NMBU has been working together with partners in Eastern-, South-Eastern Europe and the Western Balkan countries for some 25 years. At the moment quite a few students from the region are studying at NMBU, including several PhD candidates.
Among those, two PhD candidates from Bosnia & Herzegovina are conducting research on what happens to the antioxidants during processing of fruits (including jam) and exploring the possibility of using forest plant fruits in the food industry. Both are doing their degrees at the Department for Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science (IKBM). Another PhD candidate, Ognjen Zurovec, from the same country is at the Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), looking at agriculture adaptation to climate change in the Western Balkans.
The East Europe Office at the former Norwegian Agricultural University (NLH) was established in 1989 and merged with Noragric in 1995. Projects and programmes managed by the office were funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To date there has been strong political support in Norway for the Western Balkans. Norway provided approx. NOK 10 billion to the region during 1991-2008.
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.
Bosnia & Herzegovina is the country with most HERD/Agriculture projects, particularly with the University of Sarajevo (Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science). Fruit and vegetable processing in Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely underdeveloped and the goal is to get better products on the market as well as exporting the products to the EU.