Filed under: Development Environment Social inclusion Social innovation

Green fields covered with transparent green protections, with green trees and few houses in the background

Experimental field, Butmir. Photo: Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Sarajevo

Have you ever faced two problems that seem to be completely unrelated? In terms of scientific research and advancement, Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks 113 out of 114 countries globally (pdf).

And in growing fruits and vegetables, the country produces well below European Union (EU) levels – this is all the more striking considering that every other family in the country depends on income from agriculture.

So what do academic research and agriculture have in common? A solution – we believe: intercropping and hydroponic demonstration sites… wait, what, you ask?

With intercropping, farmers grow two or more crops near each other. This is a practice that uses no fertilizers but leads to almost doubling in production (pdf) through a symbiotic relationship between the crops.

Hydroponics, on the other hand, can increase production up to 10 times (pdf, in Bosnian) as crops grow thanks to a mineral nutrient solution that uses minimal amounts of fertilizer.

So while both techniques help boost production and increase revenues for small scale farmers, neither has been tested in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The real catch, though, is that the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences will drive this experiment forward, turning its vast theoretical expertise and knowledge into practice. (And thank you Czech Trust Fund for helping us with funding to get this off the ground!)

Make no mistake, we are certainly excited about the upcoming master’s and PhD dissertations coming as a result of this work, but the real thrill comes from having students get their hands dirty, so to speak.

So what will we actually do?

  • New gadgets: We will build two well-equipped 100 square metres hydroponic and intercropping greenhouse demonstration sites for the students on the premises of the Faculty in Butmir, Sarajevo.
  • Building trust: Most of us are a bit apprehensive of change. We don’t expect our partners, and farmers, to embrace the new practices with open arms (at first). This is why we believe it is important that they spend a bit of time with the students, seeing concrete results at the demonstration sites and discussing the ins and outs of these techniques. We are not entirely sure what to expect as a result, but we know that these two groups can complement each other very well.

Can you help us out?

We’re looking for:

  • Inspiration and heads up: We were inspired initially by a permaculture farming dome project at the Wolborz vocational agriculture school in Poland that gives students hands on opportunities to experiment with new farming techniques. So we are on a lookout for similar initiatives – if you’ve done research in this field and would like to collaborate with us, please get in touch, and if you’ve got tips on what to look out for as we start, we are all ears!
  • New partners: If you work on developing agribusinesses and are interested in hydroponics and intercropping, we’d love to work with you.
  • JuKa

    It is a real pleasure to hear that our activities in Polish rural schools might have been inspiration for others:) We will pass the good news to our school – teachers and and the youths engaged in permaculture. Good luck with this project!
    Justyna, Project Manager from UNDP project Office in Poland

    • Damir Kurtagic

      Hi Justyna, greetings to you too! It was truly great
      to hear that you embarked on this Permaculture project. I’ve encountered the
      concept before and was wondering whether UNDP had any ongoing initiative involving it. And then I stumbled upon your project! 🙂 Congrats on everything you’ve done so far over in Poland. I wish you the best of luck with it and hope you manage to maybe scale it up in other parts of the country.

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