, but not for sheep. Quality control of traditional curing has been important. Starting a knowledge base, studying possible improvements with the long-term objective of access to export markets. Regional cooperation and cross border projects will enhance opportunities for obtaining funding, e.g. from the EU. A fact-finding mission by the presenter and colleagues to Nortura, Norway, gave insight into organization and procedures.

Projects: “Mineral improved food and feed crops for human and animal health” and “Grassland management for high forage yield and quality in the Western Balkans”. Presented by Dr Milanka Drinic, University of Banja Luka.

The Grassland project has had collaboration with local decision makers who adopted some of the recommendations resulting from the trials. Regarding the Mineral-project, the presenter remarked that there is a lack of subsidies for farmers; farmers currently are paid based on quantity, not quality. Quality is generally approved domestically by a national institute, but not for export.

The project has contributed to capacity building at the Faculty but has not influenced the curricula. Collaboration among the regional partners will continue, including applying for external funds, such as EU.

Project: “Research, education and knowledge transfer promoting entrepreneurship in sustainable use of pastureland/grazing”. Presented by Dr Branko Djuric, University of Banja Luka.   

Approx. 70 people are currently working in extension services, covering the whole country and financed by municipalities and partly by the ministries. Resources and opportunities to assist differs between municipalities. The level of expertise varies. Services started with expertise on animal husbandry. For the farmers, knowledge is sometimes more important than money. Training, sometimes facilitated by the University, is also offered.

The project has recommended using alfalfa or clover in grasslands as these give good results, including a better quality of milk.

Project: “Agricultural Adaptation to Climate Change - Networking, Education, Research and Extension in the West Balkans”. Presented by Dr Mihajlo Marković.

The topic of this project is relevant in connection with the drought that has been a problem in recent years, leading to serious negative effects on crops, particularly maize, which is used for animal feeding. Reduction is sometimes down by 70%. Only 2% of land is under irrigation and much of it was damaged during the war and later during floods. Opportunities for reconstructing irrigation systems are being addressed in a 10-year World Bank funded project (60 mill USD). Preparations are under way for federal monitoring of soils, grass, feed, milk etc. not only minerals and components but also POPs etc. 

Observations from the Banja Luka workshop: 

  • The Republika Srpska has one Ministry of Agriculture, whilst Bosnia & Herzegovina has a ministry in every canton. This is easier to deal with in practice. Individual farmers can apply to the Ministry of Agriculture for subsidies. Funds for such support are however limited. 

  • There is no traceability for meat, nor control. There is thus no export of meat to the EU, only to the West Balkan region, Turkey and Albania. The quality of meat as well as farmer’s income will rise if a classification system is in place.
     
  • The market cannot absorb all university candidates, who find it difficult to find a job.
     
  • Academic knowledge should be made better available to farmers and producers.

 

GENERAL CONCLUSION

Generally, satisfaction and thanks for collaboration under the HERD/Agriculture programme were expressed at all venues. Project partners also expressed the interest in continuing cooperation with each other, and a strong need for a HERD II. Many projects still have relevant research and further activities that could benefit the stakeholders (universities, students, decision makers, farmers, etc). Five years is (too) short.

The political context greatly determines the implementation of recommendations for improvement. Particularly in Bosnia & Herzegovina, legislation, regulations, management roles and responsibilities often differ between cantons and federal government institutions, which pose a challenge to further agricultural development.

Collaboration with industry is essential and has been done in many HERD/Agriculture projects. Industry plays an important role as the bridge between academic knowledge and the consumer market. Future export to the EU depends on quality of products and a good quality control system.

Several of the observations and conclusions drawn are comparable to what was observed under the conference and project visits in Bosnia & Herzegovina, 30 September – 5 October 2013.

 

Published 24. November 2016 - 14:19 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:10