Author: E2E Youth Employment Initiative (Social Inclusion Blog)
On the slopes of the Jelica Mountain, the peace and quiet is interrupted only by the chirping of birds. On one side, rows of raspberry bushes, on the other, grazing sheep, and in the distance a field of freshly harvested corn.
We came to visit Dragiša Grujović, a 23-year-old farmer who received financial aid under the DAFF programme for sheep-farming.
So how did it all begin?
“After graduating from the mechanical engineering and traffic school, I worked for two and a half years in a company. I can do all kinds of farm work, so then I decided to see whether I could earn more working on my farm, and be my own boss”, Dragiša tells us.
“My mother read about the DAFF training online, and she suggested I apply. I decided to broaden my knowledge, and see what happens. Over the course of the training we visited agricultural holdings, and saw what people were doing. For instance, we visited a goat farm, and that caught my interest. My family has had sheep for a long time, and I’ve been helping my mother from an early age, we have the space, and our own machinery. The only thing we didn’t have was the money to buy the parent herd. After the training we developed business plans, and I guess they liked mine best”, with a smile, Dragiša recalls how his business plan was awarded a grant. He used the grant to buy a parent herd of ten ewes and one ram, which makes him eligible to receive additional subsidies from the state.
“I plan to continue the sheep-breeding and fruit-growing business, and farm work. In the meantime I also enrolled in college, and am now a second-year student at the Business and Finance Department of the Belgrade Business School. You can make a good living farming, start a family”, says Dragiša.
What is the DAFF programme?
The DAFF programme (Development Agriculture Fund Fenomena) was established two and a half years ago, to support the development of sustainable agriculture in Serbia, and as a social entrepreneurship initiative.
“We’ve been thinking about the sustainability of our programme and realized that nothing can be accomplished without youth – they are simply more open to new models of cooperation. That’s how we came up with the agribusiness start-up training programme for youth. It is a complex programme, as it involves many partners from several districts. The training has a theoretical and a practical component: there are three 3-day modules, and at least one day within each of the modules focuses on developing business plans. The trainings take place in an agricultural holding so that the trainees get to see how it all works. Lecturers from the Regional Development Agency help them turn their ideas into a business plan”, explains Aneta Dukić from DAFF.
This is now the second year in a row that DAFF is organizing trainings, primarily designed for hard-to-place youth up to 30 years of age, with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The number of business plans has increased relative to the first year, and the targeting is now more accurate, so that there are now more applicants with connections to agriculture, meaning that they have either graduated from a related school or faculty, or live in agricultural holdings and want to work there.
“When we receive an application from someone like Dragiša, we know we have the ideal candidate for this programme. Someone who not only wants to stay in the village due to the lack of employment opportunities in the city, but also knows what this kind of work entails. Those who genuinely know the business, and genuinely want to get into it always stand out. For instance, a female participant in the first phase of the project, now a goat farm owner, is an excellent example of that. In the last phase we involved her in the project as a collaborator, to present her good practice example to the new group of trainees”, notes Marija Petronijević from DAFF.
Are young people interested in taking up farming?
“Farming is not popular with young people in Serbia, but is slowly gaining recognition. Our goal is to boost youth entrepreneurship in the agribusiness sector, and by participating in the Youth Employment Initiative we were able to develop various segments: 40 young trainees completed the training, we at DAFF learnt a lot, met new partners, we now have more support available in our fund.
Innovations are a rare occurrence, especially in the villages, unless there is someone in the village to set the example. Furthermore, with no young people in the villages, nobody will invest in the Internet, roads or infrastructure. This is why it important for DAFF, through its trainings, to create a group of at least a dozen young people, who are genuine examples of good practice, who can reach and resonate with their own generation, and tell them: “We are farmers, we can make a living off it and we’re having a good time. Serbian villages are a good place to live”, concludes Marija.
This article was originally published on the Social Inclusion Blog.
The E2E project has been supporting youth employment and employability in Serbia since 2015. The Youth Employment Initiative is part of the Education to Employment (Е2Е) programme, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, implemented by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of Serbia. If you want to learn more about the project, click here: www.socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs/YEI and znanjemdoposla.rs