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Kosovo: In Dollove, An Agricultural Community Rebuilds

By Matthew Volz
[This article was first published in UNHCR's Kosovo Information Bulletin, Oct. 29, 1999.]

In Kosovo, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is implementing a multi-donor program covering all major areas of agricultural intervention together with a number of implementing agencies. This work includes conducting food security surveillance, providing animal healthcare, farm mechanization, and environmental protection. In this issue the Kosovo Humanitarian Update looks at some of the work being done to assist farming communities to once again become independent of international assistance.

Naim Bugani walked through the rubble of his burned and crumbling house and remembered his first impressions of Dollove as he and his fellow villagers returned in July, 14 months after being forced out by Serbian police.

"It was burned, empty, quiet," he said.

The residents of Dollove discovered what had before been a vibrant farming community near Klina had become virtually uninhabitable. Bugani, a local farmer and president of the Dollove branch of the local non-governmental organization the Mother Theresa Society, estimates 95% of the houses were unlivable. The only houses still with roofs are those that had been under construction when the village was emptied. The instruments of the agricultural village's livelihood, farm equipment, livestock and most greenhouses, had been destroyed or stolen.

The village has slowly begun to put its community back together the past few months. Bugani and his family of 10 moved into a relative's house, where more than 20 people now live. Other villagers also moved in with relatives and neighbors, and the less fortunate into tents. Until the village can again begin producing some of the food it requires, food aid is coming in through international assistance and from relatives living abroad. Winter wheat seed has been distributed and is being planted.

But winter looms, and besides the shelter problems in the community, the farmers are counting on a good winter crop to bring their lives closer to normalcy.

The situation facing the farming community, with its population of 366, is typical of the situation faced in many Kosovo villages and towns that were hit hard by the past year's conflict.

An adequate estimate of the expected wheat output for the fall planting season in Kosovo can only be done after satellite imaging, expected by the end of November, can be studied. For the time being, FAO can only provide a very rough approximation of the final harvest. Realistically, the average yield should be around 3.5 metric tons per hectare. 17,181 MT of wheat seed available through the humanitarian actors will permit the planting of some 57,270 hectares throughout the Province. The total area expected to be planted during the upcoming season is estimated at 70,000 hectares (around 80,000 hectares were usually planted prior to the conflict) for a total production of 245,000 MT of wheat, of which 81% will be produced with relief inputs. Compared to a normal year, production is expected to be 15% below normal.

Dollove is in Mercy Corps International's Area of Responsibility. The non-governmental organization has been providing food and non-food aid to the village since July. That aid, along with assistance provided by relatives living abroad, has been the village's primary means of survival since the return home. The aid will continue, but Bugani says much more is needed for winter.

A hard winter will hinder Dollove's efforts to rebuild its agricultural sector. The Dollove area had over 400 cows before the evacuation - now there are none. Most of the tractors are gone; the few that remained are those that neighbors had taken with them to Montenegro when they fled last year.

Some of the greenhouses have been rebuilt, and more will be provided through Mercy Corps' agricultural recovery program. Mercy Corps also supplied the village with winter wheat seed and a tractor for plowing the land in the five-village area, but these are just small steps in the large task of getting Dollove back on its feet again. Many villagers are still waiting for the tractor for use on their land, and nature's deadline for planting is drawing closer. Beyond this winter, the villagers are faced with the question of where their spring seed will come from.

Bugani estimates it will take a year and a half until Dollove is self-reliant, and is able to produce its full share of crops without international aid. Until then, he said, the community will depend heavily on international assistance, as will the rest of Kosovo. The upcoming season may prove to be one of the biggest obstacles on the road to rebuilding Kosovo's towns and agricultural sector. But Bugani is determined his family, and Dollove, will make it.

"Step by step we will survive this winter," he said.

Matthew Volz is the Program Information Officer for Mercy Corps International in Kosovo.