As two PhD candidates from Bosnia & Herzegovina conduct research in the IKBM (Department for Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science) laboratories on what happens to the antioxidants during processing of fruits (including jam) and explore the possibility of using forest plant fruits in the food industry, another PhD candidate, Ognjen Zurovec, from the same country is at Noragric, looking at agriculture adaptation to climate change in the Western Balkans. And there are several more students at NMBU from the region.
Collaboration between NLH and partners in Ukraine lasted from 1990-1995; the Balkan programme started simultaneously (1993) and continued until 1996. Activities in the region focused mostly on capacity building of the agriculture, forestry and veterinary medicine faculties at partner universities. After the Balkan war ended (1999), focus shifted to rebuilding links with partner universities, establishing academic programmes and educating new bachelor, master, PhD and post-doc students.
Current collaboration falls under the Higher education, research and development in the Western Balkans (HERD)/Agriculture programme (2010-2015) which includes 13 projects at NMBU, Bioforsk and two university colleges (Hedmark and Sør-Trøndelag). The programme’s main goal is to contribute to economic growth and social development through academic cooperation. Of the five HERD sub-programmes, HERD/Agriculture is the largest. “The fact that NMBU (UMB/NLH) has had good connections in the region since the 1980’s is the reason for the large number of projects in this sub-programme”, says Thor S. Larsen, sector manager for the HERD/Agriculture programme whose secretariat is based at Noragric.
Sector manager Larsen adds: “NMBU’s cooperation with the Western Balkans confirms that academic institutions are important contributors for the region’s social and economic development. When programme activities are harmonized with national and institutional regional policy and strategies, they provide important advice and support to governments, the private sector and to individual farmers”.
At Noragric there are two HERD/Agriculture projects, one coordinated by Prof. Bishal Sitaula focusing on agricultural adaptation to climate change; and the other coordinated by Prof. Mensur Vegara, addressing entrepreneurship in sustainable use of pastureland/grazing. The latter has played a key role in the earlier collaboration programmes with the region and originally comes from Bosnia himself.
While the HERD/Agriculture programme (funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) comes to an end in December 2015, researchers in the projects are looking for ways to continue the collaboration. It is hoped that other funding sources will be identified in order to continue collaboration.